While overall the team played well, let’s look at the 5 Chargers to watch this week against the Detroit Lions, as LA hopes to improve from last week and remain undefeated.
5 Chargers Players To Watch Against The Detroit Lions
1. Mike Williams – WR
The Los Angeles Chargers faced a huge blow on Wednesday when the news broke that TE Hunter Henry suffered a fracture to his left knee, sidelining him for the foreseeable future. Now, one would think that the player to watch for would be the tight end that will be tasked with replacing his production, but with the tight ends currently on the roster, I don’t see this happening, so that production will have to come from somewhere else.
We have been talking all offseason about the potential dominance of Mike Williams this season, and while he posted an impressive 10 touchdowns in 2018, we would like to see him take the next step into the elite category. Unfortunately, Williams left Sunday’s contest against the Colts late in the second half due to a knee injury. While he has not been ruled out, head coach Anthony Lynn is “concerned” about his potential availability against the Lions.
Anthony Lynn was asked if he's concerned about Mike Williams' availability for Sunday: “Absolutely. We signed a wide receiver (Anthony Johnson). Just in case. Just don’t know.” #Chargers
— Gilbert Manzano (@GManzano24) September 11, 2019
At this point, since Williams has not been ruled out, let’s look at this through the lens of what he can do if he does play.
Darius Slay and Justin Coleman are very capable cornerbacks, but they did allow veteran, soon to be Hall of Famer, Larry Fitzgerald to go off for eight receptions, 113 yards, and a touchdown. This would seem to be the stat-line that we expect Keenan Allen to fill in week 2, but if Mike Williams suits up, he will be expected to take on a much bigger role with Henry out.
Williams is a big body, so I would not be shocked to see him take some snaps inside where he can somewhat fill the void of the TE position. If 81 has pads on at Ford Field, expect a big day. To the tune of six for 105 and a touchdown kind of big day.
2. Justin Jones – DT
The Chargers gave up 174 yards on the ground to Marlon Mack last week. Now, while there is plenty of blame to go around, when teams are gutting you up the middle, and guards and centers are able to get to the second level, you have to look at the interior defensive linemen.
Los Angeles faces another talented back this week in Kerryon Johnson, as well as the veteran C.J. Anderson. Justin Jones will be called upon to really plug up the middle and not allow Joe Dahl, Frank Ragnow, and/or Graham Glasgow to get to the second level. If he can do this, then the Chargers will be much more efficient in stopping the run in Detroit.
3. Austin Ekeler – RB
Chargers’ fans knew exactly who Ekeler was coming into the season, but for those that did not, he exploded onto the scene in week 1 and created quite the name for himself.
Not that he was a secret to opposing NFL teams, but now he will certainly be on notice as a playmaker that will be a top priority to shut down. The Lions did a so-so job of keeping Cardinals RB David Johnson in check last week. He finished the game with 18 rushes for 82 yards, and one receiving touchdown. Detroit has some playmakers up front, including Damon “Snacks” Harrison Sr., who will do what they can to shut Ekeler down.
It will be up to OC Ken Whisenhunt to draw up some plays that will keep the defense guessing, and involve Ekeler in both the running and passing game. As I stated with Mike Williams, with Hunter Henry out, that production has to fall somewhere. While I expect Williams to shoulder a lot of it, if he plays, I also think Ekeler will have no problem with a few more touches. Ekeler needs to have another big game.
4. Trent Scott – LT
Perhaps surprising to many, Scott played in nine games last year as a rookie and started in one. So he has a bit more experience than a lot of analysts make it seem. However, he still plays arguably the hardest position outside of quarterback in the NFL, left tackle. And his performance at said position against the Colts was, well, not good.
Rivers was hit multiple times from his side, and he allowed two strip-sacks, both recovered by the Chargers.
Trent Scott must improve immensely against the Lions or a change will be imminent. The Lions run a 4-3 defense, but against the Cardinals, their outside linebacker, Devon Kennard, finished the game with three sacks. He blitzed mostly from the right side, but if Detroit plays the more favorable matchup, he will certainly lineup outside of Scott.
Week 2 will be a definite gut check for Trent Scott, making it easy to see why he is a very important player to watch.
5. Adrian Phillips / Nasir Adderley – S
Perhaps the biggest storyline after the Lions and Cardinals game was the dominant performance put on by rookie tight end T.J. Hockenson. He finished the game with six receptions, 131 yards, and a touchdown. This can definitely be a problem for the Chargers on Sunday.
Had he been healthy, Derwin James would be asked to contain Hockenson, and more than likely, the job would have been taken care of. However, with James out, this daunting task will most likely fall on another safety. Don’t be shocked if you see Thomas Davis or Kyzir White running with Hockenson early, but I think that the primary cover duties will fall on Adrian Phillips and/or Nasir Adderley.
If Gus Bradley remains with Adrian Phillips and Rayshawn Jenkins as his starting two, then I would expect Phillips to be the guy to shadow the tight end. However, if a change is made and Phillips is paired with the rookie Adderly, we may be in for a treat watching two high draft picks go toe-to-toe.
You have to earn your stripes in the NFL, and Adderley will certainly have his hands full with Hock. It will be a fun battle to watch if it comes to fruition.