It’s about that time and in less than two weeks, there will be blood. The match up should be a challenging one as we face a team in the Chargers who won its last four, hired Rams DC to help repair a once promising defense and boost one of the more promising Os adding a possible cog to the trenches in Slater. The same Slater who pundits have said slowed Chase in their match up. The Chargers have plenty of weapons. This will not only be Fitz first test as the new signal caller having thrown more picks than games started(169-165), but this will test a defense that many have said could be one of the best if not the best in the NFL. There is always match ups approaching each game that usually determine the outcome while the sports channels dwell on that one questionable call or play.
Chase Young versus Slater: I mean let’s be real, it’s going to be more than this but this is the one that will likely garner more attention. Chase had a good first year, but hardly ground shaking. He was good but we need him to be the best. Our hope in drafting Chase was to have a corner stone to a new era and like it or not, he is the face and the identity of the new regime. As I’ve stated many feel Slater got the best of him in their initial exchange but Chase has the advantage of one year in this system, one year in the NFL, and one year in the NFL strength and conditioning program. It may or may not be fair to judge either off of one match up but this is the social media era, and this could be either a blow to his confidence or a motivational factor moving forward should Slater get the best of this match up. Holding up Chase is only one of the factors with this deeply talented defensive line. The Chargers offensive bigs will likely have their hands full and look for a high tempo, quick release to try to help quell the defensive strength and back bone of our defense. Advantage WFT
WFT LB corps versus the run/quick pass game. LB is perhaps our Achilles heel on this defense and this preseason did little to encourage the fan base that this problem has been addressed. We have two solid LB prospects but unproven, and one guy who should be holding a clip board rather than fastening his chin strap imo. Holcomb will have to lead the way as Jamin acclimates himself with not only the speed of the NFL, but the schemes and strength. The Chargers have a decent option in Herbert who can run if needed, Ekeler is also a talented RB who we need to slow to make this O one dimensional, thus far easier to defend. But I have to say Justin Jackson could be their best back. This duo will be a tough match up for our unstable LBs. We really haven’t shown we can consistently defend the run which is why Jamin was our first pick at LB. However, we did little else, and it is asking a lot of Jamin to come in and flourish. He will need some time and reps to truly see if in fact, Ron and the newly formulated FO made the right call in drafting a LB who wasn’t as highly regarded heading into the draft. Ron, Jack, and the defensive coaches seem high on Jamin, I would trust them over many untrained eyes. Covering the run is only half the battle as these same LBs will be targeted in quick tempo passes. It will take some great scheming on our pet to over come this clear advantage the Chargers boost over this unit at this moment in time. I will say this, adjustments seem to be fine with this new regime as we’ve made great strides and we’re known as a second half team last year. And if Lombardi is anything like Sean Payton, this team should be very well coached on both sides of the ball. Advantage: Chargers
Terry versus Davis. Terry was usually doubled and sometimes even tripled last year and he was still solid. He will need to establish his presence to open up things for everyone on our offense. Staley coached a very good unit with the Rams but these Chargers are not without talent. A healthy Derwin James makes this a very good unit, a healthy Bosa and James could lift this unit to elite. This unit will focus primarily on a disguise man scheme and Terry will have to beat Davis to open up this O, making the defense respect our ability to pass. This will not be the zone heavy D from last year under Bradley, I expect Staley to turn this defense into an aggressive attacking defense to rattle and confuse opposing QBs. It will be up to Terry to clearly define his number one role. Advantage: TBD
Fitz/Turner versus Staley’s scheme. I touched on this above, we have a vet who has a tendency to turn the ball over and be over aggressive himself. This will be equivalent to a tight rope walk with Fitz as the Walker and Turner as the balancing beam. It is to be determined if Logan can act as the safety net. Turner can not afford to have needless turnovers and be down early. Last year in our nine losses our O averaged 19.9 PPG, we need more! While this is Staley’s first year at the helm and he is the HC, I have zero doubts he is calling the defense. Our advantage of having this regime for a year prior is moot with Fitz, Samuels, additions to OL, Hump, Brown, and Miline. Both of us are on even ground and will be operating against a defense who can and will sow chaos. With chaos, opportunity can be found for the defense. We will need Turner to outwit Staley, whom he faced last year, and saw his unit completely dismantle this Washington unit. We will need Fitz to be accurate and smart with his decisions. There is no advantage here because there are too many unknowns as with Terry’s match up. Advantage: TBD
3 safety schemes: both sides will likely implement a three safety scheme. The Chargers will turn Derwin loose to freelance while likely implementing a two high safety scheme and I don’t know if they have a third safety to fill the void. They drafted Adderly who I think is a solid FS. They have Harris Jr in slot and Davis with rookie Samuels likely to man the outside. I will have to wait and see if they in fact use Derwin as a hybrid type pass rusher, blitzer, coverage guy, and try to fill that void with an unknown, or play the two high will Derwin in a run support SS role. We have plenty of S depth but I’m not for certain we are actually better at the S position. We likely have much better depth at every position across the board other than LB than the Chargers. Much of what either team will do will be very fluid and far from concrete. Both coaches will be feeling each other out, and making adjustments accordingly. If I were Chargers, I’d use Derwin in the maybe Buffalo nickle role, and for us, I’d use Collins in that role with less coverage responsibilities. This will be a match up that can help both defense but neither has a clear advantage as of now. This scheme could also put both defenses in a vulnerable situation against the run. Advantage: Even
Bosa versus whoever they line him up against. Staley will not keep Bosa at one spot, he will move his ace around trying to find a favorable match up. We will need to scheme for this. Fitz will have to recognize where he and Derwin are at all times. Bosa is an elite pass rusher and if he is successful, our chances that Fitz makes critical mistakes triples. Bosa will win, he will make plays, this is a given. What we need is for Fitz to see, be given knowledge, freedom, and plays to counter this defense. Our OL didn’t look good and we have many new pieces, Advantage: Chargers
Gibson/Logan/Hump versus Chargers D. We need safety blankets for our signal caller. NFL OLs only hold up for fractions over seconds. Fitz needs a go to guy who can get open fast and gain us enough yardage to keep moving the chains, a running game that keeps the defense off balance opening up the play action pass. I think we have those guys, but can they execute? Advantage: TBD
WJ/Juste/Torrey/Fuller versus Allen/Williams/Palmer etc. one match up scheme wise that tends to favor us or may not is that Herbert was a screen or down field thrower. The problem is Lombardi came from New Orleans where Bree implemented a quick pass scheme to perfection. Allen is a route running technician with excellent hands, he is going to be tough to stop if Herbert has time. Williams is a deep threat. Our secondary has to do their part to help stop this potent O. I think we have the personnel to be effective here. Advantage: WFT
New OL players/opposing defenses. Both team had some turnover on the OL but Chargers completely revamped their OL bringing in four new starters including rookie Slater. OLs success is not only skill but continuity. We have this issue as well. Both OLs will be facing talented defenses and will have to build chemistry to be successful. This is first game of the year. We have new G, RT, LT, they have only a returning RT. Advantage: WFT
Time of possession: Chargers averaged 20 PPG with Ekeler and 29 PPG without him. My opinion on this is they played ball control. I suspect this can be a focal point in their strategy because of our vulnerability against the run. We have to stop the run, and keep our defense off the field for long periods of time. Fatigue is always a factor and fresh legs win.
STs: there is no advantage here as Chargers brought in comp for both P/K as both of their hold overs had down years. I suspect Adderly will handle return duties and we have a threat finally in Carter. Our problem is in a close game, every point left on the field matters. Hopkins this means you! Get your f-%#ing SH-t together! Stop looking at the play cardslock and over analyzing things. Cheeseman we need you to also play up to us trading up for a damned long snapper!
Balance: we need a balanced O to not only keep the defense honest, but to keep Fitz from playing hero ball. They say Fitz is smart and this should be great because if he can find mismatches, throw the ball on time and accurate, limit to very few mistakes, AND we have balance, we will win this game!
LB play: They have Murray and Tranquil. We have Jamin and Cole. Tranquil was known for his coverage and Murray as a balanced player. We need one of our guys to be good in coverage and the other to be balanced as well. Better yet, we need them both to be well balanced and solid in both regards. This will help our pass rush and secondary. If our LBs can play well, I pity the opposing offense that lines up against us.
Turnovers: we need them and to limit them. Herbert set a rookie record with 31 passing TDs and had one of the best accuracy down the field even behind a shotty OL. He is switching Os and many would look at this as a disadvantage for a young signal caller. Lombardi and Staley I think are good. I think they will bring the best out of this team, much like our regime appears to be doing. We will need some footballs to bounce in our direction and away from them. This is no cupcake. We really don’t have easy games in professional sports. Everyone knows the team that wins the turnover battle gives themselves the best chance to win.
Redzone O/third down conversions: we were one of the worst and we need to take the next step. If we can keep them on the field, we give our D rest, while tiring theirs. If we put a lot of points on the board, we have a great chance to win.
This will be a close game. I remember last year, without a training camp, it took us probably half of our games to find out who best fit this team. I don’t see a similar situation this year. Injuries and Covid can change any game at any moment, but I see this as a low scoring defensive battle that will go to the team that didn’t fly across the country to play in a different time zone. I think this team will test us severely but we will make adjustments and pull it off with a late Hopkins redeeming FG. 24-21.