Before the Las Vegas Raiders and Los Angeles Chargers square off on Monday Night Football, Michael Peterson from Bolts From the Blue was kind enough to answer a few of my questions about the Chargers.
1. Justin Herbert obviously had a pretty good season last year and is off to a good start this season, but is there a specific type of defense or coverage that’s given him trouble? And knowing Gus Bradley’s defense, do you think that matchup favors the Raiders or Chargers?
Honestly, I don’t think I could name one specific defense or another that has given him trouble. However, the only game I can recall where he struggled the most was against the Patriots last season when the team was blown out inside of SoFi Stadium. Behind a horrendous offensive line, New England sent wave after wave of pressure against that shaky front five and it worked perfectly. There was no semblance of an offense and it led to the only game last year in which the Chargers finished with zero points.
After years of watching Gus Bradley with the Chargers, I would say this isn’t a great matchup. The “bend-but-don’t-break” mindset with his scheme allows for teams to methodically march down the field at will while limiting big plays over the top. Unlike last year, the Chargers have shown to be just fine in that facet. They aren’t launching the ball downfield on play-action anywhere near as frequently as they did a year ago. If the pass rush isn’t getting there, it may be a long day for Las Vegas.
2. Slowing down both Keenan Allen and Mike Williams seems like almost an impossible task for opposing defenses. Have you noticed if there’s one look or type of coverage that gives both of them trouble or is it more of a pick-your-poison type of deal?
This is definitely a pick-your-poison situation. Especially this season. Through three weeks, at least one of the two has scored or gone for over 100 yards in every game thus far. As things stand, it might be that the defense will have to figure which one could hurt you the most, focus on that player, and hope the other just has a bad game.
The thing about Bradley’s Cover 3 scheme is that it invites the opponent to throw. This is not necessarily a good thing when the league is trending towards pass-happy teams. If Bradley can curtail his scheme to play a bit more Cover 2 on Monday night, I also think that’d help in the long run.
3. Offensive line has been an issue for the Chargers for a few years now and they’ve made a lot of changes up front in the offseason. Tell me about rookie and first-round pick Rashawn Slater, how has he looked so far this season? How do you think LA’s offensive line and Las Vegas’ pass rush, which has been pretty good so far, stack up against each other?
Slater has been phenomenal this season for a rookie tackle. He handled his first big test against Chase Young and the Washington front in week one and has since been mistake-free aside from one penalty against the Chiefs. He’s allowed zero sacks this far and just five pressures through three weeks. Overall, the line is lightyears better than it was in 2020.
I think aside from the Washington defensive line, this is the biggest test of the young season for the offensive line. Maxx Crosby is playing out of his mind and will be a test for anyone tasked with blocking him. Same goes for Yannick Ngakoue. This may be the deciding matchup when it comes to the outcome of this game.
4. On the other side of the trenches, can you give me a matchup between the Chargers’ defensive line and the Raiders’ offensive line that you think will favor the Chargers and vice versa?
I think this will be a massive test for Alex Leatherwood who is likely to go up against Joey Bosa for most of Monday night. Kolton Miller should have a decent matchup against Uchenna Nwosu due to his elite length. Nwosu is on the smaller end for edge guys and Miller just has to keep him from getting into his chest. I like the interior of the Chargers line against the Raiders’ interior defenders, however. Corey Linsley and Matt Feiler are finding their stride and are playing their best ball right now.
5 I’m a little curious about how LA is using their linebackers. I saw that only three players at the position have taken snaps this year and Brandon Staley used a similar strategy with the Rams, so are linebackers just not a big part of his defense? And are linebackers going to be responsible for covering a receiving back like Kenyan Drake?
The Chargers are blessed with three very athletic linebackers. In this 3-4 front, the Chargers are mainly using a Nickel defender as opposed to a third linebacker so it’s really just two starting spots being filled by three starting-caliber players. The defensive linemen are one-gappers. They’re meant to play upfield at the snap to spill runs into certain gaps which are then to be filled by the linebackers and safeties behind them. And yes, Kenneth Murray, Kyzir White, or Drue Tranquill will be tasked with covering the running backs out of the backfield.