Shane Steichen, the Chargers offensive coordinator, is set to start his first full year as the Chargers play caller. Steichen took over play calling duties after Ken Whisenhunt’s departure halfway through last season. Under Steichen’s leadership, the offense improved, but with a full offseason of planning, scheming, and preparation what can Chargers fans look for Steichen’s offense to accomplish.
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For starters, Steichen likes to run the ball. One of the main shifts that Los Angeles’ offense saw when Steichen started calling plays was that the pass heavy nature of Whisenhunt’s play calling vanished. That’s not to say that the Chargers never threw the football with Steichen, but they were a lot more balanced offensively, and were very selective about their moments to take shots downfield.
With one of the NFL’s better running backs in Austin Ekeler in Los Angeles’ backfield, Steichen's run heavy mentality shouldn’t struggle. Also, whoever is playing quarterback next season for the Bolts will be able to make plays on the run as veteran Tyrod Taylor and 2020 first round pick Justin Herbert are both ultra mobile signal callers.
The perks of having a mobile quarterback in Steichen’s offense will allow for Steichen to utilize RPOs (run pass options) as well as quarterback designed read option plays that will give another dimension to the Chargers offense.
Yet, Steichen also wants to utilize his running backs in the passing game, especially off plays that use play action. For these types of plays, look for Steichen to target one of the NFL’s best pass catching running backs in Austin Ekeler. Ekeler had just shy of 1000 receiving yards last season, and was constantly used as a great option for check downs in the flat.
With all this focus on running the football Steichen will look to emphasize the use of the play action game to fool defenses and allow for the Chargers playmakers to make some noise downfield. Whether it’s Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, or Hunter Henry, the Chargers offense will rely on the aerial attack to move the football in intermediate or deep spurts downfield while having the offense centered around the run game.
Yet, even with all this emphasis on running the football, Steichen isn’t going to preach an old school ground and pound offense. That doesn’t mean the Chargers aren’t going to run the football up the middle. They do have Justin Jackson and Joshua Kelley on the roster who are both more prototypical running backs compared to Ekeler. Rather, Steichen wants to put a modern twist on the run game, basing his offense’s scheme around Justin Herbert 's or Tyrod Taylor’s mobility mixed with the all around explosiveness of Ekeler’s style of play.
Perhaps the biggest commitment to running the football that the Chargers have shown was the trade sending Russell Okung, the Chargers tackle, to Carolina in exchange for the Panthers former Pro Bowl guard in Trai Turner. Also, the Chargers emphasized their offensive line in free agency, through the addition of Brian Bulaga, which helps strengthen Los Angeles’ offensive front five to help protect either Taylor or Herbert, while adding some help to propel Steichen’s run game.
Therefore, under a full offseason of gearing up, expect Steichen to build his offense around a strong yet modern ground game. Also, don’t be surprised to see the Chargers work out of the pistol formation next season as Tyrod Taylor and Justin Herbert have both played in offenses that have used the pistol formation. This familiarity will help Herbert adjust to life in the NFL, and make him more comfortable under center next season. With that said, expect Steichen’s offense to go run heavy in 2020 as the Chargers attempt to get back to the playoffs in their first season playing at SoFi Stadium.