Key Matchups For Chargers Must-Win Game Against Texans
I feel a little weird calling a week four game against arguably the worst team in the NFL a must-win, but here we are. There are a lot of issues that are going on with the Chargers right now, mainly in the injury department. The two most important factors in the NFL are the talent of the players that you have, and how well coaches can put their team in a place to succeed no matter what the circumstances are. Last week, I wrote that a key matchup was between Brandon Staley and Doug Pederson. Unfortunately, we all know how that went with the Chargers losing 38-10.
With all of this considered, and the Chargers being very injured, Staley absolutely needs to prove that he is a legitimate coach and can put his team in a position to win, and dominate what should be an inferior opponent.
Everyone remembers last season against the Texans, winning that game would have gotten the Chargers a playoff spot. Despite being the better team, by a large margin, the Chargers were blown out in an embarrassing fashion.
It is so necessary for the coaching to be better across the board, and that starts with Staley. Let’s get into the key matchups for this game that will ultimately determine who wins.
Matchup One: Jamaree Salyer Against Jerry Hughes
The Chargers have had a ton of devastating injuries to begin this season. One of the hardest ones to overcome is the loss of Rashawn Slater. Left tackle is one of the most difficult positions to replace, we all saw that as Storm Norton struggled mightily after Slater went down.
The offensive staff is changing directions and starting rookie Jamaree Salyer. Salyer, who started every game at left tackle for Georgia last season in college, was projected to be a guard in the NFL. This change from Norton to Salyer is exactly the type of thing I want to see from this staff. It may seem unconventional because he has been locked in at guard, but the experience, talent, and upside from Salyer is the best of a bad situation. It’s encouraging to see the staff not stick with Norton and change things up.
Salyer will have his hands full in the first action of his career against Jerry Hughes. Hughes is sitting at four sacks which is tied for second in the NFL at this point. He is coming off two sacks against the Bears last week.
Hughes will line up on either side as an edge rusher, and one can only assume he is going to primarily go up against the rookie playing his first game.
While Salyer wasn’t projected to be a left tackle in the NFL, he was excellent at Georgia and should definitely be able to hold his own. The health of his quarterback, Justin Herbert, depends a lot on how well he plays.
Matchup Two: Mike Williams Against Derek Stingley Jr.
I would’ve put Keenan Allen here instead of Mike Williams, but as of practice on Thursday, Allen had to leave early with a trainer and has now been declared out. Mike Williams and the matchup against rookie Derek Stingley Jr. will be extremely important.
Stingley was one of my favorite players coming out of the draft and has had an up-and-down start to his NFL career. He has given up a lot of receptions, but at times has looked elite.
The reason why this matchup is so important is to find ways to exploit Stingley and not let him play confidently. If Stingley plays at his best and takes away Williams, it will be a long day for this offense. Williams has also had an up-and-down season himself.
After hardly doing anything in week one, he exploded in week two against the Chiefs. He took a step back last week again with only one reception, which did result in a touchdown. Williams is a rhythm receiver, he always seems to play better throughout the game when he is involved early and often. Williams needs to play how he did against the Chiefs to elevate this offense.
Matchup Three: Justin Herbert Against Jalen Pitre
Many of the crucial players in this game are rookies, I’ll include one more in Jalen Pitre. Pitre is a rookie out of Baylor that was drafted 37th overall. He has exploded out the gate this season and especially dominated last week against the Bears. Pitre last week had two interceptions, one sack, and recovered a fumble. He’s a chess piece that has been all over the field, which Herbert will need to be aware of.
Herbert’s health is crucial in this game, he can’t be second-guessing anything and needs to know where he’s going and get there quickly. It’s essential for Herbert to know where Pitre is at all times and not let Pitre take advantage of a mental mistake.
Herbert has become so much better at changing plays based on what he sees, and Pitre is going to do everything he can to disguise where he’s at and what he’s doing. Pitre’s main struggle has been with tackling to start off his career, the hope is to exploit that while limiting what he excels at.
As I mentioned, this is a must-win game for the Chargers. There are no excuses for them losing the game, I don’t care how injured they are. They are still the more talented team and need to dominate the Texans. I expect the star players that are healthy to step their game up and hold others accountable. I also expect a much more aggressive approach from the offense and the coaching staff, in general, to establish who they are.
Score prediction: Chargers 27, Texans 17