Week 1: the good and the bad
The Bolts come away from week one with a win! Now it may not have been the most impressive win but hey a win is a win! This win is all the more important as they play division rival Kansas City Chiefs next week. There are definitely some things that need to be shored up as the season progresses but this team historically always seems to get better the latter the season goes on. I don’t want to spend too much time focusing on the negative as I feel the positive takeaways far outweigh the ladder. However we can’t just ignore or pretend that there weren’t any negatives so I both sides will still be addressed here. Let’s start with the negatives as this will be more quickly addressed and allow us to finish on a positive note.
What needs to be cleaned up:
The obvious here is that the offense seemed to stall for most of the game. This is actually what seemed to cause most fans to feel uncomfortable about the win. With the “new look offense” the team was trying a lot of new things that we haven’t seen from this organization now that we have mobility from a starting quarterback. The problem seemed to be that the offense was trying to pull off several different looks and schemes and never really allowed themselves to get into any specific groove in any one of them in particular. Although later in the game they seemed to start having a lot of success out of the pistol formation which I will address a bit later. I don’t necessarily have any issues with the particular plays that were called but they need to be called in a better semblance and or order. For instance Draw run plays up the middle won’t necessarily work unless you set it up to do so on previous plays. Draw plays work better when you make the defense respect the short throws first. Same can be said for some of the bootlegs. You have to make the defense respect the run game first to get them to bite on the fake handoff before a quarterback rolls out. People were also upset that Austin Ekeler and Kennan Allen were not heavily involved. I won’t put too much stock into that part of it as much because of several factors. First there were no preseason games and while this won’t affect some teams, for the Chargers in particular having those practice games is so much more important. This is because they are a team not only with a new quarterback but also a team implementing a new offensive scheme. This would explain a lot of what seemed like confusion with the play calling. They are simply trying to figure it out and work out the kinks as they go. In my opinion we should have a much better idea of where they stand offensively after week 3. Also keep in mind not every player is going to put up monster production every game. I do think they should try to get Ekeler utilized out in space a bit more even if it means bringing back some of last year’s screen plays.
First and foremost I want to say that the front seven of the defense looked very impressive. Its only week 1 and already the presence of free agent addition Linval Joseph is already making a world of difference. While he didn’t put up great grades according to pro football focus he managed to successfully occupy two blockers on a regular basis, something this team has needed for years now. Not just that but the fact that former first round pick Jerry Tillery seemed to make huge strides in his development is a huge factor. I personally hadn’t expected much from his this season as he was near invisible his rookie season. In fact after last year I thought he would be a guy who wouldn’t develop until his 3rd if not 4th season. He had two sacks which is great for the stat sheet but I would like to see how his run defense improves throughout the course of the season. According to pro football focus Tillery still just graded out with a 54.5 run defensive grade. If he can shore up the run D side of things this could easily be a top 5 if not top 3 front seven in the NFL. In the second level of the defense unfortunately Drue Tranquill suffered a ugly injury and will be lost for the season. Yet this opened the door once again for Denzel Perryman who came in and instantly started making plays and showing why he should be on the field much more often. Almost immediately he forced a fumble against a running back who rarely puts the ball on the ground and on the next defensive drive blew Joe Burrow up on an attempted scramble. Denzel being on the field more often is a positive as it just brings bigger hits and more physicality to this defense. Not to mention he graded out with an eye popping 93.7 defensive grade, including a 91.4 grade against the run. Wow!
On the offensive side of things Hunter Henry looked in prime form not just on the receiving end of things but also in the blocking department, showing why is so much more than just a receiving threat. Mike Williams is another guy who looked great. He may not have blown up the stat sheet as he had just 4 catches with 69 yards. It’s the form he was in that impressed me the most. He was out here contesting almost every catchable ball and even showing his ability to make circus catches and take big hits all at the same time. I would not be surprised if this ends up being his best season yet. While the offense may have sputtered for most part of the game the two things that Chargers fans cannot ignore is the fact that the offensive line looked much better under new line coach James Campen. All of the talent that hasn’t lived up to their potential and or has been inconsistent throughout their careers may have now finally found a steady groove under Campen and theoretically this line should get even better with the return of pro bowl right guard Trai Turner. Finally last but certainly not least we have the emergence of rookie running back Joshua Kelley. Kelley had 12 carries for 60 yards and a touchdown but really seemed to take over when it mattered most. He also seemed run very hard with more power than I gave him credit for originally. While he likely won’t be running with the same type of power of a Zeke or Prime AP he certainly didn’t seem to shy away from contact which I love. It kind of reverses the script on the defense. Almost like letting them know if you want to make a play when I have the ball I’m going to inflict pain on you. He even managed to spin out of a play that would have been a negative yardage play and turn it into a 6 yard gain. If he continues to run like this I would not be surprised to see him have an equal workload with Austin Ekeler with Ekeler reverting back to a change of pace style back where he flourishes.