“YOU HAD ONE JOB!”
That’s the statement I found myself saying far too often Sunday evening as I watched a number of Chargers players fall short of, you know, the most expected of expectations.
While the score ended up being 38-28, it honestly felt much closer to 68-28 than reality.
I guess when touchdowns come as easy as they did for the Chiefs, you can’t help but get washed away in the tidal wave of scores put up by the dynamic quarterback-receiver duo of Patrick Mahomes and Tyreek Hill.
And while the final boxscore painted a different picture, fans likely left the stands that night with a terrible drowning feeling.
In the first game of the 2018 season, with expectations as high as they’ve ever been, a pair of receivers in what was deemed “the best wideout group in the NFL” fell short of even the lowest of standards.
On the flip-side, a pairing from the running back room enjoyed an outing that was about as pleasantly productive as it was efficient.
As we meander over to the defensive side of the ball, fans and analysts alike got to see a highly-touted rookie vault over his expectation bar while a veteran continued to show no signs of progression in the weakest part of his collective skill-set.
Although I don’t believe anyone expected this match-up to be “smooth sailing”, I don’t think many expected a number of over-sized mackerel to fly up and wallop them in the face, either.
Some of you might also be wondering, “Why is Michael incorporating so many water-themed metaphors and similes?” Well, I don’t have an answer you, to be honest. It’s just “flowing” so well.....
Alright, I’m done. I promise.
Welcome, my friends, to the very first regular season edition of Surge or Static!
RBs Melvin Gordon/Austin Ekeler
Finally, finally, finally, the Chargers found a way move the ball effectively on the ground against a team they should have. In recent years, whenever the team has gone up against a dismal run defense, they’ve always found a way to make that weakness look like a strength. Like clockwork.
In Sunday’s match-up against a Chiefs defense suddenly lacking in star-power, Gordon and Ekeler both found plenty of space to work with as they combined for one of the best rushing performances over the last several years. The two backs were wildly complimentary of each other as the offense never skipped a beat, regardless of who was in the backfield.
Gordon got the lion’s share of the work, collecting 15 carries to Ekeler’s five. However, the latter was much more prolific, averaging 7.8 yards per carry to Gordon’s 4.3.
As the game quickly got out of hand, Gordon and Ekeler were forced to abandon the ground for work through the air as the duo got absolutely pelted with targets while the Chargers played catch-up.
The backfield received 18 total targets in this game which they turned into 14 catches for 189 yards and a touchdown. The score was an absolute beauty from quarterback Philip Rivers as he threw a perfect pass to Ekeler in the back corner of the endzone.
In all, Gordon and Ekeler combined for 292 total yards from scrimmage and the lone touchdown.
Austin Ekeler earned the highest grade of his career in Week 1 (91.2).— PFF LA Chargers (@PFF_Chargers) September 10, 2018
He had the highest Yards / Route among all #NFL running backs with at least five targets (5.80 yards). pic.twitter.com/MTH0WpJ6dm
I don’t about you guys, but that’s pretty #good.
Without tight end Hunter Henry in this offense, this is exactly the direction offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt needs to take this offense.
S Derwin James
The long wait to watch James in a regular season game came and went and fans walked away with plenty of warm, fuzzy feelings. According to Pro Football Focus (PFF), James was the team’s third-highest graded defender with a 70.0. If you watch him closely, you might think that’s a fairly pedestrian grade when juxtaposed with the film, but the tape doesn’t lie.
James’ final line against the Chiefs included three tackles, the only sack for the Chargers on Sunday, and two pass deflections.
One of those pass deflections came in the end zone on a full-extension swat by James just two plays before he corralled Mahomes for his first career sack.
Sean Taylor comparisons aside, fans should be extremely excited about James going forward, especially with the Buffalo Bills up next on the slate.
#Chargers rookie safety Derwin James played all 56 defensive snaps in the team's Week 1 game vs #ChiefsKingdom.— PFF LA Chargers (@PFF_Chargers) September 11, 2018
James earned a 70.0 overall grade in his NFL debut -- He was the only #LAChargers player to record a sack while only rushing twice. pic.twitter.com/hPy2mFxcD9
WRs Tyrell Williams/Travis Benjamin
After an offseason chalk-full of praise about the Chargers’ wide receivers, they ended up being one of the most disappointing groups in the league on Sunday. According to PFF, Rivers left the weekend tied with two other quarterbacks after having four of his passes dropped.
Three of those four passes were dropped by Williams (1) and Benjamin (2), with both dropping a pass in the endzone. That is very no bueno.
Philip Rivers was 1/9 on passes 20+ yards down field (2 drops) - but he was extremely accurate on the underneath stuff (33/39, 2 drops) https://t.co/Vz7s58WmVi— PFF LA Chargers (@PFF_Chargers) September 11, 2018
Although Tyrell caught himself a touchdown, he finished with only two catches for eight measly yards. Benjamin, after dropped two long balls, finished with a single catch for a single yard.
I don’t know how Rivers managed to stick by his “no cursing” policy after seeing his receivers metaphorically kick him in the nether-regions repeatedly.
The only positive takeaway from their pitiful week one performance: we may see a lot more Mike Williams going forward after he took advantage of his limited snaps.
LB Kyle Emanuel
I’m not sure how to go about this section of the piece.
I mean, I’ve been spouting out my thoughts on Emanuel for the last several years and, to my non-surprise, not a single thing has changed.
In week 1 of 2016 when the Chargers visited Arrowhead Stadium, Emanuel showed his true colors in coverage as he was routinely exploited by Andy Reid as the malicious head coach forced him to chase running backs Spencer Ware and Charcandrick West all over the field, for his own sick amusement.
At that point, two years ago, I started calling for the benching of Emanuel, at least, in that role he was being asked to play. Emanuel is a decent defender of the run, but he has proved to be as inept as anyone when asked to cover another football player.
Not a receiver or running back. A football player. When Emanuel can’t cover a 5-foot-10, 245-pound fullback on a wheel route, it’s time he starts figuring out how to make the bench as comfy as possible.
I mean, come on. Reid just came out and referred to Sherman as “a sausage with hands.”
YOU GOT SCORED ON BY A PLAYER THAT WAS CALLED “A SAUSAGE WITH HANDS?!”
Emanuel, meet bench.
To no one’s surprise at all, Emanuel received PFF’s lowest grade for a linebacker in coverage.
I’m just tired of repeating myself at this point.
Who else do you guys think surged forward with their play on Sunday? Who do you think stayed static, or even took some steps back? Let’s talk about it.