When I was in the Army, after Missions, Training events, even “Mandatory Fun Days,” at a minimum my platoon would have an After Action Review (AAR). Most of the time these AAR’s were a quick and informal “three sustains and three improves.” Basically, what went well that we should keep doing, and what things can we get better at. I’m going to use that format to look at each game and come up with my sustains and improves for how I think the team can get better.
First, the offense. Our old friend Kyle Posey dropped into the staff chat last night after he watched the game (he of course had to watch the 49ers game live since that’s his family now, but he can’t help himself and has to check in on his ex) and he stated it pretty perfectly: “in a weird way, the offense benefitted from 25 (Melvin Gordon) not being there. Whiz/17 (Ken Whisenhunt/Philip Rivers) pretty much said, “yeah, we’re gonna give it to our best guys and Indy isn’t gonna do anything about it,” and that’s what happened. The best players got the ball over and over with a role player sprinkled in here and there and wala you score on 5 of 9 possessions and one of those you didn’t score because of a miraculous INT.”
He’s exactly right, Austin Ekeler saw 75% of the snaps and got 39% of the offensive touches, while Keenan Allen got 32% of the receptions. Those 2 guys are made for how this offense needs to operate right now. Ekeler was already pound for pound the strongest player on the team, and somehow it looks like he spent the summer like Goku training in a gravity chamber and showed up stronger, more explosive, and with better balance. He’s a stud.
With issues at tackle, things need to be quick with room to produce once the ball is in their hands or there needs to be misdirection or screens to use the defense’s pressure against them. Even with that focus on quick plays, the Chargers had 8 plays of 20 yards or more yesterday, and 2 of those were on 3rd down.
This was a pretty great gameplan and something they definitely need to sustain going forward.
Second, Kyzir White starting. White processes things quickly then executes. He’s fast and can tackle well. He’s only going to get better the more snaps he gets, and he has the football IQ and athleticism to be a 3 down Linebacker, so I don’t see any reason why he should start losing snaps to Denzel Perryman. With the defensive tackles still trying to get the run stuffing thing down, the team needs Kyzir’s speed on the field.
Third, staying clean. The Chargers had double digit penalties in all 4 of their preseason games. In their first regular season game of the season they had 3 penalties for a total of 20 yards. There were so few in fact I can remember all 3 of them without looking it up the morning after. There was a false start on Sam Tevi, an illegal formation on Trent Scott for not lining up on the line of scrimmage, and a holding penalty on Hunter Henry. It was a very disciplined game from a penalties standpoint and I also really liked this officiating crew headed up by Shawn Smith. He’s only been a head referee for 16 games now, and this was his first time officiating a Chargers game, but his crew looks like they let teams play since out of the 32 teams his crew has officiated, only 10 have gotten double digit flags, and only 3 of the 16 games had both teams get double digit flags. They can call a Chargers game anytime. But back to the point, I thought the Chargers played a very clean game and that discipline needs to continue. Especially on special teams. No penalties on special teams was extremely refreshing.
First, offensive line play, especially at tackle. Outside of Mike Pouncey and for the most part Dan Feeney, the line was bad. Tevi and Michael Schofield had a few good blocks in the run game but both were bad in pass protection. But nobody in a Chargers uniform looked worse than Trent Scott yesterday, although Brandon Facyson gave him a run for his money. Scott got Rivers killed multiple times and gave up 2 strip sacks that luckily the Chargers were able to recover both times. Those aren’t just drive killing mistakes, those are possibly game/season killing mistakes. The team needs to do something here. Whether that’s switching what they already have by moving Tevi over to LT and Scott to RT, or shuffling things and putting Tevi at LT and trying Schofield or Lamp at RT, or giving rookie Trey Pipkins his shot early. Basically all options should be on the table, because it would be hard to wind up with a worse result and they have to make a correction quickly or Rivers is going to get destroyed.
Second, run defense. Wow this was bad. The Chargers defense gave up 203 yards on the ground and let Marlon Mack average 7 yards per carry on 25 carries. Even if you take away his 63 yard run, he still had 111 yards on the ground on 24 carries and the Colts as a team would have had 140 yards. I think one thing they seriously need to figure out is more creative ways to get Isaac Rochelle snaps on obvious running downs opposite Joey Bosa. Rochelle showed in preseason he’s really improved his technique in run defense and had a knack for riding the offensive lineman out to either stretch the running back horizontally or funnel him inside, both things the Chargers failed to do in this game. Bosa did really well in run defense yesterday, evidenced by his 8 tackles. However the guys on the other side of the line, Melvin Ingram and Uchenna Nwosu combined for only 3 total tackles. Thomas Davis had 14 tackles, but most of them were 3+ yards downfield, which isn’t ideal. Maybe they need to find a way to sprinkle Perryman in a little more, but they should definitely get better tacklers on the field. Rayshawn Jenkins missed multiple tackles yesterday and even Thomas Davis and Adrian Phillips missed one or two. I will give them a little handicap as the Colts have probably a top 3 offensive line in the NFL, but this was still an awful performance that needs correcting.
Third, playing time for talented youngsters. Continuity doesn’t do a lot for you if the players aren’t good to begin with. Sure there may be some hickups as newer players both learn the scheme and build a connection with their teammates, but that won’t last long and their natural talent will help make up for it. Lamp only getting 2 snaps as an extra lineman was garbage and he needs to start getting reps in place of Michael Schofield. Nassir Adderley was a man among boys in the final preseason game, then came out in this first regular season game and dominated basically every snap he had on special teams. He’s a better and more explosive tackler than Jenkins and has an infinitely better feel for playing center field than Jenkins. Get him on the field. Same goes for Drue Tranquill. In the preseason he was all over the field amassing the 9th most tackles in the league, and had multiple passes defended and an interception. Sunday, just like Adderley, he was a demon on special teams making a tackle and blowing up a blocker on a punt and getting his hand on it, causing the punt to only go 20 yards and giving the Chargers great field position. On defense he’s intelligent and instinctual and comes downhill to make plays, not waiting back on his heels for the action to come to him. Jerry Tillery did get in for a third of the team’s defensive snaps but I feel like they could stand to bump that up a bit more over the coming weeks.