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Can Josh Jacobs exploit a historically bad Chargers’ defense?

Go inside Sunday’s matchup with Chargers

Los Angeles Chargers v Las Vegas Raiders
Josh Jacobs
Photo by Chris Unger/Getty Images

After a successful two-game road trip, the Las Vegas Raiders head back home to take on the Los Angeles Chargers as slight underdogs on DraftKings Sportsbook. Raiders’ running back Josh Jacobs is coming off a historic performance in Seattle with over 300 yards from scrimmage, while the Chargers have struggled to stop the run all year.

So, for this week’s five questions with the enemy, I made sure to ask Michael Peterson from Bolts From the Blue about the matchup in the ground game, as well as a few other topics that will play a factor in Sunday’s tilt.

Question: The Chargers have suffered a lot of injuries this year, including their top two wide receivers in Keenan Allen and Mike Williams. How has Justin Herbert handled playing most of the year without his two top targets?

Answer: Herbert has had to play with plenty of backups and practice squad players through his first two seasons. This season has unfortunately just been much worse. He’s always had at least one of either Allen and Williams, but this is certainly the first time he’s had to play an extended period of time with both of them out simultaneously.

Herbert’s been fine without his top pass-catchers for the most part, but I’d be wrong to say it hasn’t affected his season. After beginning the year with three touchdown passes in each of his first two games, Herbert never surpassed two touchdowns until this past week against the Cardinals. Coincidentally, it was also the first full game for Keenan Allen this season with no restrictions.

At the end of the day, Herbert has done just enough with the likes of DeAndre Carter, Joshua Palmer, and Gerald Everett to keep the Chargers in the fight for the postseason this late into the season.

Q: Those injuries have also paved the way for DeAndre Carter to have a breakout campaign. What has Carter done to fill Allen’s and Williams’ shoes? And how do you think Carter’s role will change when those two are healthy again?

A: Carter’s shown the ability to be a dependable player on third downs and as a weapon who can get open down the field. Two of his three touchdowns this season have come from beyond 30 yards while his third came from 23. He’s been a breath of fresh air for the offense, especially after exceeding the original expectations of him simply being signed to be a special teams contributor.

It’s unfortunate that his role will shrink once Allen, Williams, and Palmer are all on the field together, but that shouldn’t stop him from receiving snaps on offense entirely. He’ll be the first guy off the bench for the remainder of the season.

Q: Los Angeles’ defense is historically bad against the run this season and Josh Jacobs is coming off a huge performance with over 200 rushing yards and over 300 total yards from scrimmage. DraftKings Sportsbook is offering a weekly special where Jacobs going for over 100 rushing yards and over 50 receiving yards is a +900 bet. Would you take those odds?

A: I actually believe I would take those odds. As long as the Raiders don’t fade away from the run as they did in week one, that sounds very plausible. The receiving yards would worry me the most, but James Connor got plenty of work through the air against the Chargers this past week, so I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see Carr look Jacobs’ way on Sunday.

At the end of the day, the Chargers' run defense isn’t getting any healthier between now and this upcoming Sunday. It’ll be the same players who have allowed 150+ yards on the ground through five of the team’s past six games.

Q: Derwin James has typically shadowed Darren Waller when the Raiders and Chargers have played in the past, but Waller has been out for the majority of the season with an injury and is still on injured reserve. If he doesn’t play on Sunday, how do you think that will impact James’ role in the game? Will James shift his attention to Davante Adams?

A: If Waller is not playing this week, I’d expect to see James used in the box quite a bit as an extra defender to stop Josh Jacobs. Against the 49ers in week 10, James played quite a bit as an edge defender and it did wonders in keeping the Niners’ rushing average to 3.8 per carry.

This week, I’d expect both Asante Samuel Jr. and Michael Davis to take turns lining up opposite Adams. Davis put together a solid performance against DeAndre Hopkins this past Sunday and it’ll be interesting to see if Brandon Staley trusts him enough now to put him in a dogfight with number 17.

Q: I know JC Jackson was a marquee free agent signing in the offseason, but he notably wasn’t playing well before suffering a season-ending injury. Who replaces Jackson in the lineup and is LA’s pass defense actually better without him?

A: Jackson’s immediate replacement is Michael Davis. After signing an extension just two seasons ago, it was a surprise to see Davis benched completely in light of the big free-agent signing. But now without Jackson in the lineup, Davis has returned and now seemingly has a chip on his shoulder.

Overall, I’d say the pass defense has been better without Jackson. They are not letting up as many touchdowns through the air and are truly forcing teams to run it down their throats which is exactly what Staley wants opposing teams to do, even with the horrendous run-stopping unit they have right now.