The Las Vegas Raiders will kick off the 2022 season “on the road” as 3.5-point underdogs on DraftKings Sportsbook against the Los Angeles Chargers. To preview this massive AFC West season-opening matchup, Michael Peterson of Bolts From the Blue was kind enough to answer five of my questions about the Chargers for Raider Nation.
1. Justin Herbert has taken the league by storm with some jaw-dropping throws and it’s clear he has a ton of talent, but the big knock on him heading into the season is he has a losing record as a starter and hasn’t made the playoffs. So, what are your expectations for Herbert heading into the campaign, and is success for him this year going to be completely rooted in the team’s record?
At the end of the day, if some people are still claiming Herbert isn’t a successful NFL quarterback due to his win-loss record, then they’re simply casuals who don’t know what they’re either looking at or talking about. Herbert has done miraculous things to keep his team in games throughout his first two seasons in the league. If it wasn’t for a special teams unit and a run defense that couldn’t stop a Pop Warner squad, he’d likely already have a playoff appearance and/or victory under his belt. Simply put, he can’t do it all.
In year three, I expect more of the same with the Chargers’ golden boy. He’ll likely regress in passing yards after throwing for over 5,000 a year ago but it’s also likely he’ll have better luck in the turnover department after he ended 2021 with 15 interceptions. Just to throw some numbers out there, I predict Herbert to throw for 4,500+ yards, 35+ touchdowns, and 10 or fewer picks. Let’s throw in a couple of rushing touchdowns, as well.
2. While the Chargers’ top two receivers, Keenan Allen and Mike Williams, are back they did lose a productive tight end in Jared Cook, who had about 50 catches for a little more than 550 yards last year. How much of an impact do you think Cook’s departure will have on the team’s offense?
I don’t think Cook’s absence from the offense will have that big of an effect on the Chargers offense. He was a decent fit, but he struggled with too many drops and communication issues with Herbert that led to negative plays and turnovers. The team went out and signed Gerald Everett who should easily step right in and put up similar numbers that Cook did a year ago. 500 yards doesn’t sound like much but that’d easily be a career-high for Everett despite him heading into year six.
3. Maxx Crosby wreaked havoc against Storm Norton last season, so what has LA done to fix that problem? Also, how do you think Rashawn Slater stacks up against Chandler Jones on the other edge?
It might sound weird, but Chargers fans may have to thank Crosby for exposing Norton the way that he did in last year’s regular-season finale. His dominating performance highlighted just how much of a black hole the team had at right tackle which forced them to make a serious move at the position during the offseason ...
Psych. The Chargers actually DID NOT make a huge change at the position since last season. In fact, they turned back to Trey Pipkins, their former third-round pick that has struggled to be all that serviceable through his first three seasons. However, a big offseason of Pipkins working with offensive line guru Duke Manyweather has led to him improving enough that he was able to steal the starting job opposite Rashawn Slater out of Norton’s hands.
As for the eventual Slater v. Jones matchup, I’m actually not too worried about it. Slater showed he could hang with the big boys as a rookie and while Jones is obviously talented, he slowed down quite a bit following his 5-sack game in week one of last season. It’ll be a blast to watch, but my money is on Slater to take care of business.
4. The other side of the trenches favors the Chargers, as they have two top-tier edge rushers in Joey Bosa and Khalil Mack, while the Raiders have tons of uncertainty at right tackle. If you were Josh McDaniels and calling plays for the Raiders, how would you attack Los Angeles’ defense knowing that there will be at least one mismatch on the right side of the line?
Several years ago when the Chargers had one of the worst offensive lines in the league, they had a tough matchup with the Browns and Myles Garrett. In that game, Trey Pipkins was forced to start at left tackle and it was expected to be a blood bath. However, then-offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt drew up a surprising game plan that utilized misdirection to take Garrett out of play without having to block him straight up.
Whether it was screens that invited him upfield or designed rollouts away from his side of the field, the Bolts managed to put up some points without having to go directly through Garrett. So while I don’t have exact play calls or designs to share with you, I’d suggest a quick-hitting passing and running game that gets the ball up the field long before Mack or Bosa has a chance to get involved. Trap runs and screens that use a defense’s upfield momentum against them would be at the top of my list.
5. If JC Jackson doesn’t suit up on Sunday, who will line up across from Davante Adams, and how do you think that will impact the rest of the defense since you can’t lose track of guys like Darren Waller or Hunter Renfrow, either?
That’s a great question. If Jackson cannot suit up in Week 1, I’d expect Asante Samuel Jr. to pick up the slack as the next best man corner on the Chargers. If that’s the case, I expect Bryce Callahan to handle the slot while Derwin James follows Darren Waller around. Michael Davis also looks like a new player after a down year in 2021 so don’t be surprised to see him take his turn against Adams on the outside.