Mid-Season Review Part Two: Chargers Offense

By Tyler Lawrence November 14, 2020 0 Comment
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This is part two of the Chargers Mid-Season Review; outlining the Chargers offense and how they’ve played this season. To read part one: Chargers Coaching Staff and Front Office, please click here.

Quarterbacks

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After the Chargers decided to part ways with Philip Rivers this offseason, it seemed like quarterback was going to be the Chargers weakest group. In all honesty, it started that way with Tyrod Taylor under center. In week-1, Taylor went 16-30, for 208 yards passing and no touchdowns. While Taylor did protect the ball, the Chargers offense looked stale and unexciting. A week later, team doctors accidently punctured Taylor’s lung while performing a rib block, giving rise to Justin Herbert.

Herbert has been better then anyone could have imagined. From weeks 2-8, Herbert has won Rookie of the Week honors all but once. He is averaging over 300 yards passing and scored at least two touchdowns every game, using both his arm and legs as weapons to get in the end zone. Herbert’s ability to extend plays, throw under pressure, ball placement, decision making, and  team comradery are all positives, even if the Chargers have failed to turn his success into wins. Dubbed “Air Bear” by Pat McAfee, Herbert is already a top-15 quarterback and well ahead of his years.

Herbert has been great under pressure this year. He ranks 4th in yards passing when under pressure at 643. He also has seven touchdowns, just behind Ryan Tannehill, Russell Wilson and Josh Allen who each have played at least one more game. The most impressive stat though, is that Justin Herbert has the highest QBR when throwing under pressure. If the Chargers offense finds a way to give Herbert more time to throw, his stats should only get better.

Running-backs

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The Chargers have had multiple running backs all find success at different points in the season. Austin Ekeler only played three full games this season before going down with injury, but he was his usual productive self when running the ball. He was averaging 5.1 yards-per-carry. An area of concern is how he was game-planned late into the passing game, where he excelled in 2019, but he did have 11 receptions in week-3. As it seemed like he was really starting to find his groove, he took a serious hamstring injury that will keep him out late into the season. He has resumed running under some weight, but it could still be weeks until he is able to play again this season.

The Rookie out of UCLA, Joshua Kelley, started the season really strong. He was explosive between the tackles, running through defenders with some great power that complemented Ekeler’s running style well. Unfortunately, after some fumbling issues, Kelley looks like he has lost some confidence and hasn’t been able to get back on track. Kelley has not eclipsed 40 yards rushing since week three, though he has still been getting 7-12 carries a game. There seems to be some indecisiveness when hitting the hole now and he seems to of lost some of his downhill running style that makes him dangerous. He needs to find a way to get back on track.

Justin Jackson has been having some success if he can find the field, but he has had issues staying healthy. He has two games with over 70 yards rushing, but he only had eight carries from weeks 1-4, five carries in week-7 and went out early against the Raiders. When Jackson is able to play, he gives the team production, but the best ability is availability and Jackson is never available.

While injuries to the running back room have forced the Chargers to look else ware, Troymaine Pope and newly signed Kalen Ballage have provided the team reliable runners. Each player has only played one full game, but they have both been chain movers. Against the Broncos in Week-8, Pope had 10 carries for 67 yards before he was knocked out with a concussion. In week-9, Kalen Ballage saw the majority of snaps at running back, rushing for 69 yards on 15 rushes.

Wide Receivers and Tight Ends

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The Chargers are lucky enough to have Keenan Allen as one of the most reliable route runners in the league. After Week-9, Allen has 62 receptions on 89 targets with 651 receiving yards and four touchdowns. Allen’s 89 targets are third most in the league behind Stefon Diggs and Allen Robinson, each of whom played nine games while Allen has played eight. Also, keep in mind that Allen only received two targets in week-5, when he went down with injury in the first quarter against the Saints. Even with all the targets that Allen has received, he has only one drop which came against the Raiders this last week. The production that Allen has provided to the Chargers (and more importantly, Justin Herbert) has been incredible.

Hunter Henry has been second in targets for the Chargers with 49. He has 33 receptions for 357 yards with two drops. Henry has played like a top-10 tight end and most importantly, has been available every game this season. An area that Henry has improved, is his yards after catch. An area he has regressed is usage and effectiveness in the redzone, considering he has only one touchdown this season. Henry has grown into a reliable run blocker for the Chargers and a threat on third down to keep drives alive. He has likely earned a new contract while playing on the franchise tag, though maybe not as a top-paid player at his position.  His price tag will be something to monitor.

Mike Williams has been an effective role player this season, but he has still yet to live up to his draft position. Williams, who was drafted with the seventh pick of the 2017 NFL Draft, is the teams primary deep threat. He has 23 receptions on 39 targets for 393 yards. The issue with Williams is that he is a limited route runner whose primary weapon is long shots deep down field. While his body control to adjust to deep shots is unreal, he does struggle at coming down with contested catches in the red zone and fails as a receiver underneath. He still has yet to develop additional skills to be a more well-rounded receiver, even if his highlight reels are fun to watch.

The Chargers offense has gotten some big plays from guys further down the depth chart. Jalen Guyton only has 10 catches, but he also has 270 yards receiving and three touchdowns. Donald Parham has two touchdowns as a 6’8″ redzone threat, and nearly winning catching a game winner for the Chargers. The two players who have failed really make an impact in the Chargers offense is Joe Reed and K.J. Hill. Hill has yet to reel in one of his six targets and Reed only has one target himself. Reed has gotten a few carries as a gadget player, but overall the two rookies have failed to make much of an impact.

Offensive Line

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Many fans expected the right side of the offensive line to be the strength, but the opposite has been true. Bryan Bulaga has played well, but he has only played 206 snaps this year. Trey Pipkins has filled in, but has struggled, primarily in pass protection. He has given up three sacks and 19 total pressures. He has looked athletic and is better than last season, but still not starter quality.

Right Guard Trai Turner only played week-2 and has been a regular on the injury report. In his place has been a revolving door of guards. Cole Toner, Ryan Groy and Tyree St. Louis have all received playing time, but their play has been very inconsistent. Groy in particular has played the most and probably the worst out of that group allowing 11 total pressures in 270 snaps. Cole Toner may have played the best out of that group allowing only one pressure in 167 snaps. St. Louis looked like a decent run blocker as the teams starter in week-1, but hasn’t seen the field much since.

A special surprise is the rise of both Dan Feeney and Forrest Lamp at Center and Left Guard. Feeney looks like the future at Center and Lamp is finally heathy. They have played every snap together this season and seemed to have built some chemistry between them.  They could be re-signed this offseason if they continue a positive trend, though there is still room for improvement.

Lastly, everyone’s fear came to life when Sam Tevi was named the starting Left Tackle. Somehow though, Tevi has exceeded expectations and actually been pretty reliable, both in pass protection and in the run game. Tevi has given up one sack and 17 pressures, all while typically lined up against the the best pass rusher. This time last season, Tevi was easily the worst lineman on the team. The scary part is he could be playing himself into a second contract.

The Chargers offense has better pass protection than 2019, though still needs improvement. It helps having mobility under center, which masks some of the issues. The biggest issue might be injuries to Trai Turner and Bryan Bulaga. The run game has been inconsistent, especially in short yardage situations. The Chargers have failed on forth downs this season too often and don’t have the push to make this team true juggernauts in the run game..

 

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I am an editor for the Brawl Network. I also write for Chargers Brawl and cover the NFL Draft.

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