The San Diego Chargers beat the Jacksonville Jaguars 38-14 Sunday to even their record at 1-1 on the season. In all actuality though, the game wasn’t as close as the score indicated. The Jags didn’t score until the Chargers had a 35-0 lead.
I’m not going to walk you through the game play-by-play but I want to talk about a few things that stood out and a few things that because of the Chargers’ dominating performance, got covered up.
First and foremost, the offensive line played well. They weren’t perfect – they gave up 3 sacks – but they cleared the way for their second consecutive game with 150 yards rushing. It’s real easy to pick on Chargers’ OL with how poorly they played in 2015. Center, however, was such a poorly played position last year that Chargers needed to have a Guard help on every play. And that allowed opposing D-linemen to get 1-on-1 treatment when their talent suggested Chargers use two guys. Poor Center-play and lots of injuries masked what might have been a decent OL in 2015. Late-signee Matt Slauson solidifies the middle of the OL going forward. With reasonable health the Chargers OL can be a team strength rather than a weakness.
The next thing I want to highlight is penalties. The Chargers have been very disciplined so far this season having committed only 8 penalties in two combined games. I tweeted out yesterday that every unit (offense, defense, special teams) could say they cost the team the game against KC. The one thing they haven’t done to hurt themselves is incur the wrath of the referees. Conversely the Jags, on Sunday, committed 14 penalties. I think San Diego would have won without the Jags’ help but losing nearly 100 yards (93) because of various infractions made the game more lopsided.
The Chargers defense also deserves special recognition. San Diego’s defense notched three takeaways, three sacks, seven tackles-for-loss, and 12 passes defended… They’re not going to make anyone forget about the Denver Broncos but this defense is a lot better than it was last year. Chargers are allowing 76 yards rushing per game so far. Free agent importee Brandon Mebane is a huge part of that success.
I’m a huge Miami Hurricanes fan so I liked Travis Benjamin before he signed with the Chargers. And he had a huge game yesterday with six receptions for 115 yards and two scores. But I don’t think he’s ideally suited for the #1 WR role. This receiving corps, however, reminds me of the 2010 squad where Legedu Naanee started 9 games, Patrick Crayton played in nine and had the 3rd most receiving yards, and Randy McMichael played WR & TE and started 11 games… So with Keenan Allen out for the season and Danny Woodhead out for a while (we do not know yet the severity of his injury), the Chargers really need Tyrell Williams and Dontrelle Inman to take developmental steps forward. Yesterday, Williams did just that. The Chargers need him to keep improving.
With such a lopsided win it’s easy to miss what didn’t go well. The Chargers really only have one dramatic weakness from what I saw: pass-defense in the short/intermediate distance, over the middle. KC exposed it but the Jags couldn’t take advantage of it the way K.C. did. Denzel Perryman graded out as one of the best run-defending linebackers once he took over as a starter last year. He struggles however in pass coverage. Manti Te’o isn’t a lot better. And neither of the Chargers’ starting safeties, Dwight Lowery and Jahleel Addae (who is out for a few weeks with a broken collar-bone), are world-beaters. Jatavis Brown provides much better pass-defense abilities with his speed. Look for Brown and Dexter McCoil to get a lot more reps in the near future.
Thanks for reading.