We’ve entered Week 3 and after a shootout with the Chiefs, the Chargers are hoping to rebound against the Jags. Below are some x-factors that the Chargers will need to get back in that “W” column:
Double Trouble (Khalil Mack and Joey Bosa)
Making another appearance in my x-factors, and I’m sure it will not be the last, is the terrible twosome of Khalil Mack and Joey Bosa. Daniel Popper of The Athletic remarked after the game last week, “The Chargers did an excellent job of containing Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes to the pocket…Joey Bosa and Khalil Mack, who both played over 90 percent of the defensive snaps, deserve a lot of credit for how disciplined they were in their rushes.” Mahomes was still productive, throwing for 235 passing yards but Mack and Bosa each had 3 hurries while Mack had one sack, and each made sure for the most part that Mahomes was unable to make those magical Mahomes-type throws due to all the defensive pressure.
Trevor Lawrence is getting more comfortable in the pocket, so it’ll be up to Mack and Bosa to shake that confidence and breakthrough quickly. Of the games that Lawrence played last year, his completion percentage was fairly high at 68.1% when the pocket was clean, but that percentage suffered when under pressure (38.4%) and when blitzed (50.0%). Lawrence is also quick and not afraid to scramble, and in this last game against the Colts, did a few bootleg plays allowing him to get better positioning. His average time to throw on all dropbacks was also the lowest it was in the entire 2021 season during this last game at 2.31 seconds. Despite his speed, if either Mack or Bosa can get to him, the odds of Lawrence still standing, never mind getting the ball off that fast, seems slim.
The Chargers Need A Hero On The Offensive Line
If Justin Herbert plays on Sunday, the offensive line protection will be critical in making sure that his injury doesn’t worsen. And if he doesn’t play, it’ll still be necessary as the Chargers can’t afford to leave their fate in the hands of Easton Stick if Chase Daniel gets hurt. One of those heroes of this offensive line could obviously be Corey Linsley if he manages to play. The pocket always stays cleaner with him in it, and he didn’t allow any quarterback pressures when he was in during the Chiefs game last week.
Zion Johnson could also be that hero as he allowed very few quarterback pressures and no sacks in his first two games and held it down during the Chiefs game when so much was up in the air with injuries. Johnson, Linsley as well as Rashawn Slater will be some of the key pieces keeping Herbert safe, and let’s hope that Matt Feiler and Trey Pipkins (if Pipkins is playing) can hold their own. My worry has shifted slightly from Pipkins to Feiler now as he hasn’t always been great at pass blocking, especially in 2021 when he allowed the most sacks of his career at 5. At a time when pass-blocking will be critical, he definitely needs to hold his own if the pocket is to remain free of the likes of Josh Allen and Travon Walker.
Beware Of Derwin James
Travis Kelce said during his podcast on September 8th with his brother that Derwin James “is an absolute beast on the defensive side” and his brother Jason Kelce remarked that James hits harder than most linebackers. And the body slam on Travis during the Chiefs game last week, 100% proves that point. James is unstoppable and it’s no wonder he’s the highest-paid safety in the league. And he was certainly the piece that the Chargers needed to make sure Kelce didn’t pull out any 3rd quarter heroics. Derwin will be key in covering receivers like Christian Kirk, who has been dominating the Jags offense. In week 1 Kirk had 117 receiving yards and in Week 2 had 78 and two touchdowns. Evan Engram and Travis Etienne are other targets to watch out for, but Kirk definitely seems to be the biggest offensive threat, so you can bet that he’ll be getting some special attention from James.
Can The Real Running Back Room Please Stand UP?
The Jags struggled last year in run defense against teams like the Titans, Colts, and Falcons. And coincidentally those teams also have elite running backs in Derrick Henry (130 rushing yards during the Jags during week 5), Jonathan Taylor (116 rushing yards during Week 10), and Cordarrelle Patterson (108 rushing yards during Week 12). Though Taylor couldn’t make an impact in the Colts’ Week 2 blowout loss to the Jags, if the Chargers offensive line is intact with its usual suspects, the Chargers’ running backs should fare better.
Austin Ekeler can be commended for absolutely fighting for every inch during Week 2 to give the Chargers as much positive momentum as he did. He’s just been contained these last few weeks, as targets have been spread between Joshua Kelley and Sony Michel, and he’s been stopped with some tough defenses like the Chiefs. This game should be a bounce-back not only for Ekeler but for the other backs. And while Herbert heals, the less he has to fully extend to make those monster throws and can quickly hand it off so that he doesn’t risk getting hit, the better.
Chargers X-Factors For Pivotal Week Three Matchup Against The Jaguars. Photo Credit – Mike Nowak