We’re finally here at the start of the regular season! So it’s time to look at the Chargers players that will be the difference makers for this first game:
Offensive Difference Makers In Week 1: Chargers Vs. Dolphins
Justin Herbert, Quarterback
Herbert is the player everyone will be looking at this season, especially after his new monster contract he signed this offseason. With healed ribs and a new, retooled offense scheme fashioned by offensive coordinator Kellen Moore, will Hebert have the weapons and the scheme to not only repeat his impressive 2021 season, but also finally make it all the way?
I did a slight preview of the Miami game after the draft, and the Dolphins added some big pieces since the beginning of 2022, like outside linebacker Bradley Chubb who came into Miami mid last year. Cornerback Jalen Ramsey, who was added in the offseason, is dealing with an injury, so the Chargers will not have to contend with him. The biggest addition may be the father of modern defense, Vic Fangio.
But in addition to the new pieces, Miami has also retained some talent like defensive lineman Christian Wilkins, who sacked Hebert last year and had a career-high in sacks (seven) last season. Herbert should be more mobile in this offense with a healthy offensive line. And if his passes during camp has been any indication, and he can stay healthy, we should see some great things this season.
Austin Ekeler, Running Back
Ekeler had a monster season last year with 15 rushing and five receiving touchdowns. After seeking a trade this offseason, he’s been given quite a few incentives if he can have another productive year. With Rashawn Slater back at left tackle and the offensive line shifted to match player strengths, like moving Zion Johnson to left guard and Jamaree Salyer to right guard, the run blocking should be more on point. It’s not a question of if Ekeler will get in the end zone, because he will, it’s more about how he’ll get there.
Keenan Allen, Wide Receiver
After having missed quite a few games last season, Allen seems to have come back stronger. Daniel Popper of The Athletic reported that Moore had been moving Mike Williams more into the slot where Allen had primarily been, and was shifting Allen more to the outside in order to create mismatches. So Allen may be doing something a little different this year. Either way, there will be more psychic connections between Herbert and Allen to look forward to and hopefully quite a few during this first game.
Mike Williams, Wide Receiver
Williams is healthy and has been showing off during training camp. He’s possibly going to be playing more in the slot this year, making it even harder for defenses to bring him down, so really hoping he stays healthy and has a repeat of his 2021 stats.
Rashawn Slater, Left Tackle
Slater is one of the best pass blockers in the NFL when healthy, and he’s looked back to form during the preseason. He’s exactly what Hebert needs to lower that sack number from last year, and he’s definitely needed for this first matchup with all of their pass rushing threats.
Corey Linsley, Center
I did a whole article about how great Linsley is, so there’s not much more to say than that. For the games Linsley played in 2022, he allowed no sacks and single digits in quarterback hits, hurries, and pressures. He’ll be vital in this matchup and for the season.