The first month of the Los Angeles Chargers’ season was a disaster. The 0-4 start — which included two frustrating losses within the division — had a lot of people believing the team wouldn’t be able to dig themselves out of the early-season hole they often find themselves in.
Thank God for second chances, right?
Despite dropping the first four games of the season, the Los Angeles Chargers are alive again. They've won six of their last eight games, and are currently in three-way tie with Oakland and Kansas City at the top the AFC West.
With four games remaining, the Chargers will play the Washington Redskins on Sunday in a pivotal game that could have effects on the AFC West title race. A win + a Chiefs’ loss on Sunday would mean the Chargers could win the division out right for the first time since 2009 by simply winning out, regardless of what the other teams in the division do.
As Washington comes in looking to put their opponents’ playoff hopes on hold, let’s look at five players who could give the Chargers the most trouble.
5. Jamison Crowder
While this third-year receiver may only have one receiving touchdown in his 11 games played this season, he’s remained the most productive Redskins’ receiver all year. Crowder leads the team in targets (79), total receptions (51), receiving yards (628), receptions per game (4.6) and yards per game (57.1).
Here you have Crowder lined up directly next to LT Trent Williams at the top of the screen. He beats his man with an out and up route at first, but once he looked back and saw Cousins in trouble, he broke the route off and worked himself open while coming back to the ball which is what led to the big play.
Also as a solid return man on special teams, the Chargers will need to make it a point to limit Crowder on Sunday.
4. Vernon Davis
Not many 33-year-old tight ends still present mismatches the way Vernon Davis can. Here, he just blows by the corner on a simple go route right up the seam. Even at 33, Davis can still outrun linebackers and he’s still strong enough to overpower the smaller corners/safeties.
Given the problems the Chargers have had with covering tight ends throughout this year, Vernon Davis could potentially be in for a big game on Sunday.
3. Zach Brown
The Redskins’ defense hasn't been as good as they’d like, but if you're looking for a positive, it’s ILB Zach Brown.
Washington signed Brown to a one-year, $2.3 million dollar contract this past offseason and are getting more than their money’s worth. After finishing 2nd in tackles (147) in 2016 with Buffalo, Brown currently leads all players in that category at 117 with four games to go.
That was a terrible breakdown in coverage but look where Zach Brown comes from to tackle Everett pic.twitter.com/KFHZ5od0F0— Jake Russell (@_JakeRussell) September 17, 2017
Brown is like Vernon Davis in a way. He’s smart and physical enough to make plays near the line of scrimmage, and also fast enough to run with tight ends and most running backs downfield. He’s been arguably the Redskins’ best defensive player this year and it’s easy to see why they’re looking to lock him up long-term. Rivers and company need to be aware of where number 53 is if they want to be successful and come away with a win on Sunday.
2. Ryan Kerrigan
The two-time Pro Bowler has been about as solid as you can ask for. He’s never missed a game in his seven-year career. He’s also never had less than 7.5 sacks in a season, which came in his rookie year. Simply put, Kerrigan has been one of the best pass-rushers in the league for a while now.
You see him bend the corner here, draw a flag and still fight through to get the sack and force a fumble. The strength and effort he plays with is similar to what we see every Sunday in Joey Bosa. He’s tough to deal with.
Again, here’s that strength I just mentioned. He just walks back the RT into Drew Brees, gets the sack and nearly forces another fumble. Joe Barksdale better be ready to go on Sunday or he’ll be in for another long day.
1. Trent Williams
At the moment, he’s listed as questionable and it’s unclear whether or not Redskins LT Trent Williams will play this weekend as he continues to battle a lingering knee injury that he’s been dealing with for most of the season.
However, when healthy, there’s no other left tackle in the league I'd rather have than Trent Williams. What he’s been able to do while clearly at less than 100% is just a testament to how great of a player he is. He’s the best player and the most valuable player on the Redskins’ roster and I don't think it’s close.
He just drove Alex Okafor to the sideline and threw him out of bounds with ease. Poor Okafor never stood a chance.
Also, there aren't many tackles that are capable of getting down field to block like Trent and Cowboys left tackle Tyron Smith. The Redskins run a lot of screens to the receivers as well as the running backs. Almost every time, the first thing you notice is Trent downfield looking for work.
Here’s a couple of examples.
Here he was able to get to the second level, seal off the LB and throw him into the dirt so WR Ryan Grant can make a play.
Different game, same play, same result. I can’t name five tackles better at this than Trent.
22 made a business decision here, and it’s okay. 99.5% of the DBs in the league would have done same thing if they saw 71 lining them up at full speed. He’s a dog in the running game and just as good in the pass protection.
Even on one good leg, I think Trent will give Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram all they can handle on that left side if he's able to go on Sunday.