Good morning, everyone, and Happy New Years to you all!
It’s hard to believe it’s not only a new year but that there’s also just one Chargers game left in this season. Add in the fact it’s against the Kansas City Chiefs and it’s looking to be quite the exclamation point to an otherwise forgettable year.
Below, you’ll find the last edition of the “three keys” series for the 2020 regular season. So kick back, relax, and dive on in.
1.) With nothing to lose, let Herbert cook like he’s never cooked before
It’s the final game of the season, the Chargers are out of the playoffs, and they already have won their way out of a top-10 pick in this upcoming NFL draft. So what do the Chargers have to lose at this point? They’re playing a Kansas City Chiefs team that will be without both Patrick Mahomes and Tyreek Hill, while the assumption is that Andy Reid will sit more of their starting players ahead of their first-round bye in the playoffs.
In Sunday’s game, there should be no limits on what the Chargers put on Justin Herbert’s plate. They shouldn’t lean on the run and they shouldn’t shy away from giving him the opportunity to use his legs.
If Herbert isn’t given the chance to let it rip from start to finish, then we riot all the way into the 2021 offseason.
Justin Herbert: 11 of his 28 TDs have occurred on 20+ yard throws— PFF (@PFF) December 30, 2020
Highest rate in the NFL ⚡️ pic.twitter.com/3vQJ7BPEI6
2.) Don’t treat the Chiefs backups like they’re backups
This point is not supposed to be anymore complicated than it sounds. The last thing this team needs to do is treat any game like it’s a forgone conclusion that they’re going to walk away with a win. Who cares if it’s a 35-year old journeyman quarterback under center who hasn’t seen legitimate playing time in over seven years. Andy Reid has proven he can make a mountain out of a mole hill no matter what players he trots out there on offense and the Bolts can’t afford to give him an inch when it comes to the mental side of this game.
Like Anthony Lynn said in his presser on Wednesday, these backups are often guys who feel like they’re better than the starters anyway. If you give them the chance to out there and show what they can do, they usually are playing harder than the starters who aren’t fighting for their job anymore. When you remember that the Chargers will also be playing with a ton of backups, then this game doesn’t look nearly like the layup it initially did.
Go out, get it done, and end the season on the highest note possible.
3.) See what Mike Williams can do with a WR1 workload
Keenan Allen unfortunately saw his productive 2020 season cut short due to a combination of a hamstring injury and his recent placement on the reserve/COVID-19 list. After tying his career-high with eight touchdown receptions with three games left in the regular season, who would have thought that he’d finish with just a lone catch for 17 yards and no scores through that time span.
Without Allen, Williams becomes the team’s WR1 against the Chiefs in what should be one of his easier matchups this season. This Sunday will also be his last game before the Chargers have to figure out what to do with the former seventh-overall pick back in 2017 and his fifth-year option that is slated to pay him $15.6 million in 2021. All of that would be in his base salary, and if you compare it to the rest of the position, that would put Williams only behind Cincy’s AJ Green ($17.9 million). As far as total cap hit, it would be the sixth-biggest at the position. Obviously the Chargers don’t want to pay Williams that type of money, which means they’ll likely rescind his option and choose to either let him walk or sign him to a much more team-friendly contract.
Through his first four seasons in the NFL, with one game remaining in 2020, Williams has recorded 145 receptions for 2,408 yards and 16 receiving touchdowns. He also has nine carries for 31 yards and another score. On a per-season basis, he’s averaging 36-602-4. That’s obviously not ideal.
Long story short, the Chargers should utilize this game as an opportunity to pelt Williams with targets, a la Keenan Allen, and see what he can do when the offense attempts to run through him. It’s a chance to see what he can do when looked at as the number one guy in the offense and it will help the team decide his inevitable fate with the franchise.