The Los Angeles Chargers’ season opener would look oddly familiar to Detroit Lions fans. They quickly got out to a two-score lead. In fact, at one point, the Chargers and Lions both held 24-9 leads over their opponent. And just like the Lions, the Chargers blew that 15-point lead and went into overtime tied 24-24.
Unfortunately for Detroit, that’s where the comparisons end. The Chargers took the opening drive of overtime and defeated the Colts with the winning touchdown. We all know what happened to the Lions.
So what is in store for Detroit this week? Let’s take a closer look at the 2019 Los Angeles Chargers.
Los Angeles Chargers
12-4 record (2nd in AFC west)
6th in points scored, 8th in points allowed
Overall DVOA: 3rd (3rd on offense, 8th on defense)
Key free agent additions: LB Thomas Davis
Key losses: WR Tyrell Williams, DT Corey Liuget, S Jahleel Addae, DT Darius Philon, TE Antonio Gates
2019 NFL draft picks:
Round 1 - DT Jerry Tillery
Round 2 - S Nasir Adderley
Round 3 - T Trey Pipkins
Round 4 - LB Drue Tranquill
Round 5 - QB Easton Stick
Round 6 - LB Emeke Egbule
Round 7 - DT Cortez Broughton
The Los Angeles Chargers were one of the best teams in 2019, even if they didn’t win their division and were bounced in the division round by the New England Patriots. They were a well-balanced team who could suffocate you on defense or outscore you in a shootout.
Their offseason was pretty nondescript, however. No big free agent additions, no real notable losses, either. Instead, they just kind of stood pat. No clearer was this strategy than in the NFL Draft, when they literally didn’t move from their seven picks on draft day.
That being said, Thomas Davis is no insignificant addition to the team. The former first-round pick is a three-time Pro Bowler and picked up a whopping 14 tackles in his Chargers debut on Sunday.
2019 Season (1-0)
Week 1: Win over Colts, 30-24 (OT)
- t-8th in points scored; t-14th in points allowed
- 14th in DVOA (11th on offense, 23rd on defense)*
*Note: DVOA statistics aren’t adjusted to strength of opponent until Week 5
The Chargers’ debut was a mixed bag. On one hand—like the Lions—they had a pretty good stranglehold on the game, moving the ball pretty easily and consistently. On the other hand—like the Lions—they allowed the Colts to get back in the game and needed an extra stanza to win the game. The Chargers closed it out, the Lions, obviously, didn’t.
Los Angeles’ strength was in their backfield, which looked completely unfazed by the holdout of Melvin Gordon. Austin Ekeler ran strong but was particularly lethal in the passing game. In total, he had 154 yards from scrimmage (96 receiving) and three touchdowns. Even Justin Jackson was efficient in his touches, gaining 57 yards on six carries.
But defensively there were some big problems, and it started up front. The Colts had no problem gashing the Chargers defense on the ground. Los Angeles ceded 203 yards on 33 carries (6.15 YPC) against Indianapolis. While some of that is impacted by a 63-yard run from Marlon Mack, even if you take that rush out of the equation, the Chargers still allowed 140 yards on 32 carries (4.4 YPC). As of Week 1, the are the second worst run defense by DVOA.
Key injuries: S Derwin James (IR), RB Melvin Gordon (holdout), LT Russell Okung (illness), CB Michael Davis (hamstring suffered in Game 1), CB Trevor Williams (quad injury suffered in preseason opener)
Injuries have plagued this team early, and it could make them particularly vulnerable in Week 2. Most concerning for the Chargers is the continued illness of left tackle Russell Okung. In Okung’s place, Los Angeles started 2018 undrafted tackle Trent Scott. Here are the reviews from Scott’s left tackle debut last week:
Well, this could have gone better. No matter what, it was going to be difficult for the Chargers without Okung, their veteran left tackle whose status for this season remains unknown. Scott made his second-ever regular-season start, and the Chargers will need better in his third start. Scott was cleanly beaten by Indianapolis rushers twice in a three-play sequence in the third quarter, for instance.
But nobody in a Chargers uniform looked worse than Trent Scott yesterday, although Brandon Facyson gave him a run for his money. Scott got Rivers killed multiple times and gave up 2 strip sacks that luckily the Chargers were able to recover both times. Those aren’t just drive killing mistakes, those are possibly game/season killing mistakes.
Elsewhere, the Chargers could be very shorthanded at cornerback. Veteran Trevor Williams hasn’t practices since Week 1 of the preseason, while CB2 Michael Davis suffered an injury early in Sunday’s game. 2018 undrafted corner Brandon Facyson covered for Davis against the Colts, and was targeted early and often. At this point, the Chargers just need healthy bodies:
Anthony Lynn said CB Michael Davis (hamstring) is going to miss some time. Chargers now have just three healthy corners on active roster.— Eric Williams (@eric_d_williams) September 9, 2019
UPDATE: They also have a big, new injury to deal with, as starting tight end Hunter Henry suffered a fractured knee in the opener:
Chargers announce Hunter Henry suffered a tibia plateau fracture to his left knee during last Sunday’s game versus the Indianapolis Colts. Per the team, Henry will continue to be evaluated, and the time frame for his return has not yet been determined.— Eric Williams (@eric_d_williams) September 11, 2019
Biggest strength: Edge rushers
Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram III produce one of the best one-two punches of pass rushers in the league. Their strength isn’t just in their ability to pass rush, but their ability to do it from anywhere on the field.
“What’s a little bit different with these guys—especially with Ingram through the scheme that (Chargers Defensive Coordinator Gus) Bradley runs—these guys can line up in different alignments across the board,” Lions head coach Matt Patricia said on Tuesday. “So, you might see Ingram inside of the guard, you might see Bosa inside of the guard. They can both line up on the same side, they can line up on opposite sides. I just think that’s the biggest problem is that they’re not going to be stationery, and they’re not going to be in one spot.”
We saw the Lions struggle massively with Terrell Suggs and Chandler Jones. These two may be even better.
Biggest weakness: Offensive line
While the Chargers were able to run the ball through some massive holes, their ability to protect Philip Rivers is very much in question. Not only did the aforementioned Scott flounder at left tackle, but right tackle Sam Tevi didn’t fare a whole lot better.
The Lions didn’t take full advantage of the Cardinals’ poor offensive line last week, but since they won’t have to deal with a mobile quarterback like Kyler Murray this week, they may get a little more aggressive on obvious passing downs vs. Philip Rivers.
Vegas line for Sunday: Chargers by 2.5.