clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Raiders-Chargers: How does Justin Herbert look with new offensive coordinator Kellen Moore?

Five questions with Bolts from the Blue about the upcoming Chargers and Raiders divisional battle

Los Angeles Chargers v Tennessee Titans
Kellen Moore, Justin Herbert
Photo by Johnnie Izquierdo/Getty Images

Since 2010, the Las Vegas Raiders and Los Angeles Chargers have split the series right down the middle as each team has 13 wins against the other. It’s been one of the most even rivalries in the NFL over the past decade, and Week 4 of this season adds another chapter to the story between these two franchises.

To preview the game, Kyle DeDiminicantanio of Bolts from the Blue was kind enough to step across enemy lines and answer a few questions about the Chargers for Raider Nation.

Q: Statistically, Justin Herbert is on pace for another ridiculous season with a 74.4 completion percentage, 938 yards and six touchdowns to zero interceptions. So far, what have you seen from him in terms of his growth this season and, maybe, regression?

A: Herbert was playing through a ton of pain last year with his broken rib cartilage, and you could visually see how much it was affecting him. He was much more timid when moving in the pocket, wasn’t as willing to tuck and run when the defense didn’t contain him, and had to change his throwing motion which lowered his release point. His adjusted release point, combined with Joe Lombardi’s stale offense that was pretty predictable, led to a ton of batted passes at the line of scrimmage.

According to PFF, 19 passes were swatted in 2022, and 17 when his ribs were healthy in 2021. Even in his rookie season with Shane Steichen, he only had 12 batted at the line. Now, his throwing motion is back to where it should be, and he’s started the season with zero batted passes.

The next step for Herbert is just getting more comfortable in Moore’s system, and developing more of a killer instinct. He’s checked into running plays at times that have frustrated his receivers because they had the look they wanted for a certain play, and Keenan Allen has expressed that he wants to see Herbert truly take control of the offense as Philip Rivers once did.

2) How big of a loss is Mike Williams to Los Angeles’ offense, and is rookie Quentin Johnston ready to take over for Williams?

Fans were crushed to see Mike go down last week, but Mike has struggled with staying healthy his whole career with the Chargers so it felt all too familiar. The bigger disappointment is knowing that the Chargers are in cap trouble next year, so that may actually be the last time we see him in a Chargers uniform.

Quentin Johnston has a similar build to Williams, but they are very different receivers. Williams is a contested catch and red zone specialist, who doesn’t get much separation on his routes but almost always can box out a defender and make a highlight-worthy catch. Contested catches are probably the worst part of Johnston’s game—he struggled with them in college and in his limited opportunities with the Chargers so far. However, if they get the ball in his hands, he’s dynamic.

I think we’ll actually see an uptick in Donald Parham's opportunities because he’s the only other player Herbert throws a “go-up-and-get-it” ball to. They used to line up the athletic 6’8” tight end out wide on occasion to create a mismatch, and I expect Moore to bring that wrinkle back to help replace what Williams brought to the offense.

If Moore lets Johnston develop within his own style of play, the Chargers offense should be fine. We’re also hoping to see Darius Davis get more opportunities to stretch the field and bring a speed component we don’t currently have.

3) By now, I think Raider fans know Joey Bosa and Khalil Mack well, but rookie Tuli Tuipulotu actually leads the team in pressures with 13, per Pro Football Focus, heading into the game. What can you tell us about Tuipulotu?

Los Angeles Chargers v Tennessee Titans
Tuli Tuipulotu
Photo by Alika Jenner/Getty Images

Tuli has been a revelation thus far! The Chargers haven’t had three capable EDGE rushers in ages, considering Kyle Van Noy was actually playing inside linebacker last year before Joey Bosa was injured.

Tuli is still very raw; most of his pressures come from pure effort and bullrushes, and he sometimes arrives at a ball carrier too high and misses his tackle, but he’s displayed amazing raw potential so far. Most importantly, Tuli has freed up the coaching staff to move Joey Bosa into a rotational role while he nurses a hamstring injury.

The Chargers haven’t rotated their pass rushers in the past, and it often leaves Bosa looking gassed and ineffective in the fourth quarter. Even though Bosa has only taken 47 snaps in the last two games, he’s sacked the quarterback three times. If Tuli and Bosa keep on their current trajectories, we may see more NASCAR packages getting them on the field with Khalil Mack to wreak some havoc in the pass rush.

4) I noticed J.C. Jackson was a healthy scratch last week and the Chargers have allowed the most passing yards in the league with over 1,000 yards. What’s going on in L.A.’s secondary and who should we expect to see out there on Sunday?

There is a lot of frustration around the J.C. Jackson situation right now. He’s returning from a patellar tear in his right knee, and the Dolphins game was the first real live-game action he’s seen. Starting him in his first game back from such a major injury, knowing he’d be tasked with facing Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle, seems like coaching malpractice.

His confidence in his knee doesn’t seem all the way there yet. He also has some legal trouble to sort out, as a warrant for his arrest was issued in Massachusetts for not appearing in court over a criminal speeding ticket that was issued in 2021.

Staley has denied his benching was related to this, and when asked if Jackson would start this week, Staley replied, “It will just be determined by what he does — preparation, practice, all of that cumulative stuff.” Staley has a complex defensive scheme, so if he doesn’t feel like Jackson is keeping up with learning the different coverages and adjustments, perhaps we’ll continue to see him benched.

I’d expect to see Asante Samuel Jr. and Michael Davis on the boundary, with Ja’Sir Taylor in the slot. Jackson’s play has been subpar since he arrived, so the Chargers won’t lose a step in his absence. The bigger loss could be Derwin James Jr. He wasn’t able to finish the game in Week 3 thanks to a hamstring injury. If he’s unable to play, the defensive backfield takes a big step back in run support.

5) DraftKings Sportsbook has the Raiders’ total points line set at 20.5 even though they haven’t broken that mark yet this season. However, the Chargers’ defense has struggled to begin the year, so what do you think gives this week? Do you like the over or under for the Raiders?

This is such a great opportunity for the Raiders to tune up their run game. Alexander Mattison had only rushed for 62 total yards in his first two games before putting up 93 against the Chargers. Staley gives offenses light boxes to run against, especially when he has a receiver like Davante Adams to worry about.

If Jimmy G is able to play, I expect Jacob to find running room all game and potentially match his season rushing total, and for the Chargers to eventually start biting on some play actions in big moments for explosive gains. If he doesn’t play and the Chargers can solely scheme around the rush, it might be a different story.