What a difference a week makes. The first game in the post Ken Whisenhunt era was a resounding success. The heavily favored 7-1 Green Bay Packers rolled into Los Angeles and got stomped on by the Chargers. There will be plenty to look at but this is the snap counts so lets just dive into it.
With Shane Steichen taking over as offensive coordinator, it was going to be interesting to see how the offense changed. The Philip Rivers lead unit was night and day better than they had been the last few weeks. They were efficient and moved the ball extremely well.
On the surface it looked like Austin Ekeler had a much bigger role again, but that’s only partially true. Ekeler actually had his lowest snap percentage of the season by a full 10%, seeing the field on only 34% of the plays. However he was used much more heavily in the run game. He hit 12 carries which was only the 4th time this season he hit double digit carries. He made the most of them too, taking those 12 carries for 70 yards averaging an excellent 5.8 ypc. Even though he played less snaps, percentage wise, than he had all season, when he was on the field he was featured. Of his 24 snaps, he got the ball on 16 of them, 66.66%. It was nice to see them using him when he was out there.
Over to Melvin Gordon, he played his most snaps of the season and had 20 carries on the ground which he turned into 80 yards and 2 TDs. It appears that some of the rust is finally coming off. However he should also give the offensive line and Steichen a huge thank you card this morning. As I’ve been hammering for weeks now, Wiz was not putting Melvin in position to succeed when he was on the field. Yesterday that changed. The play calls were designed to take advantage of what Melvin does best, running to the outside, or FOLLOWING Derek Watt inside (none of these counters away from Watt).
Mike Williams lead the offensive skill position players in snaps with 65 of the 71 offensive plays. He only saw 4 targets on the day but hauled in 3 of them for a whopping 111 yards. Fun Fact: that was Mike Will’s 1st career 100 yard receiving game. All the great games he had last year, never passed 100 yards. His catch and run up the sideline and that deep bomb over the middle were fantastic plays and just fun as hell to watch.
Hunter Henry played almost 80% of the snaps and lead the team in targets (10) and receptions (7). He amassed 84 yards and multiple first downs. Virgil Green was on the field for 34% of the snaps as well. The Chargers lined up with 2 TEs on about 11% of their snaps yesterday.
Trent Scott had the majority of the snaps at RT yesterday after Sam Tevi went down early with an injury. Which was a real shame because Tevi was having a hell of a game. It was the first time in recent memory that Tevi stood out on the live watch of the game in a positive way. Hopefully it’s not serious and he’s back in the lineup on Thursday. Scott meanwhile was disappointing again. He gave up a bad sack almost immediately after entering the game. I will give him a little benefit of the doubt since he’s been focusing on playing and practicing LT this season until like 2 weeks ago but still, that was rough.
Final thoughts on offense: Nice to see Justin Jackson back on the field. Played 5 snaps and got the ball on 3 of them for 14 yards. Andre Patton was on the field for 82% of the offensive snaps but didn’t get a single target. Jason Moore got 5 snaps on offense this week after not seeing the field when the Chargers had the ball last week.
The big stat here is Jaylen Watkins. With Roderic Teamer out with an injury Watkins was the “next man up” at SS and wow what a game. Watkins had 4 tackles and a TFL, but his impact was bigger than that stat line. His first tackle was on the first offensive play from the Packers and it was a big hit for that TFL and set the tone for the whole day on defense. He was all over the field and looked right at home out there.
Another way they dealt with the depleted safeties was staying in Nickle more than Dime. As a result Desmond King played his highest percentage of snaps of the season, on the field for 91% of the defensive reps. He also had a big day with 5 tackles, a TFL and a PD. King is one of the best open field tacklers on the team and came up big multiple times yesterday including on back to back plays on 2nd and 3rd down to force a Packers punt after the Chargers 1st TD.
Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram both played a ton, 81% and 91% of the defensive snaps respectively. What did they do with all those snaps? Pretty much everything. Bosa had 4 tackles, 1.5 sacks, a TFL, and a whopping 4 QB hits. Ingram had 1.5 sacks of his own, 3 tackles, a TFL, and 2 QB hits. They were on Aaron Rodgers all day. It was a dominant performance from the pair.
Denzel Perryman played just 46% of the defensive snaps after getting hurt in the second half. But up to that point he had been solid. He lead the team with 5 tackles and a TFL. Strangely, Gus Bradley went back to leaving Thomas Davis on the field for the entire game again. He wound up with 4 tackles but he looked slow, especially in the second half, and missed a few tackles, including one where he had a shot on the ball carrier who was standing still after just being hit by Jaylen Watkins, and he failed to wrap up, allowing the runner to shake him off and get a first down, setting up 1st and goal that lead to the Packers scoring a TD. Drue Tranquill meanwhile continues to look good anytime he’s on the field. He had 3 tackles on 22 snaps, including a big stop on 3rd down which forced a punt. What a find he’s been.
What I found most interesting from the defensive snap counts was that Gus Bradley seemed to have some internal conflict on his philosophy for the game. The snaps on the DL say to me that he was selling out to get some pass rush and stop Rodgers, which was the right move. The big bodies like TY McGill and Sylvester Williams played 20% of the snaps or less. The slightly bigger bodies like Damion Square and Jerry Tillery played a little more at 52% and 50% of the snaps. Isaac Rochelle played 46% and Uchenna Nwosu got 33% of the snaps. Part of this can be explained with the fact that they stayed in Nickle a lot more, but it’s pretty obviously a strategy to be fast up front and penetrate and get to Rodgers. But then at the second level, which is where Rodgers had basically all of his success in the pass game, Thomas Davis was on the field for 100% of the snaps while Drue Tranquill’s snaps were padded by Perryman going down, and Kyzir White only got 22% of the playing time. I’m probably reading too much into it but that just seems off to me.
Michael Badgley is finally back and he did not disappoint. He went 4/5 (well 5/6 but after a penalty the Chargers decided to go for the TD instead). His kickoffs looked good. All in all it was refreshing to have him back. Derek Watt continues to be a monster on special teams with great tackles basically every week, including this week. Drue Tranquill had a day on special teams as well, getting his hand on a second punt this season for a partial block and adding 2 more tackles there as well.