Make no mistake; the Los Angeles Chargers are going to put up some points when they host the Kansas City Chiefs at the StubHub Center on Sunday. While the Chiefs are widely considered a physical and aggressive defense, they have not been a very good defense early in the year. And, at least on paper, it looks like their defensive shortcomings align pretty well with what the Chargers want to do on defense.
Through an admittedly short two-game sample size, the Chiefs rank among the six worst teams in the league in total defense, passing defense, and rushing defense. While they get to the quarterback at a pretty good clip (seven sacks in two games), they’ve been very inconsistent at all three levels of their defense, and especially at the second and third levels.
While I believe the Chargers are going to move the ball and score some points this week, it will require several adjustments on the part of Anthony Lynn and Ken Whisenhunt. To be more specific, I think it will require four fairly significant offensive adjustments. Here is how I think the Chargers will do it:
Adjustment #1: Nickel and Dime ‘Em
No, this isn’t a reference to the short passing game; it’s a reference to using multiple receiver sets designed to force the Chiefs into spending as much of the game in their largely ineffective 2-3-6 dime package as possible. It’s something they’ve done a lot of in the first two games, and it isn’t something they do well.
Why do the Chargers want to get the Chiefs in their dime package? For starters, it reduces a pretty talented front seven to an under-manned front five, which should create some enticing running lanes both in the middle of the defense and on its edges. Second, it gives Keenan Allen, Travis Benjamin, Tyrell Williams and Hunter Henry a chance to make plays against the Achilles heel of the Chiefs’ defense – the secondary. In other words, it should pave the way for a number of big plays for the Bolts’ offense.
Adjustment #2: Think Outside the Box
This is more of a commentary on where the Chargers operate their offense than how they run their offense. For much of the first two games, the Chargers have lived and died between the hash marks, and often between the tackles, on offense. They’ve tried to run the ball inside with mostly subpar results and pick teams apart with short crossing routes in the passing game with mixed results.
It’s time to use more of the field. I’d like to see Melvin Gordon and Austin Ekeler touch the ball in space in the running game, attacking the edges of the defense and giving them an opportunity to set up their blockers in the open field. If they’re able to get that open, they should find their receivers and tight ends open down the field, and especially along the boundaries.
Adjustment #3: Run Left
By now, everyone knows the Chargers want to run the ball behind right guard Kenny Wiggins and center Spencer Pulley. They’ve gone to that well repeatedly and, while they’ve opened a few holes, they’ve also experienced their share of missed assignments in the run game. On the flip side, a strong argument could be made that left tackle Russell Okung has been their most consistent run blocker.
This week is as good a time as any to start running behind Okung. Why? Because in he will spend much of this game matched up with either Dee Ford or Frank Zombo, a pair of matchups that favor the LA left tackle in a big way. If the Chargers can force the Chiefs into their dime defense, a lack of productivity and depth opposite Justin Houston should offer an abundance of running lanes behind big Russell Okung.
Adjustment #4: Go Vertical
The Chiefs pass defense just is not very good. Whether they’ve been playing the boundary or the slot, Terrance Mitchell and Phillip Gaines have been torched repeatedly and, with Eric Berry out for the year, they’ve struggled at safety. This is a unit that is ripe for the picking, and there are chunk plays to be had.
Look for the Chargers to push the ball down the field early and often. Travis Benjamin should be the focal point of an aggressive vertical passing attack, but I also expect the Chargers to try to confuse the Chiefs linebackers and safeties with a variety of rub routes and wheel routes designed to spring Hunter Henry and the running backs open along the boundaries.
Don’t get me wrong: this isn’t going to be an easy game. Kansas City is talented, well coached and has owned Los Angeles since Andy Reid was named head coach. In addition to fielding stars like Justin Houston and Marcus Peters on defense, their offense poses a variety of challenges for the Bolts’ defense. But even with all of that, he Chargers should score their share of points as long as they force the Chiefs into their dime defense, use more of the field, run left and push the ball down field.
There you have it; those are my offensive adjustments for this week against the Chiefs. Which adjustments do you think they need to make in order to beat Kansas City?