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NFL reader Q&A: Trade for Christian McCaffrey? How healthy is Justin Herbert?

Readers had a lot on their minds after the Rams’ and the Chargers’ latest recent games. Rams beat writer Gary Klein and Chargers beat writer Jeff Miller field some questions:

Offensive line depth, or lack of it, seems to be so critical to both L.A. teams. Is there really a shortage of good linemen, or does it just take half a season for a line to learn to work together?

Jim James, Castaic

Miller: I would say the answer is both. Offensive linemen in football are a lot like starting pitchers in baseball. Very few teams have five top-tier starters, which leaves everyone scrambling to cover their weaknesses. And, yes, chemistry is vitally important among offensive linemen. That can be developed only over time.

Klein: I don’t think there is a shortage of good linemen. The problem for the Rams is that they have had no shortage of injuries. Joe Noteboom, David Edwards, Tremayne Anchrum, Coleman Shelton and Logan Bruss are on injured reserve. And Jeff is correct: It’s all about chemistry and communication. That takes time.

Is Justin Herbert 100% healthy?

Cliff Barber, San Pedro

Miller: No. Herbert was asked last week to specifically put a percentage on his health — like is he 80%, 90% — and he refused. Hard to tell how much he is still dealing with his fractured rib cartilage, but he most certainly isn’t 100%. Just look at how reluctant he has been to take off running of late. That’s pretty indicative right there.

The Rams should absolutely trade for McCaffrey. We need a versatile back that can pressure defenses with both rushing and receiving skills and take some pressure off Stafford. We have a disgruntled running back in Cam Akers. Couldn’t Cam Akers and a third-fifth round draft pick be enticing for the Panthers?

Ram Ambatipudi, Glendale

Klein: Christian McCaffrey is a star player, a running back capable of helping any team. Sean McVay, of course, would love to have him. But the Panthers have leverage. I would guess that it would take a first- or second-round pick and a good player to entice them. The Rams do not have a first-round pick until 2024. And Akers is probably not a very hot commodity given his current situation.

Carolina Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey, left, is tackled by Rams cornerback Jalen Ramsey at SoFi Stadium.

(Jayne Kamin-Oncea / Associated Press)

What is the problem with Chargers’ red zone efficiency? Seems they have had problems getting TDs (even before Staley and Herbert).

Dale Onyon, Jamestown, Kent.

Miller: The Chargers are 24th in the red zone this season, which is not good for a team with Justin Herbert at quarterback. A year ago, they finished fifth overall. The biggest dropoff from last season so far has been Mike Williams and Keenan Allen combining for only two touchdowns. Allen has yet to score and has missed the last five games because of a hamstring issue. Another problem was the Chargers’ struggles running the ball the first 3 or 4 weeks. The ability to run the ball deep in the opposition’s territory is often a major factor in red-zone efficiency.

It’s not a matter of if but when the Rams will make a big trade to turn around their offensive woes. Should they make a less “sexy” trade and try and improve the O-Line or bring in a better running back with Cam Akers likely out the door?

James Brooks, Santa Clarita

Klein: The Rams are not going to turn around their offensive line until some of their injured players return. Center Brian Allen is expected to be back after the open date. Coleman Shelton will probably return at some point as well. You can be sure Les Snead and his pro personnel staff are examining their offensive line and running back options as the trade deadline approaches.

Wouldn’t the Rams be better off going for 2-3 solid offensive linemen rather than a pricey running back like McCaffery? They won a Super Bowl without a big-name running back last year and you need linemen that can open holes no matter how talented the running back is.

Matthew Bauer, La Verne

Klein: The Rams would be better off signing or trading for two or three linemen and a running back. But that’s easier said than done. Two or three solid offensive linemen are a commodity and not usually readily available unless they have contracts teams want to unload. The Rams won a Super Bowl with a line that was, for the most part, intact last season. All of those linemen had worked together through the offseason and training camp. I agree that a star running back is not required to win a Super Bowl, but McCaffrey in a McVay offense would be something to see.

Do you think the Chargers can and should trade for McCaffrey?

Joe G, Redding

Miller: They could, yes. But I don’t believe it would prudent to do so, not with a greater need at edge rusher, for example. I do think the Chargers could make a move at the trade deadline, but I suspect it would be for defense first.

Coach Staley’s decision not to punt at the end of the Chargers-Browns game is still upsetting to me and many other fans. Can we trust Coach Staley to make the right in-game decisions moving forward, or will his crazy decisions cost the Chargers a playoff berth.

Steve Karges, San Diego

Miller: If you don’t trust or believe in analytics, you’re never going to trust or believe in Staley. Making those types of decisions are part of who he is. So, I suspect, if you’re not onboard yet, you never will be.

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