COSTA MESA, Calif. (AP) — The Los Angeles Chargers have used five kickers during coach Anthony Lynn’s first 21 games in charge. If Caleb Sturgis’ quadriceps muscle doesn’t feel a whole lot better soon, they’ll employ a sixth on Sunday in Cleveland.
With the Chargers well into their second straight season of inexplicably poor performances and untimely injury woes from a carousel of kickers, Lynn still doesn’t know why his team can’t find a durable, reliable foot. He’s simply looking for a solution.
“Frustrating or not, we’ve got to fix it, so …” Lynn said Thursday.
The kicking saga took another twist this week when Sturgis, who won the job out of training camp, revealed he has a strained quad. Sturgis missed a field goal and an extra point and delivered a couple of short kickoffs during the Chargers’ 26-10 win over Oakland last weekend.
Sturgis also missed two extra points in Los Angeles’ previous game against San Francisco. The Chargers lead the NFL with four missed extra points this season, and Sturgis has also missed three long field goals.
The Chargers even cut Sturgis’ holder last week in an attempt to address the problem, but then the kicker came up injured.
With a two-game road trip upcoming to Cleveland and London, the Chargers (3-2) held a quick tryout Monday with three potential replacements. They signed Michael Badgley, a rookie from the University of Miami who spent training camp with Indianapolis.
Badgley could be in the Chargers’ lineup against the Browns, or he could be cut. Although he’s new to the NFL, Badgley is learning how to adjust to the constant uncertainty of his profession — an uncertainty that seems to amplify for people employed by the Chargers.
“You’re just waiting for your opportunity,” Badgley said. “Guys are saying, ‘Stay ready,’ and then this opportunity comes. I’m ready to go. I’m excited.”
The Chargers’ kicking job has been a conundrum for the franchise, the coaches and every man who has held it since the franchise relocated to Los Angeles. Even though the Bolts are a solid 12-9 since the move, they’ve done it with near-constant kicking problems.
They were last in the NFL in 2017 in field goal percentage, with four kickers combining to miss 10 of the club’s 30 attempts. They also tied for the league lead with five missed extra points.
In fact, the Chargers’ current kicking woes arguably began before Lynn’s tenure — during their last visit to Cleveland on Christmas Eve 2016.
Josh Lambo, the Chargers’ fairly steady kicker for two seasons, missed two field goal attempts in the fourth quarter of a 20-17 defeat for San Diego. That was the Browns’ last win until they beat the Jets 21 months later.
Last season, the Chargers cut Lambo and signed Younghoe Koo, who lasted four games. Travis Coons, Nick Novak and Nick Rose all stepped in with middling success, but nobody could manage the combination of consistency and health necessary to solve this problem.
So the Chargers started over in training camp, signing Roberto Aguayo and Sturgis, who won this job after getting hurt early last year during the Philadelphia Eagles’ championship season. Badgley beat out Aguayo in the Bolts’ tryout this week, Lynn said.
Sturgis’ struggles with extra points against the 49ers were blamed partly on punter/holder Drew Kaser, who was waived. He was replaced last week by Donnie Jones, Sturgis’ former holder in Philly.
“The mechanics are good between him and Donnie and the snapper,” Lynn said. “Had a lot of confidence in that group. I thought he kicked well. He missed one (field goal attempt), but he hit it well, and when he missed the extra point, you know, no one thought maybe something was wrong. But the way he missed it was bad, and then we found out that he had the quad (injury).”
But Lynn chuckled when he was asked if Sturgis would be assured of being the Chargers’ kicker in the future even if he misses this week with his injury.
“Nobody has assurance in this business,” Lynn said.
NOTES: The Chargers waived kick returner and receiver J.J. Jones to make room for Badgley on the roster. … Badgley spent training camp with the Colts alongside Adam Vinatieri, the generational model of durability in a kicker. “Just being around him, I probably learned more on kicking in that preseason than I did in four years at Miami,” Badgley said. “The biggest thing was probably just how to be a pro, and how to go about every kick in different situations, and the head game.” … Lynn was asked what he wants to see from Browns QB Baker Mayfield in order to slow him down: “I want him on his back.”
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