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Chargers Week 1 ‘Surge or Static?’: Khalil Mack leads massive defensive effort

A star-studded defense came to play in week one.

NFL: Las Vegas Raiders at Los Angeles Chargers Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

What a game by the Chargers defense. Seriously. Just wow.

They had their hands full with Davante Adams and despite him stuffing his own personal stat sheet, the Bolts still managed to lead in the categories that mattered most, including on the scoreboard.

Six sacks, three interceptions, and numerous strip sacks that unfortunately did not bounce their way. Even so, it was a dominant effort that was almost thwarted by an offense that somehow landed in quicksand over the final quarter of play.

But in the end, the offense did enough up to that point to allow the defense’s spectacular effort to secure the win.

So with all of that said, let’s get into the first “Surge or Static?” column of the new season. For those of you who are new, this is essentially my version of “winners and losers” each week. After each game, I’ll be highlighting two players who “surged” forward with their play, or stayed “static” based on their most recent performance.

Let’s get into it.


EDGE Khalil Mack

Washed? Did somebody really say this All-Pro was washed? The only thing that was washed on Sunday afternoon was the offensive tackle duo of the Raiders who received a certified tail-whipping by both Mack and fellow edge rusher Joey Bosa.

Mack recorded two sacks in the first half to help limit the Las Vegas offense to just three points before the break. His third sack came on the final play of the game when he stripped Carr and forced a turnover on downs. He ended the night with a team-high six tackles and four quarterback hits.

Kolton Miller is one of the better left tackles in the NFL but obviously Mack didn’t care all that much. He’ll face another tough challenge in Orlando Brown Jr. next week.

CB Asante Samuel Jr.

When you look at the matchup on paper, you could very well come away with the idea that Davante Adams had his way with the young Samuel. While that’s true to a degree, you have to commend ASJ for continuing to battle and battle the league’s top receiver. According to Pro Football Focus, Zont allowed nine catches for over 100 yards when covering Adams. He did, however, also record a big-time pass breakup and an interception at the two-yard line which essentially took points away from the Raiders.

Brandon Staley likes to talk about Samuel’s “competitive stamina” and that was most certainly on display Sunday afternoon. It didn’t matter how many times Adams got the better of him, Samuel shrugged it off and went right back to work. While Adams can say he won the battle, the war was won by Zont and the Chargers.

For his efforts, Samuel received one of five game balls from Staley postgame.


RB Austin Ekeler

I still have so many questions about Ekeler’s severe lack of opportunities against the Raiders.

The team’s best playmaker registered just 36 yards both rushing and receiving on 18 total touches while playing on only 49 percent of the offensive snaps. With the game still uncomfortably close in the second half, the Chargers offense hit a sluggish stretch where they posted three three-and-outs amid their final four drives of the games prior to hitting the victory formation.

Throughout those drives, both Josh Kelley and Sony Michel received far too many opportunities, including on obvious passing downs. Offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi went into clock-milking mode which then led to a predictable run-run-pass play-calling strategy. Since Ekeler wasn’t getting the job done on the ground, he looked elsewhere on first and second downs.

While that makes sense to a degree, I still disagree vehemently when you take your guy who just had 1,500+ yards and 20 touchdowns a season ago off the field. Scheme the ball into his hands. Get him out into space. Put him in a position to do what he does best.

WR Mike Williams

What a weird opening performance for the Chargers’ leading receiver from a year ago.

After dropping an easy pitch-and-catch in the first quarter, Williams didn’t see his first reception until the fourth quarter. He ended up catching just two passes for 10 yards despite the team missing Keenan Allen for the majority of the contest. Justin Herbert hit nine different pass-catchers on Sunday but not one player finished with more than four catches or total targets.

Chargers fans (and fantasy football addicts) were desperately praying for a highlight-reel play from Williams but that just wasn’t in the cards for this offense. Herbert simply threw to his best options on every play and it’s unfortunate that Williams just wasn’t that for most of the day.

He’ll look to bounce back against the Chiefs, a team he’s been able to exploit quite a bit thus far in his career.