It’s only Week 4 and the Chargers have already been through the ringer. Injuries are mounting as are losses and the outlook doesn’t seem as sunny as it once did. It is only Week 4 though, so no reason to panic – yet. I’m not counting them out, especially with some great players still available to make some of these x-factors below, a reality.
Stop, Receiver Time!
The Chargers receiving yards were low during their game against the Texans last year as no receiver managed to make it to double digits. With the running game being so lackluster this year, the Chargers will definitely need their receivers to make an impact. Keenan Allen‘s status remains uncertain as he deals with a hamstring injury. The Chargers need their other $20 million man Mike Williams to show up as he did against the Chiefs. He’s been way too hit or miss so far this season and that needs to change.
Joshua Palmer needs to make moves and step up as well. Deandre Carter surprisingly leads the team in receiving yards through the first three games of the 2022 season. This is great for Carter, a journeyman return specialist, but the Chargers drafted Palmer in the third round and were banking on a breakout season from him. Once Allen went down, the need for Palmer to establish himself as a legitimate dude, and that hasn’t happened yet. The Chargers simply need more out of Williams and Palmer if they are going to stay afloat in the AFC. Regardless if/when Allen returns to the field.
Cover! Cover! Cover!
Coverage was an issue last year when the Chargers faced the Texans. Nasir Adderley struggled against covering the likes of Chris Moore and Chris Conley while Asante Samuel Jr. struggled against covering Nico Collins and Phillip Dorsett. There were a lot of holes during the last game, giving way too much time for Davis Mills to make some deep throws. Collins and Moore have started off the 2022 season fine enough, with 125 and 108 receiving yards in the first three games, respectively. So the story will be the same for this game if the Chargers can’t get these guys under control.
Adderley has grown a lot during the offseason and part of that is due to the increased reliance on him during the time that Derwin James was holding out for his new contract. Though Adderley’s numbers haven’t looked super impressive yet in the first few games, he’s had 6 solo tackles and 1 forced fumble. I believe there’s still more for Adderley to show us and that his middle-of-the-pack coverage ratings won’t be a permanent thing, especially as the Chargers become more reliant on other players due to injuries.
Samuel meanwhile has come out the gate hot. Though he’s not always finishing each play, and there were certainly some interceptions he could have gotten during that Chiefs game that were missed, he’s everywhere on the field, trying to make the most impact possible. Samuel has all the pieces, the plays just have to be buttoned up properly. If JC Jackson doesn’t return this week, they’ll need Samuel to be great again.
One of the things that Brandon Staley mentioned in his postgame press conference is that the Chargers weren’t able to impact Trevor Lawrence well enough for 60 minutes on Sunday. This will definitely need to change for their game against the Texans. Mike Jones of The Athletic stated that “at quarterback, Davis Mills is wildly inconsistent…” and that statement seems accurate based on his performance. During the Chargers game against the Texans last year, Mills did have a really solid performance. But he has yet to surpass 300 yards this season, and he ranks 18th in PFF’s passing grades and 23rd in total passing yards.
Mills is also not super mobile and the Texans do have some weaknesses up front, particularly along the interior. Right guard AJ Cann is a decent player who’s playing well enough in Houston. Top 15 pick Kenyon Green has been starting at left guard for the Texans and has had some rookie moments so far this season. Former Chargers backup center Scott Quessenberry has actually been starting for the Texans after Justin Britt got injured in week one. Frankly, this puts the Texans in a similar boat that the Chargers were in last week against the Jaguars. The question obviously is, can the Chargers take advantage of these weaknesses?
These are the times when Sebastian Joseph-Day, Austin Johnson, and Morgan Fox need to step up most. Fox has been solid for the Chargers but he can’t be the only interior pass rusher showing up. Joseph-Day and Johnson are mostly run defenders but they’re also supposed to be pocket pushers to create rushing lanes for Fox, and the edge rushers.
This is also a really important moment for Kyle Van Noy. The Chargers have done some creative things with him as a blitzer, but part of the reason why they signed him was his ability to play on the edge, and he really struggled in that role on Sunday. When he was in for Bosa, Daniel Popper of The Athletic stated that “The Jags ran right at the spot where Bosa would have been playing if he wasn’t hurt — on the right edge of the defensive front. Kyle Van Noy was in his place. Jacksonville opened up a massive hole, and Robinson exploded untouched for the score.” Though Van Noy hasn’t put up great numbers yet, those should improve, as his tackle number has been consistent throughout the years, and he tends to have double-digit stops. After spending most of the training camp at linebacker, he might need a few games to adjust. The Chargers don’t really have that luxury though.
Week Four X-Factors For Desperate Chargers. Photo Credit – Mike Nowak.