With it being a new season, with a bunch of new additions to the team as far as personnel, it will take a few weeks to get a good feel of who’s going to be playing and how often. Therefore, it will be interesting to see how some of the snap counts change over the first few games.
The five starting offensive linemen, Rashawn Slater, Matt Feiler, Corey Linsley, rookie Zion Johnson, and Trey Pipkins, along with quarterback Justin Herbert all played 100% of the offensive snaps. It wasn’t a flawless performance for the offensive line but it wasn’t terrible either. It’s also extremely encouraging to see all five of them play the full game.
At wide receiver we get some interesting numbers because Keenan Allen only played 33% of the snaps after coming down with a hamstring injury in the first half. In his absence, WR3 Josh Palmer played 75% of the snaps and kick returner DeAndre Carter played 37% of the offensive snaps. Carter, who according to the depth chart is listed as WR5, contributed in a big way, hauling in three receptions for 64 yards and a touchdown.
The Chargers tight ends were on the field a lot. Gerald Everett had 66% of the snaps, while Tre McKitty also played 60%. Lots of two-tight end formations for the bolts in week one.
Possibly the most interesting snap counts on offense came in the backfield. First, rookie fullback Zander Horvath played 22% of the snaps, which is a higher percentage of the snaps than Gabe Nabers had in any of the games last season (the highest was 15%). Horvath used those snaps to haul in a touchdown pass and had a rush for a first down on short yardage. It will be interesting to see if this continues as the Chargers only had a fullback play over 10% of the snaps in three games last season and had six games with no offensive snaps for the fullback. So it will be interesting to see if this was in response to tight end Donald Parham not being available, or if they have made a shift to including a fullback in more of their formations.
Then at running back, Austin Ekeler played 49% of the offensive snaps, which felt kind of low. I know the Chargers want to keep him fresh and minimize his chance to get hurt, but it felt like there were multiple stretches where Ek just wasn’t out there. Joshua Kelley played 27% of the snaps and looked, dare I say, good as RB2. He managed 5.3 yards per carry on his way to 21 rush yards, and had two receptions for 14 yards. Newcomer Sony Michel played 24% of the snaps and did not look as good. He carried the ball on seven of his 16 snaps and only gained 12 yards, a 1.7 yard per carry average.
The defense played great for the Chargers yesterday. A big part of that was the newcomers to the team.
Khalil Mack played 84% of the snaps and wrecked the Raiders for most of them, finishing with three sacks, three tackles for loss, and six tackles total. His partner in crime Joey Bosa played 91% of the snaps on defense and while he didn’t have as big of an impact on the stat sheet, he did have 1.5 sacks, a tackle for loss, and two more QB hits. The team’s third edge rusher, Chris Rumph, only played 19% of the snaps, so it will be interesting to see if going forward they work him in more or if Bosa and Mack are able to sustain this many snaps week in and week out for the whole season.
With star cornerback J.C. Jackson out for week one, Asante Samuel Jr and Michael Davis both played 100% of the defensive snaps. There were some struggles from the pair occasionally, but overall, they played really well. ASJ especially had some very high points including two passes defended and an extremely impressive interception, both in coverage against Davante Adams. CB3 Bryce Callahan played 79% of the snaps, meaning the Chargers were in nickel basically 80% of the time. Interestingly, those three were the only cornerbacks that saw the field for the Chargers. I’ll have to go back and look to see what happened when they went into a dime formation but it looks like the safeties shifted down to be the fourth corner in those situations.
Speaking of safety, Derwin James and Nasir Adderley also played 100% of the snaps. Derwin was ALL OVER the field. He is already earning every penny of his big new contract. He lead the team with six tackles, he had a big sack early, he had a TFL, and in coverage he shut down Davante Adams one-on-one on an important third-down stop. It was a great performance. Alohi Gilman rotated in for 34% of the snaps and added a single tackle.
At linebacker we saw what was perhaps the most interesting distribution on defense. After missing most of the offseason recovering from surgery, Kenneth Murray lead the linebacker group with 71% of the snaps. He did have five tackles but he also still looked like he was struggling out there. His usage and performance will be something to watch going forward.
Drue Tranquill played 60% of the snaps and also had five tackles, but earned a game ball by hauling in an extremely athletic interception on deep coverage over the middle of the field.
Meanwhile, veteran free agent acquisition Kyle Van Noy played 48% of the snaps between edge and linebacker, but based on first viewing was mostly near the line and rushing the passer. He had a few QB hurries but also got beat badly by Raiders running back Brandon Bolden for a touchdown in pass coverage.
At defensive tackle there was, in my opinion, the most healthy rotation of any group. Sebastian Joseph Day and Austin Johnson both played 55% of the snaps. Morgan Fox got in for 48%, Jerry Tillery played 36%, and even rookie Otito Ogbonnia got in for 16% of the plays on defense. It kept this group fresh and helped the defense hold the Raiders to only 64 yards rushing.
Rookie Ja’Sir Taylor had an impressive tackle on punt coverage as part of his 16 snaps. JK Scott had a great performance in his first game as punter for the Chargers, earning a game ball for his 49 yard punt average and 5+ second hang time.
No real surprises from this group. Solid performance from the special teams unit.