By BERNARD CONDON, CANDICE CHOI and MATT SEDENSKY | Associated Press
Fortune struck one man in the bakery aisle at the supermarket. Two others were working the night shift at a Subway sandwich shop. Yet another was plucked from a list of 15,000 hopefuls.
With millions of Americans waiting for their chance to get the coronavirus vaccine, a lucky few are getting bumped to the front of the line as clinics scramble to get rid of extra, perishable doses at the end of the day.
It is often a matter of being in the right place at the right time.
Sometimes people who just happen to be near a clinic at closing time are offered leftover shots that would otherwise be thrown away. Sometimes health workers go out looking for recipients. Some places keep waiting lists and draw names at random. Such opportunities may be becoming more prized as shortages around the U.S. lead some places to cancel vaccinations.
“One of the nurses said I should go buy a lottery ticket right now,” said Jesse Robinson, outside a Nashville, Tennessee, clinic this week where the 22-year-old was picked from a 15,000-name list for a shot. “I’m not going to question it too much. Just glad it was me.”
David MacMillan was grabbing ingredients for a coconut chickpea dish at a Giant grocery store in Washington when a woman in a lab coat from the in-store pharmacy came up to him and his friend.
“I got two doses of the Moderna vaccine. The pharmacy is closing in 10 minutes. Do you want them?” MacMillan, 31, recalled the woman saying. “I thought, ‘Let’s go for it.’”
After MacMillan posted a video of his experience on TikTok, the supermarket chain was inundated for days with calls and people hanging around, hoping to score a shot.
It has become one of the most unusual quirks in the often uneven, monthlong rollout of the COVID-19 vaccines.
Once a vial is thawed from the deep freeze and, even more so, once its seal is punctured and the first dose is drawn, those administering the vaccine are in a race to use it up before it spoils — even if it means giving shots to those who don’t fit into the priority list.
While it may be unsettling to see a 20-something getting a shot while an 90-year-old woman in a nursing home is still waiting, public health experts say getting a dose into someone’s arm, anyone’s arm, is better than throwing it away.
“As far as I’m concerned, vaccinate anyone but the dog,” said Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious-disease expert at Vanderbilt University.
In New York City, a rumor that the Brooklyn Army Terminal had extra doses triggered a rush to the vaccine distribution site, leading to bumper-to-bumper traffic in the streets and a line of hundreds on the sidewalks until police came out to say they had been duped.
Mike Schotte, 53, and his 72-year-old mother started showing up at pharmacies near their home in Hurst, Texas, in hopes of getting a leftover shot. Eventually they put their names on a waiting list and got a call saying shots might be available if they arrived within a half-hour.
“We didn’t have to speed, but it was pretty close,” Schotte said. “I’m excited that I got it.”
Nashville started its lottery system to avoid more haphazard ways of distributing leftover shots. In one case last month, the city’s health department ended up giving extra doses to two workers at a Subway restaurant in a nearby hospital so they wouldn’t go to waste.
Vaccine clinics expect only a few leftover doses, at most, on any given day. Providers also note that the chances of leftover shots becoming available to the broader public are diminishing with each passing week as eligibility for the vaccine widens beyond the very old, nursing home residents and front-line medical workers.
Waste is common in global inoculation campaigns, with millions of doses of flu shots trashed each year. By one World Health Organization estimate, more than half of all vaccines are thrown away because they were mishandled, unclaimed or expired. The coronavirus rollout appears to have bucked the trend.
Though federal data is not available, health authorities in various jurisdictions contacted by The Associated Press reported very little waste beyond a few notable cases of doses that were accidentally or deliberately spoiled.
In Chicago’s Cook County, Illinois, the health department reported just three of 87,750 doses were wasted, each accidentally spilled by staff. In Ohio, officials said 165 of 459,000 doses distributed as of last week were damaged or lost in transit, thrown away because of vaccine no-shows, or otherwise wasted. New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Houston and other cities and states all have similarly reported tiny fractions of waste.
“It’s like gold in Fort Knox,” said Dr. Ramon Tallaj, whose physician network SOMOS has been administering the vaccine in New York City.
Those giving out the vaccines are choreographing an intricate dance to ensure they are handled right. Vials of the Pfizer vaccine contain five doses — and sometimes an extra one — and Moderna’s contain 10. Clinics try not to open a new container unless they have a registered recipient scheduled to get inoculated.
At a clinic on the Hawaiian island of Kauai, Jill Price said that as the end of the day nears, if it looks as if doses will be left, calls are made to those registered for vaccinations the following day to see if they can come in right away.
“It is such a precious commodity no one wants to waste it,” Price said.
Associated Press writer Kristin M. Hall contributed from Nashville, Tennessee.
Orange County staff and volunteers are gearing up for the opening of a mass vaccination center at Soka University in Aliso Viejo on Saturday.
It joins the first center the county opened last week at Disneyland that has been handling about 3,000 appointments a day.
“Bring your umbrellas, plan for rain, if you’re in a walker, you have to take those things into account,” county spokeswoman Molly Nichelson said. Staff and volunteers will be on hand to help visitors from the campus parking structure off Wood Canyon Drive to a gym nearby, where vaccines will take place.
The county has enough vaccines and staff on hand for a confident launch of the new Soka Super POD (point-of-distribution) this weekend, said spokeswoman Molly Nichelson. Officials have said they would not open new locations until volunteers and doses were available to make it worth it; five sites are ultimately expected.
But public health officials are tempering expectations and asking for patience after the Othena appointment system got off to a rocky start among its target users: seniors age 65 and older.
The Health Care Agency said this week the appointment process had been “simplified” to stop users from needing to constantly refresh Othena on their computers and phones in hopes of landing a slot.
For users who have completed registration, Othena will email eligible groups around 10 a.m. each day, alerting them an appointment is available to them.
Dr. Clayton Chau, Health Care Agency director and county health officer, said staff members are considering a person’s coronavirus risk while assigning appointments. Staff also will send patients to whichever super site is closest, he said.
But if users don’t respond through Othena within a few hours, they’ll be placed back in the virtual queue, Nichelson said.
“They really have to pay attention to those emails that come through,” she said.
The Health Care Agency has set up a hotline at 714-834-2000 to field questions about Othena, vaccine appointments and other related issues during weekday business hours.
At this point, people who qualify for a vaccine and want an appointment can’t call to set one up, but can call for help in registering on Othena.
“We view that this’ll be able to make a us more nimble,” she said.
Chau advised seniors having trouble with Othena to ask their doctor or staff at a local senior center for help.
And super sites aren’t the only option, Chau said. The Health Care Agency also is ramping up smaller-scale “mobile” vaccination clinics, which have parachuted in for a day at a couple of seniors centers with more in the works.
Meanwhile, the county is still striking a balance of marshaling vaccines, staff and volunteers to get doses into the arms of the county’s most exposed and vulnerable to COVID-19 efficiently and fairly.
During a virtual town hall Thursday with Assemblywoman Cottie Petrie-Norris, Chau said Orange County still doesn’t have enough vaccines and repeated the need for letting older seniors get their shots first, particularly those with chronic health conditions that make the coronavirus more dangerous to them.
“We are asking the community to be patient, let us give the vaccine to those 75 and older and those 65 and older with chronic problems,” he said. “Let us protect them first, because they are the ones that if they get infected, they end up in hospitals more than others.”
On Thursday, Orange County gave vaccine administrators the go-ahead to resume using Moderna vaccine lot 41L20A, which was put on hold by the state Department of Public Health after a handful of allergic reactions in San Diego last week. About 5,000 people in Orange County received shots from that batch, but there were no known adverse effects, the Heath Care Agency said earlier this week.
After an investigation, state health officials said late Wednesday there was “no scientific basis to continue the pause.”
After a standout career at Cal State Northridge, Danny Trejo made the decision to bypass his senior season and make himself eligible for the MLS SuperDraft.
The move appeared to pay off as Trejo was listed as first-round selection on several mock drafts.
Thursday, it all became a reality as he was selected No. 14 overall in the first round by the Los Angeles Football Club.
“My dream was always to play for a MLS team and a good team,” he said during a Zoom call. “I believe that LAFC is one of the best in MLS and I’m very happy to be part of this team.”
Trejo had 26 goals in three seasons at CSUN and earned consecutive All-Big West first-team honors as a sophomore and junior. He is the program’s highest draft selection since Sean Franklin was the fourth pick by the Galaxy in 2008.
“Danny is the best overall player to ever walk through our program,” CSUN coach Terry Davila said. “He has the talent on the field, Big West Scholar-Athlete and he graduated early with a 3.5 GPA. LAFC will help him grow and reach his full potential.”
LAFC co-President and General Manager John Thorrington liked what he saw of Trejo.
“We were super-excited about Danny,” Thorrington said. “We liked what we saw of his attacking play, his ability to score goals, his flexibility to play across the front three and we also liked that he’s a local product and we’re excited to welcome him once we start the preseason.
“We felt comfortable enough with the research we were able to do, our staff did a fantastic job. The vast majority of our scouting was video and we felt good enough about all of the research we could do. He was on our list as a priority if we could get him.”
With its second selection, LAFC picked Ohio State defender CC Uche (No. 41 overall). Uche began his college career at Duke (2016-17) before moving to Ohio State for 2018 and 2019. He suffered a leg injury four games into his senior season in 2019.
LAFC picked UC Irvine forward Alvaro Quezada in the third round (No. 68 overall). Quezada has made 56 appearances in three seasons at UCI (eight goals, nine assists).
In another club move, LAFC acquired the MLS Homegrown rights to goalkeeper Tomas Romero in a trade with the Philadelphia Union in exchange for $50,000 in General Allocation Money.
Bellflower’s Pinzon goes to Chicago
Cal State Fullerton forward Christian Pinzon out of Bellflower High was a second-round selection (No. 47 overall) by the Chicago Fire. Pinzon has 14 goals in three seasons with the Titans.
DeCamillis replaces John Bonamego, whose struggles with the unreliable special teams in his first year with the Rams got him shoved aside.
Morris’ and DeCamillis’ agreements to contract terms were confirmed by the Rams, as was Bonamego’s move to a role as a senior coaching assistant.
Those moves came on the day Joe Barry, the Rams’ inside linebackers coach and assistant head coach, followed Staley to the Chargers to become defensive passing game coordinator and linebackers coach.
Just looking at the the Rams’ offensive, defensive and special-teams coordinator slots, Morris and DeCamillis become the seventh and eighth coaches to hold those titles since McVay became head coach in 2017.
Or they’re the eighth and ninth if you count the fact that McVay really runs the offense, and was the de facto offensive coordinator when nobody had the title in 2018-19.
Morris is the second defensive coordinator since Wade Phillips was let go following the 2019 season, and DeCamillis is the second to oversee the special teams since John Fassel left a year ago.
And McVay could have found himself replacing all three coordinators for the second year in a row, but he turned down Staley’s request to interview Rams offensive coordinator Kevin O’Connell for that role with the Chargers.
McVay has yet to hire from within for a coordinator position, although potential candidates for Staley’s vacancy were believed to include Barry, cornerbacks coach Aubrey Pleasant, safeties coach Ejiro Evero and defensive line coach Eric Henderson.
If Morris wanted a welcome to L.A., he got an enthusiastic one from Jalen Ramsey, the Rams’ All-Pro cornerback.
“LESSGOO … excited about the future,” Ramsey tweeted a few minutes after the Rams announced Morris’ hiring on Twitter.
Ramsey’s enthusiasm reflects league-wide respect for Morris.
But McVay’s interest in hiring Morris, first reported Tuesday, has as much to do with their personal experience working together on the Tampa Bay and Washington coaching staffs.
Morris, 44, has coached 18 seasons in the NFL, mostly on defense but with a valuable taste of offense, and has served as a head coach for three years Tampa Bay and the last 11 games of 2020 with Atlanta.
“Not only is Raheem a great communicator. He is also an excellent teacher,” McVay said in the Rams’ announcement. “Raheem’s background coaching both offense and defense … allows him to see the field from a 22-man perspective.”
Morris’ best season was 2010, when the Bucs went 10-6 and allowed the ninth-fewest points in the league in his second year as coach and defensive coordinator, although they missed the playoffs.
He had a good year in 2020 too, moving from defensive coordinator to interim head coach of the winless Falcons after Dan Quinn’s firing, and going 4-7.
But more will be expected in L.A., where Morris must maintain a defense, built around defensive tackle Aaron Donald and Ramsey, that allowed the fewest points and yards in the league for the 10-6 Rams.
DeCamillis’ task is different.
The Rams’ kicking and return-coverage units had a rough 2020 season after Bonamego became special-teams coordinator following the departure of John Fassel.
DeCamillis, 55, was special-teams coordinator the past four seasons for Jacksonville, one of his six teams in 33 years as an NFL assistant coach.
“Joe brings a track record of efficient special teams and player development,” McVay said. “What Joe has been able to do consistently with the punter and kicker positions speaks for itself, and his return teams have been excellent in gaining great field position and explosive runs.”
The Rams need some of that. Their special teams were ranked 30th in the NFL (the Jaguars’ were ranked 18th) by FootballOutsiders.com in the first season after Fassel left for the Cowboys and kicker Greg Zuerlein followed him to Dallas.
Rookie kicker Samuel Sloman and October pickup Kai Forbath were unreliable before the Rams landed on Matt Gay in November. Punter Johnny Hekker’s career-low 45.6-yard punting average ranked 19th in the league. Punt and kick returner Nsimba Webster’s averages ranked near the bottom, as did the punt and kick return coverage teams.
Long snapper Jake McQuaide, who worked with Fassel, Zuerlein and Hekker since 2012, is an unrestricted free agent this offseason.
It would be an understatement to say DeCamillis has faced bigger challenges.
An All-America wrestler at Wyoming, DeCamillis is known for the toughness he showed in quickly returning to coaching in 2009 after he was one of 11 coaches and players injured when wind damaged the Dallas practice facility. DeCamillis needed surgery to stabilize fractured vertebrae in his neck. He received the Cowboys’ Ed Block Courage Award that season.
The No. 6 UCLA women’s basketball team seeks to avenge its December loss to Stanford as it takes on the No. 5 Cardinal on Friday night on the road.
Not only were the Bruins (8-2, 6-2) handed a 67-51 loss at home Dec. 21, Stanford (11-1, 8-1) also eliminated UCLA in the semifinals of the Pac-12 women’s basketball tournament last season.
“I think we’ve really put a huge focus on how we can always be the tougher, more together team,” Bruins guard Lindsey Corsaro said at a press conference Wednesday. “That’s kind of always been the focus for us, but I think the last time we played them it kind of exposed a lot of gaps that we have as far as our toughness and togetherness come.”
A win against the Cardinal would put the Bruins on a four-game win streak.
The top-10 matchup, slated for a 7 p.m. tipoff at Kaiser Permanente Arena in Santa Cruz, will feature sophomore guard Charisma Osborne, who had a team-high 28 points in UCLA’s 68-66 overtime victory over Washington State on Sunday, marking the seventh 20-point game of her college career.
Also in that game, Michaela Onyenwere notched her fourth double-double of the season with 14 points and 15 rebounds. In her Bruin career, she’s scored 1,631 points, which ranks her 14th on the program’s all-time scoring list.
Onyenwere is third in scoring in the Pac-12 at 18.2 points per game, followed by Osborne at 18.1 ppg. Onyenwere also ranks second in the conference with 9.1 rebounds per game.
Stanford’s season-long undefeated streak was ended earlier this week with a 77-72 overtime loss to Colorado.
The Cardinal has its own sophomore talent in Haley Jones, who leads the team with 15.3 points per game and 9.2 rebounds. Stanford distributes its scoring well, with four other players averaging at least 10 points a game.
“For us, it’s about focus and toughness,” UCLA coach Cori Close said. “Those are the big separators that we need after talent works its way out. And, you know, go-to players and those things, you obviously need that. But the real separators in games like that come down to more of a mental toughness and a physical toughness. That’s we’re gonna have to focus in on.”
Another popular restaurant has decided to place itself on pause.
Puesto is temporarily closing all of its California locations, including two in Irvine, ceasing its takeout menu for now. A message appeared on its website stating, “We are temporarily closed due to state and county regulations. We will be back serving you Trophy Tacos and Perfect Margaritas as soon as possible!”
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All locations will reopen once outdoor dining is permitted, according to Puesto’s co-founder Eric Adler. The restaurant, which serves craft margaritas and Mexico City-style tacos made with organic, stone-ground blue corn tortillas, has seven locations in California with another coming to Huntington Beach this year.
Every year at about this time, I send an email to the campus community that I subsequently share in this column. In that communication, I traditionally aim to do three things: Welcome all Titans back to campus for the spring semester, express my hope that everyone’s winter break was relaxing and restful, and wish our Titan family a Happy New Year.
Last night, however, as I sat down to craft this annual message, such sentiments seemed forced at best and even a bit disingenuous at worst.
Indeed, it is difficult to infuse passion into the phrase “welcome back” knowing that this semester, 96 percent of Titans, including me, will not be able to physically return to the campus we call home.
It is harder still to suggest any hope that the winter break was “relaxing” or “restful” as a global pandemic continues to spread and expand.
And finally, the phrase “Happy New Year” loses the joy with which it is traditionally exchanged when said year begins with a coup attempt that was not only an attack on our democracy, but also provided a showcase of the stark difference in the way we police insurrectionists who are unlawfully rebelling against imagined oppression versus protestors who are legally resisting actual oppression.
Too many times since the horrific events of Jan. 6 unfolded, I have heard the phrase, “That is not who we are as a nation.” And while I am all for optimism, until we recognize and square our hopes with what this country has been and continues to be, this attack on our Capitol — along with the uptick in hate, violence, and xenophobia that has erupted across our nation in recent years — is, in fact, very much who we are.
Of course, that doesn’t have to be the case, and together, we can build a future in which it never is again.
We at Cal State Fullerton already are working to make this so. Yes, as Americans, we have inherited racial inequities and biases, but as Titans we cannot perpetuate them. Instead, we must be intentional in all of our efforts, large and small, to better recognize history and catalyze systemic and sustainable change at all levels of our campus community.
With that truth in mind, I bypass the usual sentiments of this annual message and instead focus on humbly welcoming you back by encouraging and exhorting you to actively uphold our values in this new year as if it is the most important work of your life and career – because it likely is.
That means intentionally enhancing opportunities for dialogue focused on the airing of facts and the discovery of truth so that we can build our respective opinions from the same foundational axioms. It means providing venues and vehicles that empower all of us to jointly tackle the issues rather than attacking each other. It means wielding the power of higher education, the power of free speech, and the power of the ballot box to enhance our democracy and build up the next generation of diverse, educated voters and leaders.
And now more than ever, it means embedding the principles of community centered not just on diversity, equity and inclusion, but also upon antiracism, and in ways that expand equitable learning, eliminate opportunity gaps, further diversify our communities — including our campus professoriate and student body — and promote social justice for all.
If we begin this new year with these goals embedded in our hearts and the work to make them so embedded in our plans, then I believe a day will come when we can look back on January 6, 2021, and not only say, “That is no longer who we are as a nation,” but also know that Cal State Fullerton and Orange County had a direct hand in making it so.
It may not be how we hoped the new year would begin, but it is the reality of the call to action before us.
I am humbled and honored to wish you Happy New Year, and welcome you back to join me in answering that call.
Framroze Virjee formerly served as the executive vice chancellor and general counsel of the California State University, as well as secretary to the CSU Board of Trustees. In 2019, he became the university’s sixth president, taking the permanent seat after a 14-month interim role. He and his wife, Julie, run Yambi Rwanda, a nonprofit organization in Rwanda that seeks to help overcome poverty and the trauma of genocide through education and opportunity.
Located a few blocks from the sand in southeast Huntington Beach, the “Magnolia Tank Farm” once served as an oil storage and pumping facility. In 2016, Shopoff Realty Investments purchased it with and had plans to build 250 single-family homes there, as well as a boutique lodge, stores and restaurants.
However, many people have expressed concern that the site is too close to Ascon, a former landfill that still needs to be cleaned up. After nearby residents complained of odor and dust, the California Department of Toxic Substances Control stopped soil remediation in June of 2019.
Mayor Kim Carr and Councilman Erik Peterson voted against the project. Peterson said the development was “not compatible with the surrounding area,” and Carr noted that the proposed neighborhood would abut a power plant.
Councilman Mike Posey voted for the project, reasoning that a move to zone the land for housing would be preferable to “continued industrialization” in the area. Ortiz pointed out that residents once at the idea of building the Hyatt on Pacific Coast Highway, but once the hotel opened “everyone said this is great,”
The housing plan now needs approval by the California Coastal Commission – a process that could take more than two years, city officials said.
Also on the agenda was a declaration “condemning the seditious acts of violence” in Washington D.C. and “affirming the city’s unwavering commitment to American democratic principles,” submitted by council members Natalie Moser, Barbara Delgleize and Dan Kalmick.
Moser urged passage so the city would condemn both “the violence and the endless conspiracy theories that fuel that violence,”
But both Peterson and Ortiz said they found the proclamation unnecessary.
“The country has been burning down all summer,” Peterson said. “City councils shouldn’t be involved in this kind of stuff. It’s just a way to, like – if I vote against it it means I’m for insurrection, which I’m not. It’s a waste of time. It’s midnight right now and we’re talking about something that happened in Washington that apparently scared you. Yeah, it’s bad. And the police will take care of it.”
While Ortiz said he condemned the mob scene “100 percent,” he agreed with Peterson that “it’s something we shouldn’t get into.”
He added that during last summer’s protests against police brutality, “I defended our city myself to make sure it did not get burned down,” and offered an unsubstantiated claim about the violence in D.C.: “In videos I have seen inside the Capitol, there were guys from Black Lives Matter there.” (To date, authorities have not reported any connection to Black Lives Matter organizers and the siege.)
Moser lambasted both men’s statements. “There’s a huge difference between demonstrations for racial equality versus the insurrection and violence that took place at our Capitol,” she said. “Its offensive to compare them.”
The declaration passed with five yeses, Peterson voting no and Ortiz abstaining.
The council also took up changing meeting days from Mondays to the first and third Tuesdays of each month, starting in June. Carr suggested that doing so would give everyone more time – for the public to submit comments and for council members to “absorb the material” in the agenda packages disseminated on Wednesdays.
“I find myself calling staff members over the weekend with questions,” Carr said. “This will give us an additional day to get more feedback from staff.”
Peterson was the only council member to vote no, explaining that Mondays work better for his work schedule.
Ortiz took a moment during the meeting to express regret over publicly bashing TK Burgers, which recently declined to serve him unless he put on a mask in accordance with coronavirus health guidelines.
“I made a mistake Sunday, and I hope it doesn’t fall on any of you guys, and you don’t look differently upon me,” Ortiz said. “I always want to support HB. I take full responsibility for my actions. I’m completely guilty.”
Ortiz also seemed to hint that he might soften his adamant no-mask policy.
“You guys want me to wear a mask. I get it, I get it, I get it.”
The Chargers started the season without quarterback Philip Rivers and ended it without coach Anthony Lynn.
The organization is in the midst of a new era – with Brandon Staley being introduced as head coach Thursday – because it was more of the same in 2020.
Similar to the prior season, the Chargers (7-9) were hampered by injuries and lost more one-score games, although with a twist. Instead of losing because of untimely turnovers, the Chargers blew double-digit leads, missed crucial field goals, had poor game management and sustained heartbreaking last-second losses.
The Chargers lost 16 one-score games between 2019 and 2020 and had an 8-20 combined record before ending this past season with a four-game winning streak.
The repetitive losing theme is why Lynn was fired, and quarterback Justin Herbert’s historic rookie season wasn’t enough to save his job. The Chargers want innovation by staying ahead of the curve and building a consistent winning organization. That’s what Staley was hired to do. He has vital pieces in Herbert and pass rusher Joey Bosa to quickly turn the team around.
But the Chargers are a top-heavy team that has failed to develop their many other promising young players. Before turning the page to Staley’s era, here’s what occurred for the Chargers during a disappointing 2020 season:
Analysis: Herbert’s final statistical numbers and many broken records made his rookie season special, but it was how he improved throughout the year that turned him into a star quarterback with a bright future. Herbert had costly interceptions in his first few starts and struggled to protect double-digit leads. He finished with only 10 interceptions and had three consecutive game-winning drives. The former Oregon quarterback built instant connections with his top players, distributed the ball to his role players and made defenses pay with downfield shots against the blitz. If he’s able to adjust versus top defenses that disguise coverages, he’ll likely be a Pro Bowler in Year 2.
Analysis: The Chargers’ rushing game had many slumps in 2020 because of the injuries to Austin Ekeler and Justin Jackson and the struggles of rookie Joshua Kelley, whose confidence waned because of ball security issues. The Chargers found brief sparks in Troymaine Pope and Kalen Ballage, but a consistent rotation was never formed. Herbert will need to learn to balance Ekeler’s receiving strengths while still looking downfield for bigger plays. The Chargers will also need Kelley or Jackson to step up as the team’s short-yardage running back. They never filled Melvin Gordon’s void.
Relevant numbers: Rushing yards: 1,784 (18th). Ekeler rush yards: 530 (team high). Kelley yards per carry: 3.2. Games missed between Ekeler and Jackson: 13.
Analysis: Keenan Allen earned his hefty contract extension by delivering another Pro Bowl season and quickly becoming Herbert’s go-to target, especially on third downs. Mike Williams didn’t have that type of connection with the star rookie, but they ended the year on a high note while Allen was sidelined for the final two games. The Chargers’ receiving corps wasn’t just Allen and Williams pulling most of the weight like last season. They had solid contributions from deep-threat wideouts Jalen Guyton and Tyron Johnson. But the Chargers didn’t get much production from rookies Joe Reed and K.J. Hill. If they find a groove in their second seasons, the Chargers could have a deep receiving unit in 2021.
Relevant numbers: Allen receiving yards: 992 (19th). Allen receptions: 100 (7th). Allen targets: 147 (5th). Williams receiving yards: 756. Guyton receiving yards: 511. Johnson yards per catch: 19.9.
Analysis: Hunter Henry set a career high in receptions, but fell short of his goal of playing in every game in 2020. He was on the COVID-19 reserve list for the final two games. Now the Chargers will need to decide how much they want to pay Henry, who played on the franchise tag and is scheduled to be a free agent in March. Henry didn’t have big numbers, but his contributions as a blocker were vital amid injuries to a sluggish offensive line. Henry will likely command top money and likely should as a complete tight end. The Chargers don’t have much depth besides the 6-foot-8 Donald Parham Jr., who occasionally flashed as a red-zone threat.
Relevant numbers: Henry receiving yards: 613. Henry receptions: 60. Parham touchdowns: 3.
Analysis: It was a dreadful season for the Chargers’ offensive line that started with center Mike Pouncey having season-ending hip surgery and not playing a snap. They tried to repair their lackluster offensive line with free-agent addition Bryan Bulaga at right tackle and trading for right guard Trai Turner, but the newcomers were rarely on the field because of injuries and struggled to find rhythm. Dan Feeney had an up-and-down season as the full-time center, and so did Forrest Lamp in his first healthy season at left guard. The bright spot was Sam Tevi’s move from right tackle to left tackle, but it was average play at best. It could have been worse if it weren’t for Herbert’s mobility and playmaking against pressure. Addressing the offensive line needs to be a high priority for the Chargers in the offseason.
Relevant numbers: Sacks allowed: 34 (18th). Yards per rush: 3.8 (30th). Pro Football Focus final 2020 offensive line rankings: 32nd
Analysis: This unit might have been the biggest disappointment for a team that had Bosa, Melvin Ingram, Linval Joseph, Uchenna Nwosu and Justin Jones. Bosa had his usual stellar season, but two concussions forced him to miss four games. Ingram had arguably the worst season of his career because of a lingering knee injury. Jerry Tillery, the 2019 first-round pick, Nwosu and Jones struggled to find consistency. Joseph was likely the second-best defensive lineman during his first season with the Chargers. Staley will need to unlock this group’s high potential next season.
Analysis: Drue Tranquill showed promise in his rookie season, but his second season lasted only four minutes because of an ankle injury in Week 1 against the Cincinnati Bengals. His absence affected the entire group, especially rookie Kenneth Murray in pass coverage. Murray, a 2020 first-round pick, made many improvements in the final five games after a sluggish start to the season. The Chargers had him start at middle linebacker, call the defensive plays and focus on stopping the run. If Staley turns the Chargers into a 3-4 defense, that could help Murray utilize his strengths as a pass rusher.
Relevant numbers: Murray total tackles: 107 (31st). White tackles: 77. Tranquill snaps played: 5.
Analysis: The secondary took a big hit before the start of the season for the second consecutive summer. A year after playing only five games because of a foot injury, Derwin James sustained a season-ending knee injury in training camp. That forced Rayshawn Jenkins to move from free safety to strong safety. Jenkins, who’s scheduled to be a free agent, flashed his versatility, but he’s better suited as a free safety. No. 1 outside cornerback Casey Hayward had a down season, but injuries might have been the cause of that. The Chargers will need to decide if he’s still capable of defending the top receivers heading into his age-32 season. No. 2 outside cornerback Michael Davis made vast improvements, but he’s also scheduled for free agency. Chris Harris Jr. flourished as the team’s nickel cornerback, but missed seven games because of a foot injury in his first season with the team.
Relevant numbers: Passing yards allowed per game: 223.6 (9th). Interceptions: 10 (26th). Davis interceptions: 3 (team high). James and Harris combined missed games: 23.
Analysis: This was by far the worst special-teams unit in the NFL, according to many analytics websites. General manager Tom Telesco didn’t need analytics to know special teams is in need of a drastic makeover. He took blame for not signing the right players for the unit. Telesco and Staley will need to decide if kicker Michael Badgley and punter Ty Long return next season. The Chargers did manage to turn special teams around after Lynn took over the operation in the final four games, but it was too late by then.
Relevant numbers: Badgley field-goal percentage: 72.7% (24 of 33). Long punts inside the 20: 12 (30th). Long punts blocked: 3 (1st). Yards per punt return: 5.6 (28th).
Analysis: Lynn and his offensive coaches deserve plenty of credit for Herbert’s historic rookie season, but that was overshadowed by blown double-digit leads, one-score losses, poor game management and conservative play-calling. Lynn seemed to have turned a corner by finishing the season with a four-game winning streak, but he reacted too late with making coaching staff decisions and the progress was minimal in games that didn’t have postseason implications. Defensive coordinator Gus Bradley was again hamstrung because of injuries, but his scheme wasn’t producing takeaways, sacks and impact plays. In the end, there was no complementary football the past two seasons and that’s why there will be a new coaching staff in 2021.
Analysis: The final record of 7-9 looks respectable, but what occurred in the first 13 weeks of the season, when the Chargers were 3-9, was too much of a mess to forget, starting with the the quarterback dilemma between Tyrod Taylor and Herbert to the blown leads to the clock blunders to the brutal special-teams miscues to the 45-0 drubbing against the New England Patriots. But the Chargers found their franchise quarterback in Herbert and that will benefit the organization for many years to come.
Relevant numbers: Points scored per game: 24 (18th). Points allowed per game: 26.6 (23rd). Four consecutive games with blown leads of 16 points or more (NFL record).
Grade point average: 2.2
Offensive MVP: Justin Herbert. The star rookie quarterback carried the team early in the season amid numerous injuries and had them winning one-score games by the end of the year. Herbert set numerous rookie records, but his numbers were on par with the best quarterbacks in the NFL. The Chargers might have been a 4-12 team or worse without Herbert under center.
Defensive MVP: Joey Bosa. The Pro Bowl pass rusher missed four games and was slowed by multiple injuries, but when he stepped on the field, he was often the best player. He didn’t reach double-digit sacks, but he often applied pressure on quarterbacks and continues to be overlooked as a stout run stopper.
Top newcomer: Herbert. Linebacker Kenneth Murray has a case here just for the sake of giving the award to someone else, but Herbert was too good in 2020. He will likely be the runaway Offensive Rookie of the Year when the awards are announced the weekend of the Super Bowl.
Knicks Go was installed Wednesday as the 5-2 morning-line favorite for the $3 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational, which will be the 5-year-old’s first outing since winning the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile in November.
Knicks Go, a winner of three consecutive starts, will break from the No. 4 post in Saturday’s race at Gulfstream Park in Hallandale Beach, Florida. With a victory, he’d more than double his lifetime earnings to date of $1,348,995 — there’s about $1.6 million awaiting the connections of the Pegasus winner.
“We’re going to do the best we can with him,” trainer Brad Cox said. “And we’re optimistic that he’s going to show up and run a big race.”
Code of Honor, trained by Shug McGaughey, is the 9-2 second choice and will start from the No. 10 post in the 12-horse field.
Tax, who stumbled at the start of last year’s Pegasus and finished only ninth, is back this year and is the 5-1 third choice out of the No. 7 post.
“He’s such a big horse,” trainer Danny Gargan said. “When he’s in the gate, he takes the whole gate up. … But he’s gotten used to it more.”
The field, from the rail out: Sleepy Eyes Todd (8-1), Coastal Defense (15-1), Independence Hall (20-1), Knicks Go, Jesus’ Team (8-1), Kiss Today Goodbye (10-1), Tax, Harpers First Ride (10-1), Last Judgment (20-1), Code of Honor, Mr Freeze (15-1) and Math Wizard (20-1).
The Pegasus is run on the dirt at 1 1/8 miles.
Also drawn Wednesday was the field for the $1 million Pegasus World Cup Turf, with Colonel Liam starting from the No. 5 post and installed as the 7-2 favorite.
The full field there, from the rail out with morning-line odds: Next Shares (20-1), Breaking the Rules (10-1), Storm the Court (12-1), North Dakota (10-1), Colonel Liam, Largent (9-2), Storm the Court (12-1), Aquaphobia (20-1), Anothertwistafate (5-1), Cross Border (15-1), Pixelate (15-1), Say the Word (6-1) and Social Paranoia (8-1).