January 19, 2021

DCTRS

Damascus Center for Theoretical and Civil Rights Studies

Chargers’ Gus Bradley isn’t thinking about uncertain future

In a league that never sees beyond the next week , the focus of the Chargers has narrowed even more.

They have one official practice remaining and then one last trip and one final game.

Very little beyond late afternoon Sunday is guaranteed on a team that will finish with a second consecutive losing record and outside the playoffs for the ninth time in 11 years.

Defensive coordinator Gus Bradley is about to conclude his fourth season with the Chargers. It is not known if he’ll get a fifth season.

“The reality is you try not to, right?” Bradley said Thursday when asked about pondering the future. “It’s always tough, I think, when you’re going into the last game and you’re not in the playoffs. There’s a sense of frustration.”

En route to compiling a 6-9 record, the Chargers have blown big leads, failed to close potential victories and had moments of embarrassing game management.

They’ve rebounded to win three in a row, but the uncertainty that festered during a 2-7 start has refused to go away. Ownership has said nothing publicly about the status of anyone in the front office or on the coaching staff.

Changes — and possibly major ones — figure to be coming after the Chargers’ finale in Kansas City.

“I love our players,” Bradley said. “I love what they bring. I think that the future is very, very bright for this defense. If this group can be healthy and stay healthy, I really feel like the arrow’s up.”

Bradley’s unit has played all season without 2018 All-Pro safety Derwin James, who hurt his knee in August. Linebacker Drue Tranquill played only five snaps in the opener before suffering a season-ending leg injury.

End Melvin Ingram, linebacker Kyzir White and edge rusher Uchenna Nwosu also are on the injured reserve list.

Against the Chiefs, the Chargers will be missing safety Rayshawn Jenkins, who suffered a high-ankle sprain last weekend. They also are expected to be without end Joey Bosa (concussion) and cornerback Casey Hayward (hamstring).

In all, the Chargers won’t have seven of their 11 projected defensive starters entering 2020. On the plus side, Kansas City has clinched the AFC’s top seed and won’t be playing several regulars, either.

Chargers defensive end Joey Bosa isn’t expected to play in the team’s season finale against the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday.

(Peter Joneleit / Associated Press)

Bradley’s defense has performed better of late after a difficult stretch in the middle of the season.

Starting in early October, the Chargers squandered leads of at least 16 points in four consecutive games largely because of collapses by the defense. Overall, the Chargers rank 12th in total yards allowed but 24th in points surrendered.

In Bradley’s first three seasons, his defenses finished third, eighth and 14th in scoring.

“I know who we were back in the middle of the season, but we’ve done enough things in critical times,” Bradley said of the team’s recent upswing. “That’s not us anymore.”

In three games since a 45-0 loss to New England, the Chargers have given up 60 points. They’ve limited those three opponents — Atlanta, Las Vegas and Denver — to four touchdowns in 11 red-zone trips.

The Broncos contributed by dropping several passes, most notably by rookie wide receiver Jerry Jeudy. But the Chargers did enough to hold Denver to a touchdown.

“I can see guys getting better,” Bradley said. “I can see us handling situations better. … There’s a sense with our guys that we are getting better and we are improving.”

Bradley, 54, began coaching in the NFL in 2006 as a quality control assistant with Tampa Bay. He was Seattle’s defensive coordinator for four years starting in 2009 before becoming the head coach in Jacksonville.

After four seasons, he was dismissed in December of 2016 and, a month later, hired by Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn. With just a game to go, Bradley said he’s locked in on nothing more than what lies directly ahead.

“In the last quarter [of the season], we’re 3-0,” he said. “ ‘Hey, let’s go 4-0.’ I mean, what a great story, right? We came through that adversity, and that’s what we talked about, that mind-set, how to handle adversity and come through this and come out even stronger.”

Keenan Allen out

Chargers wide receiver Keenan Allen runs after making a catch against the Atlanta Falcons on Dec. 13.

Chargers wide receiver Keenan Allen runs after making a catch against the Atlanta Falcons on Dec. 13.

(Ashley Landis / Associated Press)

The Chargers placed wide receiver Keenan Allen on the COVID-19 reserve list Thursday, ending his 2020 season. Allen, who was named to his fourth consecutive Pro Bowl last week, will finish with 100 receptions for 992 yards and a career-high-tying eight touchdowns.

He already was dealing with a hamstring injury that forced him to miss the game last weekend. Allen became the seventh Charger to spend time on the COVID list. Starting tight end Hunter Henry was added last week and remains out.

Etc.

Tight end Donald Parham Jr. returned to practice after missing Wednesday because of an undisclosed illness. … Safety Nasir Adderley (ankle), linebacker Denzel Perryman (back) and wide receiver Jalen Guyton (hamstring) all practiced in full.