It’s Las Vegas Raiders vs Los Angeles Chargers, Part II. We’re back at it with another five burning questions segment ahead of the Thursday Night Game with our friends from Bolts From the Blue.
S&BP: Is it fair to say a quarterback of a team who is likely to finish with double-digit losses is an OROY candidate? Can Justin Herbert win the Offensive Rookie of the Year and has he played like it this season truly?
BFtB: In most cases, I’d say the team record should matter, especially when compared to another quarterback who is pushing for the award. However, in Herbert’s case, he’s done just about everything he could do as a rookie to give his team the best chance at winning games. He can’t do anything about the defensive struggles and the horrendous special teams’ play. He’s about to, and already has, set a bunch of rookie passing records, as well. There’s no doubt in my mind that this award will come home to either Herbert or the Vikings’ Justin Jefferson.
S&BP: Nearly four running backs have carried the ball 50 times and for almost 200 yards, yet Justin Herbert leads the team with three rushing touchdowns. Give a quick synopsis and diagnosis on the run game so far through 13 games this season.
BFtB: A lot of these numbers would look different if Austin Ekeler hadn’t gotten hurt in Week 4 and missed half of the season. It also doesn’t help that Anthony Lynn and Shane Steichen like to use a backfield committee. The offensive line has also been atrocious and the team has come to feel more comfortable trying to throw it for a score inside of the 10-yard line than they do trying to pound it in.
Overall, the running game has been flat and uninspiring. There is no “POP” unless Ekeler is in the game since he’s the only one who can consistently make the first man miss. If he was ever treated like the bell cow he could be, he’d average close to 100 yards on the ground. But at the end of the day, he does average well over 100 total yards of offense thanks to his ability as a receiver.
Kallen Ballage has been much better with the Chargers than he was with the Dolphins or Jets. I’m happy for him. Rookie Joshua Kelley has been one of the worst running backs in the NFL in terms of efficiency this season who have carried the ball at least 100 times in 2020. He’ll need to find some shiftiness in his game if he wants to stick around. Lastly, Justin Jackson has always been productive when given the chance, but this guy seriously cannot stay healthy. That will ultimately be his downfall.
S&BP: Is it safe to say the Chargers offensive line has not been good this year? And if so, what can we expect from them in this game against perhaps one of the league’s most inconsistent pass-rushing units as a whole in the Raiders?
BFtB: The Chargers offensive line has been one of the worst in the NFL. Guys like Trai Turner and Bryan Bulaga who were traded for and signed this offseason have played a fraction of the snaps this year while their young talent hasn’t been all that impressive, either. Here’s the kicker, though: This offensive line has been bad in recent years whenever they play the Raiders. In 2019, they allowed Clelin Ferrell to record 2.5 sacks after he only had one during the first half of the season. The same thing happened again earlier this year. The Chargers allowed the Raiders to record far too many sacks. Way more than what was expected from this weak group of pass rushers. Until proven otherwise, I expect the same thing to happen Thursday night.
S&BP: Besides Joey Bosa, who is the defensive MVP for the Chargers at this point of the season?
BFtB: If not Bosa, it’d have to go to either safety Rayshawn Jenkins or cornerback Michael Davis. Both have been standouts in the secondary and each has proven to be the unit’s most-consistent members on a week-by-week basis. Rayshawn has turned into a solid player in place of Derwin James at strong safety and Michael Davis is the only corner that has made plays this year outside of Tevaughn Campbell’s pick-six against the Jets. Both will likely sign a new contract with the team after the season is over, too.
S&BP: Let’s go back to basics here, give me a prediction of the final score and how we get there.
BFtB: I think this game will look a lot like the last one. I think it will be a back-and-forth affair with each team trading blows from start to finish. If Keenan Allen and Mike Williams both end up not playing, then I think this becomes a much tougher outing for Herbert and the offense. This rivalry is always very scrappy, even if one team comes in with a much better record than the other. I imagine each team turns the ball over once and it will end in another one-score game, but I don’t think it comes down to the final play this time. Give me Chargers surprising the Raiders and winning, 30-24.