Both the Raiders and Chargers are talented teams on paper. But both have disappointed this season. Thus far the Raiders middle linebacker position has been sketchy at best and they haven’t been able to get the run game going. It turns out the Chargers have been suffering from similar problems as SB Nation Chargers writer Richard Wade explains.
1. How have the Chargers gone about replacing another string of injuries to the likes of Jason Verrett, Denzel Perryman, and Forrest Lamp?
They have done a reasonable job of replacing Jason Verrett. Trevor Williams has allowed the 14th lowest passer rating against this season in his place. Rookie Desmond King has also done a solid job of stepping up as the nickel corner.
At middle linebacker, the Chargers are a dumpster fire. Hayes Pullard is awful. Korey Toomer is awful. Denzel Perryman is badly, badly missed. His absence is a huge part of why the run defense is as bad as it is.
We don't know what the Chargers would have had in Forrest Lamp this season, but one has to assume that it would be better than what they have gotten from Matt Slauson. Slauson was excellent as a center last year, but after sliding over to guard he is a complete liability. He is ineffective in as a pass blocker and frankly, he's in the way in the running game.
2. What's' going on with Philip Rivers? How much blame does he get for the Chargers' poor season thus far?
Philip Rivers may finally be done. He does not look like the player we have spent the last decade watching. His footwork is a mess. His arm strength is clearly no longer what it once was and it was never that great in the first place. He has never been fleet of foot, but he's basically immobile now. The worst part has been watching his decisionmaking fall apart, though. He misses wide open receivers. He zeroes in on a guy before the snap and never looks off. He is just a disaster on a handful of plays every game. Granted, he is still Philip Rivers so the done version is still 9th in DYAR and 13th in DVOA, but he has directly lost them at least one game on his own (vs KC).
3. It looks like Mike Williams will make his debut Sunday. How do you expect he will fit into the Chargers receiving corps?
He will be on a limited snap count to start and he will likely steal playing time from Tyrell Williams and Travis Benjamin. My guess is that we initially see him getting work in the red zone and in three-receiver sets between the 20s. Eventually, he needs to become the team's #1 receiver to justify his draft position, but I doubt we see that happen this season.
4. What are the biggest strength and biggest weakness on this Chargers team?
This team's biggest strength is its pass rush. Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa are arguably the best pass rushing duo on the planet right now. Bosa was the Defensive Rookie of the Year last season and his pressure/sack numbers are comparable to Von Miller's at the same point in their careers.And Ingram is borderline unblockable through five games this season. No other part of the Chargers' roster can compare to just how good these two are.
The team's biggest weakness is probably its running game. The offensive line outside of Russell Okung is simply bad at run blocking. Some members of the line are so bad that they actually get in Okung's way (Slauson). You pair that with a worthless fullback in Derek Watt and a running back that only gets what is blocked in Melvin Gordon and you have a recipe for one of the five or six worst running games in the league. There is reason to think they could improve. Some of the pieces are young and some could be replaced, but the rushing offense is simply bad.
5. Four of the Chargers 5 games this season have been decided by five points or fewer. Their actual 1-4 record notwithstanding, do you think they're closer to 4-1 or 0-5?
They are absolutely closer to 0-5 than 4-1. Their only win came against a terrible Giants team that is led by one of the worst quarterbacks in football who by the end of the game was missing his top three receivers. Finding three other wins out of the remaining four losses seems impossible no matter how close those games might look if you only look at the box score. The Chargers are not a good football team and they are every bit their 1-4 record.
I will add the link to my answers to his questions once they are posted.