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3 keys to a Chargers victory over the Jaguars

It’s time to get right on Sunday.

Los Angeles Chargers v New Orleans Saints Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images

When the Chargers take the field against the Jaguars in SoFi Stadium, they’ll be looking to leave with their first win inside their new stadium and I don’t think they’ll have a better shot than this for another couple weeks.

The Jaguars are currently 23rd in total yards offensively (351.2) and 28th in total yard allowed on defense (414.5). That bodes well for a Chargers offense who didn’t find it all that hard to move the ball against two of the better defense in the NFL (Bucs/Saints).

The ground game might be able to get a much-needed jolt as well since Jacksonville allows over 144 rushing yards per game. If there’s any semblance of early rushing success on Sunday, expect Steichen to lean heavily on Justin Jackson and Joshua Kelley to lead the way on offense.

Enough chit chat, here are my three keys to Chargers victory over the Jaguars on Sunday afternoon. Enjoy!

1.) Take advantage of the Jaguars weak link on the offensive line

Last year, then-rookie right tackle Jawaan Taylor was arguably the best first-year tackle in the NFL. This year, not so much.

According to Pro Football Focus, Taylor has given up the most pressures among all Jacksonville lineman with 24. Left tackle Cam Robinson is second on the team with a distant 14. At face value, it’s obvious that the weakest links for the Jags up front are the tackles and the Chargers will need to make a concerted effort to exploit that weakness this week in hopes of jumpstarting their pass-rush going forward. As of this moment, we are not sure whether or not Melvin Ingram and Justin Jones will be activated off of IR for this week but if they are, I think it’ll be high-time for Gus Bradley to put both Ingram and Joey Bosa on the same side against Taylor their right guard to capitalize on some instant pressure.

On a side note, starting right guard AJ Cann did not practice as of Thursday, so there’s a chance that rookie Ben Bartch gets the start in his place. If that’s the case, then it’ll be even more prevalent that they pressure the right side of the Jaguars line.

2.) Run the football, but make it less predictable

The Chargers ran the ball 55 times over their last two outings against the Buccaneers and the Saints. At Tampa Bay, they averaged an even two yards per carry on 23 attempts. The numbers looked “better” against New Orleans as they ran it 32 times for 111 yards, good for just 3.5 yards per tote. That stat line would actually look a lot worse if you were to take out the 36-yard jaunt by Justin Jackson on a draw play early in the first quarter.

Especially against the Saints, the Chargers chose to run the ball on the majority of first downs, despite the lack of success. At one point, they had run it 16 times for a total of ... 13 yards.

At some point, you have to realize you’re shooting yourself in the foot once you reach that kind of territory.

The Chargers have to mix it up on earlier downs. If you want to run the ball, do it out of shotgun more. Hit them with an under center draw play. Hit them early with an RPO slant or bubble. Starting a game off by running something other than a simple inside or outside zone makes the defense open their mind to other threats early and that list of keys to cover doesn’t shrink throughout a game. It will only give them more to dissect as time rolls on.

3.) Let Herbert throw the ball on first and second downs

This key is essentially an extension of the one above. Justin Herbert needs to get a little more put on his plate earlier on drives so he can play a larger role in keeping them ahead of the chains. He’s been one of the best quarterbacks on third and fourth downs, which is only made more incredible due to how often he is thrown into those clutch situations when there’s 6+ yards to go.

When you have a top-5 tight end in Hunter Henry, there’s no reason not to take advantage of their big bodies with four to five-yard hitches and sit routes over the middle to create easy pitch-and-catch completions to set yourself up with 2nd-and-5. From there, running the ball is deemed much less detrimental because even if you get just a yard or two, it’s third and short and that makes things way easier on your rookie QB.

Take advantage of Herbert’s rocket arm when it comes to easy out routes and curls against man coverage. Herbert’s zip will limit the ability for sticky defenders to close and create knockouts.

Lastly, if the Chargers are able to find themselves in “sudden change” situations, i.e., after causing a turnover, I hope Shane Steichen will trust Herbert enough to take a shot downfield like they’ve done on occasion to Jalen Guyton and Tyron Johnson. Even with the lack of stellar offensive line play, they’ve been able to hold up well enough to give their wide receivers the time to outrun opposing safeties.