Defense remains a liability for Staley’s Chargers

COSTA MESA, Calif. (AP) — Brandon Staley was hired as coach of the Los Angeles Chargers in 2021 after coordinating a top-ranked defense with the Los Angeles Rams.

Staley’s success with the Rams hasn’t translated to the other team that calls SoFi Stadium home.

Going into Sunday’s game at Arizona, the Chargers are ranked 25th in the league in yards allowed per game at 369.

That’s a disappointing statistic for a unit that was expected to improve after the signing of seven free agents and the acquisition of Khalil Mack from Chicago during the offseason. Most of the new additions had previous experience with Staley from the Rams or his stints as an assistant in Chicago and Denver.

“I think we are a work in progress,” Staley said. “Expectations, in terms of starting a season, those are just what they are, are expectations. I know that our defense has given us a chance to win every week and that’s all you can ask for. In terms of making progress where you are playing at the high standard that I believe in, that I expect, that takes time, and that’s certainly where we are at right now.”

The Chargers’ defense also ranks near the bottom of the league in points allowed per game (25.8, 29th) and yards per play (6.02, 31st).

The consistent problem since Staley was hired has been Los Angeles’ inability to stop the run. The Chargers have allowed 148.4 yards per game (30th) and 5.46 yards per carry (32nd). The highest per-carry average allowed over a full season since the merger was 5.35 by the 2013 Chicago Bears.

“It’s definitely a concern. We just haven’t played well enough in that phase,” Staley said. “I think that what you are looking for is how you are playing, more importantly than what statistics tell you. For us, it hasn’t been consistent enough all year and we are working hard to improve it.”

Kansas City rookie Isiah Pacheco was the fifth player this season to post a 100-yard game against the Bolts, which is tied with Houston for the most allowed.

The Chargers head into the matchup with the Cardinals having given up at least 157 rushing yards in four straight games.

“Teams are running it more. If you’re running it 35-41 times per game you better have 150 (yards or close),” safety Derwin James said. “That’s not our goal to come out and give up that much. If teams are running it that many times, we’ve got to be ready.”

Quarterback Kyler Murray is expected to play for the Cardinals after missing the past two games with a hamstring injury, but the Chargers’ bigger concern is likely to be running back James Conner, who scored four touchdowns in two previous meetings against them when he was with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

At 5-5, the Chargers are on the outside of the playoff picture, but only two of their remaining seven opponents have winning records.

“There’s definitely a sense of urgency to get it done. Everything we want is still in front of us,” James said.

NOTES: WR Mike Williams did not practice due to a high right ankle sprain. Staley said Williams could be limited in practice later in the week. CB Bryce Callahan (groin) and LB Khalil Mack (rest) also did not practice. … TE Gerald Everett was limited after missing the Chiefs game with a strained groin.

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