Readers ask our NFL football experts questions about the Rams, the Chargers, and the league. Responses from Rams Beat Writer Gary Klein, Chargers Beat Writer Jeff Miller, and NFL Writer Sam Farmer:
Was it silly for the Chargers to play Justin Herbert after he was injured and in pain when the team was 10 points down with minutes to play?
Steve Karges, San Diego
Miller: I specifically asked coach Brandon Staley if Herbert stayed in the game last week despite apparent distress. Mainly, I wondered if the Chargers were even concerned about Herbert’s ability to protect himself. Staley noted the play where Herbert could potentially have run for a first down, but instead threw the ball away as an example of actually protecting himself. That he led them to a touchdown and then the Chargers almost recovered the following onside kick suggests that even at 10 points their deficit shouldn’t have been a deterrent from still winning.
Small: With his team just minutes to play and just 10 points behind, you can be sure Herbert wanted to play. Maybe even required. Quarterbacks are team leaders. They know that almost every other player on an NFL team goes through more physical exertion and plays in more pain than they do. Winning the game is of paramount importance. And it’s the same for a quarterback to show your teammates that you’ll do whatever it takes to make that happen.
With his elbow injury, can Matthew Stafford throw the deep ball?
Vernon Atwood, La Palma
Small: During training camp, Stafford had no problem throwing passes longer than 50 yards. He performed an arm care routine before and after training and declared himself fit and ready for the season. The fact that we didn’t see any deep passes in two games is not an elbow problem. At least not yet. Receiver Van Jefferson, who was a deep-ball threat last season, is out while returning from knee surgery. Tutu Atwell, a second-round pick in 2021, was set to fill that role this season, but coach Sean McVay hasn’t shown he trusts Atwell enough to give him those opportunities. The Rams have touted Allen Robinson as a receiver who can be effective at all levels, but they have yet to give him an obvious longer-haul opportunity.
If 75% of all kickoffs are not returned, why bother? Why not just move the kick-off point back 10 meters? Or punish rather than reward kickers who simply kick through the end zone?
Debra Steinberg, Corona del Mar
Farmer: While this solution would certainly encourage more kick returns, the NFL does not intend to do so. Some in the league think the kickoff should be done away with altogether. This game, while exciting, is also disproportionately responsible for concussions and other serious injuries. According to statistics recently released by the NFL, there are more serious knee injuries on kickoffs and punts than on any other offensive or defensive play. For example, the league says that about 30% of ACL tears occur during special team games, even though that’s about 17% of the games in a game. As much as purists hate it, we’re going to see fewer kick returns in the years to come, not more.
As a season ticket holder for the “Bolts” for the past two seasons, I’ve seen the team finally make tremendous strides in attracting new fans in their new market. SoFi is slowly becoming a true home game for the Chargers. I’m curious to hear your thoughts on this, if you agree.
Antonio Garcia, Long Beach
Miller: I wouldn’t say the Chargers have experienced real home field advantage at SoFi Stadium. Yes, the fanbase is definitely growing, mostly thanks to Herbert I think. This weekend’s game against Jacksonville should feature an obvious Pro-Chargers crowd. However, previous benefits of the SoFi stadium have not been realized.
Small: My first Chargers home game of the regular season is later this season when they play the Rams. Then I can answer better. But I’ve been to sporting goods stores and department stores in Southland. I see a lot of Rams merchandise. Not that many chargers. Maybe that’s because the Rams won the Super Bowl — and as the Rams beatwriter for the Times, I focus more on the Rams. But like we said before, there are many transplants from across the country in the area, and they still love the teams they grew up with. Or, in the case of Los Angeles football fans long abandoned by the NFL, teams that adopted them. Buffalo Bills fans were the last to force the Rams into a silent count at SoFi Stadium. So it’s a constant challenge for the Rams or Chargers to build up real home field advantage.
What happened to Troy Reeder? Did he even play in the Chargers-Raiders opener?
Hugh Terell, San Diego
Miller: The Chargers have signed Reeder primarily as core players and special teams leaders, and he’s experienced that in two games. All 44 snaps he played as a Charger came on special teams. Unless there are injuries on the inside linebacker, I would expect his contributions to remain limited to special teams.
https://www.latimes.com/sports/story/2022-09-20/nfl-readers-qa-fans-concerns-chargers-justin-herbert-rams-matthew-stafford NFL readers Q&A: Concerns on Chargers’ Herbert, Rams’ Stafford