It’s finally here! Week 1 of the 2021 NFL Season. The Los Angeles Chargers kick off the season with a trip to the East Coast to take on the Washington Football Team at FedEx Field in Landover Maryland.
Obviously football is a team sport, and it takes everyone on the field to get the win. However, there are some individual matchups that can swing the battle one way or another.
Rashawn Slater vs Chase Young
This is the battle everyone will highlight, and with good reason. The Chargers have had problems at LT for YEARS, including last season when the Chargers OL gave up the most pressures of any team in the NFL. Rashawn Slater was drafted with the Chargers’ 1st round pick to finally solve this problem, and the national consensus is that he’s capable of doing that. Chase Young was drafted 2nd overall and the 2020 Defensive Rookie of the Year.
These two players have a lot of eyes on them for all those reasons, however they battled in College and that matchup was used heavily in hyping up Slater as a prospect as he won that duel at the time. So this is a grudge match of sorts.
With Justin Herbert running a new offense, Slater vs Young will have a huge impact on the game.
Kenneth Murray vs Antonio Gibson
The WFT will likely try to establish the offense through Gibson early. He’s a dynamic player both as a rusher and a receiver, not that dissimilar to Austin Ekeler. They were also forced to place playmaking WR Curtis Samuel on the IR today, which means Gibson will likely see the field as a pass catcher a little more often.
Kenneth Murray has said that this defense allows him to play a bit more free and just be a LB again. Between that and Murray’s athleticism, I’d expect to see him leading the effort to keep Gibson contained.
Derwin James vs Logan Thomas
It will likely be a group effort covering Thomas, but I’d expect a fair amount of that to come from Derwin James. Similarly to Gibson, with Curtis Samuel now out of the picture, Thomas should see his target share increase a bit. Thomas is a matchup problem for mortal humans at 6’6 250 and ran a 4.6 when he entered the league back in 2014 (so he’s slowed a bit, but not much). Luckily for the Chargers, when he’s healthy, Derwin James is not a mere mortal. He is an insane athlete with tremendous coverage skills and football IQ. If he can do this vs Keenan Allen, he should be able to shut down Logan Thomas pretty effectively despite the size difference.
Are there any matchups you think are more important than those I’ve identified here? I’d love to hear from you guys in the comments. We are just under 48 hours from watching actual Chargers Football!