Welcome to the first regular season “Surge or Static?” of the 2021 season.
In the Chargers first win of the 2021 season — a 20-16 decision over a rising Washington team — plenty of players put together notable performances to help lead the team to victory in Brandon Staley’s first game as a head coach in the NFL.
While the score may not show it, this game was more about the Chargers’ lack of execution in crucial moments — and a few rough calls by the officials — than it was about Washington keeping things as close as possible.
Either way, a win is a win.
Below are the players I believe “surged” forward with their play against the Football Team, as well as the few players that stayed “static” following underwhelming performances.
WR Keenan Allen/Mike Williams
What a way to ring in the start of the 2021 season for the Chargers’ top-two wideouts. Keenan Allen made crucial catch after crucial catch and finished with 100 yards on a team-high nine catches. Williams also put together a notable performance with a career-high eight catches for 82 yards and a touchdown.
Overall, 17 catches and 182 yards from your top-two pass-catchers will always be a good outing.
Allen did have one big drop that cost the Chargers a chance at another first-half touchdown, but he more than made up for it by catching the massive third-down conversion on the final drive and icing the game with his final catch.
Mike Williams wins the one-on-one to put the Chargers back up pic.twitter.com/OLHH5kPP7r— ChargerNationCP (@charger_cp) September 12, 2021
LB Kyzir White
In a surprising move, Kyzir White was the team’s starting linebacker opposite Kenneth Murray against Washington. Now, it wasn’t a surprise to see White start in general, but the fact that Drue Tranquill barely played at all on defense was the bigger storyline.
White finished with five total tackles and the forced fumble that helped the Chargers snatch momentum back from Washington. It remains to be seen if Tranquill will work his way into more snaps this week against Dallas, but White and Murray’s speed in the middle will play a huge part in attempting to corral a Dallas run game that will look to get started early following a no-show performance at Tampa Bay.
OT Rashawn Slater
What a game for the rookie left tackle.
In 49 pass block snaps against Washington, Slater allowed zero pressures. Zero. Most of those snaps came against Chase Young, the reigning Defensive Rookie of the Year in the NFL. When it wasn’t Young, Slater faced Montez Sweat, another first-round pick with freakish athleticism and speed.
Slater was equally effective in the run game, as well. Larry Rountree’s big run on the team’s first drive was a direct outcome of Slater’s phenomenal block on Young. Later on, Slater would turn Young outside to open the lane which Austin Ekeler used to score his three-yard touchdown.
For a rookie’s first game in over a year and a half, Slater was as good as advertised.
EK-ALERT!— NFL (@NFL) September 12, 2021
Austin Ekeler scores the first TD of the season for the @Chargers!
: #LACvsWAS on CBS
: NFL app pic.twitter.com/z0ztkQxivL
S Nasir Adderley
For the most part, the Chargers defense played a good game against a Washington offense that features two of the budding stars at their respective positions in receiver Terry McLaurin and running back Antonio Gibson.
While Washington made their fair share of plays, Adderley found himself on the wrong side of one of them that honestly should never have happened.
On a third-and-six from the LAC 45-yard line, Heinicke lofted a deep pass to McLaurin up the left sideline. Adderley broke on the throw and put himself in perfect position to break up the pass. However, Adderley allowed the ball to sail right through his outstretched arms into the waiting grasp of McLaurin who made a phenomenal catch in bounds.
One play later, Nas got matched up with tight end Logan Thomas in the end zone which made for an easy pitch-and-catch for a touchdown. In just two plays, the Chargers go from defending near midfield to finding themselves behind for the first time on Sunday.
It was an unfortunate series of events but the second play would never have happened if Adderley simply made the play that was about to drop into his lap. Not a good start to the year for the third-year safety.
DT Jerry Tillery
Tillery was non-existent in Sunday’s victory. He finished without a tackle and a zero percent pass rush win rate. In the Chargers’ defensive scheme, the interior lineman are one-gap penetrators which limits their chances of actually making plays consistently. The havoc they create is meant to funnel ball carriers into the arms of the second level players, so it’s no surprise to see his other running mate, Justin Jones, finish with just one tackle.
But it’s the win rate on pass rushes that should be alarming. No sacks? Fine. He may have forced the offense into bad situations. No pressures? Now that’s something the team cannot allow to continue to happen.
Near the end of Melvin Ingram’s time with the Chargers, the former first-rounder also failed to show up for games at a time and he’s now with another team (although he played well on Sunday). I’m not saying we need to freak out in the current moment, but it’s nonetheless a underwhelming start to the year for Tillery.
Of the 49 IDL or EDGE players who had 28 or more pass rush snaps yesterday Jerry Tillery is tied for last in pass rush productivity (0.0) and tied for last in pass rush win rate (0.0).— Tyler Schoon (@tylerjschoon) September 13, 2021
That couldn't have gone any worse...