Ahead of the Las Vegas Raiders and Los Angeles Chargers Week 15 matchup on Thursday Night Football, Kyle DeDiminicantanio of Bolts from the Blue was kind enough to answer a few questions about the Chargers for Raider Nation, sponsored by DraftKings Sportsbook.
Question: With Justin Herbert likely out, what can you tell us about Easton Stick?
Answer: Easton Stick isn’t going to strike fear in the heart of any Las Vegas defenders or coaches. Before Herbert went down last Sunday, Stick had thrown only one pass in a regular season game. He actually surprised fans last week when he uncorked a couple of good throws, hitting Quentin Johnston on a strike for Johnston’s longest reception of the year, double the yardage of any reception he’s had thus far.
Stick is at his best when he’s able to capitalize on his athleticism, but he hasn’t shown much ability to work his way through his progressions and be anything more than a one-read quarterback. Stick is in a contract year, but I don’t see this as an opportunity for him to be sought out to compete for a team’s starting gig... this may actually be a make-or-break moment for Stick to establish himself merely as a capable backup.
If he struggles heavily in these next four weeks, it’s hard to imagine the Chargers continuing to roster him when there are serviceable backups available, like Joe Flacco has been for the Browns.
Q: It seems like Quentin Johnston has struggled to fill Mike Williams’ shoes. So how has that impacted Los Angeles’ offense? Also, on that note, do you know if Joshua Palmer will return on Thursday?
A: Quentin Johnston seemed to be drafted to replace Mike Williams at some point - it’s what the fanbase believes Tom Telesco was doing when he drafted Johnston, but their skill sets couldn’t be more different.
Williams is an absolute animal when it comes to making contested or circus catches, but Johnston has been struggling to bring in the most routine passes and loses focus with the smallest bit of defender disruption. The Chargers should be targeting him on more underneath routes and focusing on getting the ball in his hands to let him
Joshua Palmer and Gerald Everett have been out for stretches, and the remaining receiving options outside of Keenan Allen have had very inconsistent hands, and even Allen himself went through a couple of rough games lately.
Joshua Palmer is expected to play Thursday night, but there’s no indication of whether or not he’ll be on a snap-count. He’s been a solid WR2, but Allen has been ruled out which thrusts him into the premiere role with Johnston starting with him. This will be the most dysfunctional Chargers offense I’ve seen in over twenty years of following the team.
Q: The last time these two teams played, Khalil Mack had a career day with six sacks after having none heading into the game and now leads the league with 15 sacks. What has he meant to the Chargers’ defense this season, and has Mack been able to mitigate the loss of Joey Bosa recently?
A: Khalil Mack has been an incredible leader and contributor to this team since his arrival last year. He organizes and pays for weekly dinners with the defense, leads by example in practice and the offseason, and has a relentless motor.
In this regard, he’s actually far surpassed what Joey brings to the team, as Joey has never really emerged as a true leader to this squad. There was talk of whether or not we’d have to let Mack go at the end of the season to clear cap space, but it’s looking more and more like Bosa could be the cap casualty. Mack might actually be playing his way into an extension with the team.
Q: The Chargers notoriously have an underachieving defense this season and a defensive-minded head coach in Brandon Staley. Is it a forgone conclusion that Staley will join Josh McDaniels as a fired head coach in the AFC West? If so, who are your top candidates to replace him?
A: The defense was well below average in Staley’s first two seasons, and now is just a tad below average but very underachieving considering the financial resources dumped into that side of the ball. The further we get from his one stellar year with the Rams, the more indications arise suggesting 2020 may have been the exception and not the rule.
Staley seems like a good leader and a good coach, but he needs to ride the coaching carousel another round or two to continue his growth. He was one of the youngest and most inexperienced coaches when he was hired, and he’s not learning enough on the job to justify retaining him. He may end up being a solid head coach one day, but his learning shouldn’t come at the expense of multiple underperforming years for his employer.
I’m personally all-in on hiring Jim Harbaugh. The Chargers have been on a string of first-time head coach hirings, and it’s high-time they finally grab a proven winner. However, knowing that their calling card is hiring the cheaper first-time options, Frank Smith from the Dolphins would be high on my list as well.
Q: Las Vegas is coming off an outing where they were shutout and Los Angeles wasn’t much better, scoring just seven points last Sunday with Herbert sidelined for the majority of the game. So, DraftKings Sportsbook has set the total for Thursday night at just 34 points. In your opinion, is there any chance the over hits, and can you give us a final score prediction?
I think we’ll see a pretty sad game tomorrow, and I’d even consider betting on an alternate line of around 25 points for the higher payout. With Keenan Allen and Justin Herbert out, this offense is going to be suspect.
Staley has improved as a play-caller the last couple of weeks, but the team still cannot play complimentary ball. The only chance the “over” hits likely revolves around whether or not Aidan O’Connell connects on some decent shot plays, an area that has been exploited by multiple defenders this year as the defensive lacks continues to struggle.