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The Chargers Defensive Line: Week 7

Sunday night was not kind to the Los Angeles Chargers. The team fell behind 24-0 before staging a late comeback to make the final score 24-17. To make matters worse, the stadium was packed with Steelers’ fans and it truly felt like an away game. The defensive line did little to limit the Steelers attack. While they held their running game to 124 yards they did not record a sack the entire game. Much needs to be improved if they are going to get out of their slump this week against the Tennessee Titans.

Preview Vs The Titans

One of the main reasons why the Chargers have been struggling is because they have struggled to stuff the opposing team’s running game. In the first six games of the year, the Chargers have allowed 120.5 yards per game which is 22nd in the NFL. The Titans feature running back is Derrick Henry, the Heisman Trophy winner from Alabama who has averaged 3.7 yards per carry this year. Big (6’3” 238 lbs) and fast (4.54 seconds in the 40-yard dash), he is quite the enigma.

The Titans have not been dominant throwing the ball and are sure to rely heavily on their ground attack. Quarterback Marcus Mariota has a paltry 31.5 quarterback rating, 29th in the NFL, but this week it will be back up Ryan Tannehill who gets the start. They have rushed for 102.8 yards per game which is 20th in the NFL.

The Titans feature a big, athletic offensive line. Their left tackle, Taylor Lewan, is one of the best left tackles in the NFL. He has been to three Pro Bowls since being drafted in 2014. He stands an intimidating 6’7” 309 lbs.

Left guard Rodger Saffold is in his first year with the Titans after spending the first nine years of his career with the Rams. He was named second-team All-Pro in 2017 and stands 6’5” 325 lbs.

Center Ben Jones is in his fourth year with the Titans after spending the early part of his career in Houston. He is the prototypical size for a center, standing 6’3” and weighing 308 lbs.

Kevin Pamphile is great size for a right guard. He stands 6’5” and weighs 310 lbs.

Right tackle Jack Conklin’s career started off great after he was named first-team All-Pro following his rookie year. He has yet to play at that level again. He stands 6’6” and weighs 308 lbs.

Review Of Disappointing Steelers Game

The Good

Late in the second quarter, the Steelers faced 2nd-and-3 from their own 33-yard line. The Chargers’ defensive line ganged up on James Connor and stuffed him for a one-yard gain to end the half.

In the middle of the third quarter, the Chargers’ defensive line started to show some fight. On two successive plays, they were lined up inside their own five-yard line and halted the Steelers’ attempts at running in for the touchdown. On the third play of the goal-line stand, the Steelers had a low snap which effectively ended their chance at scoring a back-breaking touchdown. However, the Steelers did kick a field goal to go up 24-0.

The Chargers showed very little life in their pass rush until the fourth quarter. At the beginning of that time, defensive end Isaac Rochell rushed quarterback Devlin Hodges and ever so slightly tapped his throwing arm while it was in motion. The Chargers defensive backfield took advantage of that opportunity and collected an interception.

The Bad

In the middle of the first quarter, the Steelers faced 3rd-and-4 from the Chargers 34-yard line. The Steelers quarterback quickly scanned the field before dumping off a short pass to Connor for the first down. The Chargers’ defensive line was hardly within five yards of the Steelers passer.

Just one play later, the Steelers faced first down from the Chargers 12-yard line. Connor found an opening along the edge of the line and raced for the touchdown, leaving Chargers defenders gasping for air.

Late in the first quarter, the Steelers were at their own 12-yard line, enjoying a 14 point lead. Connor started toward the right before cutting back toward the left. The Chargers’ defensive line was clearly confused as he easily gained another first down.

In the middle of the second quarter, the Steelers faced 2nd-and-3 from the Chargers 35 ½-yard line. The Chargers defensive line was caught standing straight up as Benny Snell found enough room to rumble for the first down.

Final Thoughts

The Titan’s quarterback situation is in flux. After a poor performance last week, franchise quarterback Marcus Mariota has been benched in favor of Ryan Tannehill. Both sides of the ball are hobbled with injury. Titans Jack Conklin and tight end Delanie Walker have ankle injuries and have returned to practice. Conklin returned to a full practice while Walker was limited in practice and it is unknown if he will play on Sunday.

The middle of the Chargers defensive line is battling some injuries too. Defensive tackle Justin Jones and nose tackle Brandon Mebane have respective knee and shoulder injuries. Neither participated in Wednesday’s practice and it is unclear if they will play on Sunday.

Due to their quarterback situation, the Titans will most likely rely on their ground attack which happens to be the Chargers’ weakness. It could be a long day for the Chargers if they can’t figure out how to stop the Titan’s run game.

David Hegler

Author David Hegler

BS in Business Management from Azusa Pacific University. Fanatical 49er fan. Avid fan of all Bay Area sports teams.

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