I’m back again with another preseason edition of a weekly series I hope to unveil week 1 of the regular season. This one is currently titled “Three-Down Back” (working title) where potentially another writer and myself take turns listing a trio of themes we will be keeping an eye during that week’s contest.
In this inaugural rendition, I focus on a handful of aspects that have been regurgitated quite a bit throughout the last couple of weeks yet they’re still just as prevalent to the discussion as they ever have been. And until these shortcomings get figured out or worked upon, they will continue to be at the forefront of our minds.
Without further ado, the first installment of my Three-Down Back series!
1.) How will the defensive starters handle RB Alvin Kamara and the Saint’s multi-faceted run game?
It’s been well-documented over the last 12 months that the Chargers’ run defense is the only thing stopping this unit from planting itself among the elite defenses in this league. Analysts can’t get enough of the Bolts’ pass rushing duo or their insane depth at the cornerback position, and for good reason. But guys like Joey Bosa, Melvin Ingram, and Casey Hayward can only do so much when the opponent finds overwhelming success running the ball over and over again between the tackles.
In the first two preseason games, the “first-team” run defense has looked as underwhelming as ever. Veteran nose tackle Brandon Mebane has been getting moved off the line far too easily while there have been a rash of missed tackles coming from everyone in the front seven. What worries me the most is that two offensive lines that the Chargers have faced so far are not top-tier by any means. Although both units have been improved from 2017, the ease at which opponents have been able to move the ball on the ground to start these last two game is troublesome, to say he least.
It took Kamara less than a full season to get people to consider him a top-10 running back in the league. He is a true dual-threat and makes his money on his contact balance and yards after contact. While paired with Mark Ingram, who is coming off the best year of his career, this duo is one of, if not the best in the league. If the starters see extended run in the third preseason game, I just hope it doesn’t get too out of hand.
2.) Will the Mike Davis and the other young CBs continue to get picked on?
In last year’s preseason match-up against the Seahawks, Davis was a promising undrafted free agent who looked to be the next diamond in the rough for the Chargers. However, the Seahaws’ QBs and whatever a “Kasen Williams” is decided to bring the Davis-hype down a notch as they targeted him all game long. One one point, Davis looked helpless against Williams who might as well have been Randy Moss for the evening.
In the match-up this past Saturday, Davis again looked rather out-of-place as he allowed multiple deep completions and seemed content with just letting ball-carriers run into him instead of using his newly-acquired wrestling skills to wrangle them down.
B.J. Clay and Tony Brown are two other UDFA CBs that have had a rough go of things up to this point, as well. Clay’s dismal play was actually highlighted in my “Surge or Static” article from earlier this week but I can save you a click, it was #NotGood.
If Trevor Williams gets held out of this week’s game, the young cornerbacks will have another extended shot to show the coaching what they have before the only round of cuts next week.
3.) If RBs Justin Jackson and Russell Hansbrough miss this week’s game against the Saints, will the RB3 job be Detrez Newsome’s to lose?
Newsome has been one of the brightest spots from the Chargers’ latest crop of UDFAs and has done just about everything he can to show he belongs through the first half of the preseason slate. After a promising performance against the Cardinals, Newsome got the chance to experience a starter-like workload against the Seahawks which he turned into 100 total yards from scrimmage.
Hansbrough had himself a nice outing in preseason week 1 before sitting out this past week while Jackson has yet to log any game reps after suffering a hamstring injury early in training camp. After seeing how head coach Anthony Lynn handles his personnel decisions, it won’t be a surprise to see Jackson miss the cut due to the play of an exciting UDFA. Last year, Austin Ekeler won himself the back-up gig over more experienced players that possessed much longer, flashier resumes. But here, those things don’t matter as much as you think they would.
They say “the best ability is availability” and that just might be the theme with this year’s running back room.