Through the first half of Sunday’s game, this felt like the most-complete game played by the Chargers in recent memory. But then halftime hit and the second half blues kicked in like they have every week this season.
After entering the midway point with a 27-7 lead, the Chargers were outscored 14-0 before the offense finally put up a touchdown late in the fourth quarter to seemingly keep the game out of reach for Houston.
More than a few players had a big day, but two players most certainly deserve the spotlight over anyone else.
Let’s go ahead and take a look at this week’s players whom I believe either “surged” forward or stayed “static” during the team’s week five victory over the Texans.
RB Austin Ekeler
After three weeks of worrisome and play and underwhelming production, Ekeler finally broke out in a big way against the Texans.
After his first two carries went for a combined -3 yards, the fan base likely took a collective groan together as they could all but foresee another terrible outing by the backfield.
Oh how wrong we all were.
Ekeler would go on to finish with 60 yards rushing on 13 total carries and the first two rushing touchdowns of the season. Through the air, he chipped in another 49 yards and a third touchdown on six receptions. This was also his first game of 2022 where he posted over 100 yards from scrimmage.
While the team failed to top 100 yards on the ground against a Texans defense allowing over twice that per game, it was still spectacular to see Ekeler look like the 2021 version that scored 20 times a season ago.
OL Jamaree Salyer
Salyer put together one of the best debuts for a rookie offensive lineman this season and he did it all while feeling in for All-Pro Rashawn Slater at a position he hasn’t played since he stepped foot off the field at the Senior Bowl in January.
Despite the lack of experience on the blindside in the NFL, Salyer came out of Sunday’s game as the highest-graded offensive player on the entire team. He posted an elite 90.4 pass blocking grade while also finishing with the team’s highest run blocking grade at 66.7.
It was the best and most-complete game played by any Chargers offensive lineman on Sunday and may even be in the running for the best performance by a lineman on the entire season up to this point.
RB Sony Michel
Through the first month of the season, it doesn’t seem like the Michel experiment is working out for the team. The veteran presence has it’s positives, but if averaging 2.6 yards per carry on 22 carries in four weeks keeps you as the team’s RB2, then the bar is probably set a bit too low.
Despite being the much more efficient runner, Joshua Kelley ended up playing three less snaps than Michel on Sunday (14 to 17). Kelley is averaging 4.2 yards per carry on the season which would be a career-best should it stay consistent. He’s only received 15 carries all year, but the results speak for themselves. Kelley has deserved to be RB2 over Michel but the coaching staff won’t be kept from playing the veteran as much as they can justify.
CB J.C. Jackson
Jackson hasn’t practiced a lot this season, but the level of play the Chargers are getting from him is still pretty striking.
In just his second game this season, Jackson allowed all three of the targets thrown his way to be completed for 108 yards with a long of 58. He didn’t allow a touchdown, but zero pass breakups and a penalty called on him is not the stat line many predicted we’d see from Jackson at any point this season.
I still have faith that he’ll turn it around on an individual level, however. His presence is still big enough that opposing quarterbacks won’t look to throw it his way, but if he can start making them pay when they occasionally do, then we’ll really be in business.