Chargers still counting on Jason Verrett to contribute

COSTA MESA, Calif. -- Los Angeles Chargers special teams coordinator George Stewart needs to fix the team's kicking game after a nightmarish first season leading that all-important third phase of the game for the Bolts.

Stewart's primary focus this offseason is selecting a kicker that can make field goals in the clutch and stay healthy for the duration of the season.

The Chargers had five different players handle field goals, kickoffs and extra points in 2017, including punter Drew Kaser. The Bolts finished a league-worst 67 percent on field goals.

Along with their struggles at kicker, the Chargers also finished worst in the NFL in kickoff starting point with an average of the 23-yard line, and were one of 11 teams without a takeaway on special teams

The Chargers signed former Philadelphia Eagles kicker Caleb Sturgis to a two-year, $4.45 million deal in free agency that included $1 million in guaranteed money. Along with adding Sturgis, the Bolts inked former Tampa Bay Buccaneers second-round selection Roberto Aguayo to a reserve/future contract.

Stewart said the kicking competition this offseason is more of a learning process between Sturgis and Aguayo -- for now.

"It's going to ramp up when we get to training camp," Stewart said. "Right now, it's a feeling out period because it's really our first chance to see those guys kick. They've both done a good job during the course of the offseason in terms of kicking the football, so we're excited about both of those young men."

While the Chargers will use next week's mandatory minicamp to take a closer look at both kickers, head coach Anthony Lynn said what player wins the kicking battle will likely come down to who performs better during preseason play.

"Absolutely," Lynn said. "We take practice into consideration, but when we get you under the lights, that's when it matters the most."

Let's take a look at a question from this week's mailbag:

@eric_d_williams: Let's address the Jason Verrett question first.

Even with Verrett missing all but one game of last season due to a second procedure required for his surgically repaired knee, the Chargers still performed well in the secondary.

The Bolts finished with 18 interceptions (tied for sixth in the NFL) and allowed just 197 passing yards a contest (No. 3 in the league) in 2017.

Oakland Raiders receiver Amari Cooper is the only player to finish with at least 100 receiving yards against the Chargers last season (3 catches for 115 receiving yards in the final game of the year).

Verrett suffered a season-ending knee injury for a second straight year in the season opener against the Denver Broncos, missing 15 games in 2017.

A first-round selection by the Chargers in the 2014 draft, the TCU product has missed 39 games in four seasons.

However, Verrett appeared to be moving well while competing in 7-on-7 drills during organized team activities last week, and the Chargers are hopeful he can make a successful return to the field.

In fact, Verrett's close friend safety Jahleel Addae is counting on that for the TCU product, who is scheduled to make $8.526 million in the final year of his rookie deal.

"He's a competitor," Addae said about Verrett. "When you make a Pro Bowl in your second year, your confidence is up and you feel you can be the best in the league at your position.

"To me, he still can. He's ready. He'll be out there this season, and you'll see glimpses of what he can do."

As for the other three questions, Melvin Gordon looks like his old self, while second-year pro Forrest Lamp has yet to be cleared for full practice as he works his way back to the field after ACL right knee surgery last season.

With the addition of center Mike Pouncey, along with the return of Lamp, the expectation is the Chargers will be even better up front in 2018.

For answers to more mailbag questions, click here.