2022 Opponent Threads: Arizona Cardinals, Miami Dolphins, Tennessee Titans, Indianapolis Colts & Los Angeles Rams

Football season is nearly upon us and so I've created some short threads on the Chargers' 2022 Opponents to bolster discussion about those teams (and hopefully generate SOME EXCITEMENT!)

A thread on the Arizona Cardinals, the Chargers’ 2022 opponent in Week 12 (at Cardinals)

1. Let me be very clear from the outset. I don’t think much of this team nor any organisation whose recent first round draft picks include J Cooper, D Buchanan, DJ Humphries, R Nkemdiche, H Reddick and J Rosen. The roster is poorly constructed.

2. The Cards win early in the year but struggle to maintain the rage. They hand 5-year extensions to HC/GMs whose results don’t warrant it. They hand $230m ($160m gtd) to a QB whose body language during the Wild Card loss made Eli Manning look wildly animated.

3. Yes, Vance Joseph’s Defense loves to send the house (which it did on 33.6% of downs in 2021 – 4th most in the League) and play exotic coverages on the back-end, but the run defense is porous and the secondary looks susceptible to attack.

4. The Arizona Cardinals are like a "new build" home with all the newest appliances but a shaky, structurally deficient, foundation. For every Zach Ertz there’s a Will Hernandez. For every Budda Baker, a Zach Allen.

5. Despite all this, there’s obviously no shortage of offensive talent in Arizona. When on song, they can score heavily. For all the questioning of Kyler’s leadership style, his skill jumps off the film, and Hopkins/Hollywood could be a lethal duo.

6. The problem is Hopkins won’t be available for the first 6 games of the season due to a PED violation. Poor leadership and ill-discipline strike yet again.

7. Perhaps flying under the radar is the egress of Chandler Jones. The team is hoping that draftees C Thomas and M Sanders can prevent a significant drop-off from the 2021 unit that pressured QBs the 9th most in the NFL. I have my doubts.

8. As a result of all this, the Cardinals are a team with as great a range of outcomes as any in the NFL. They can win 8 games in a row. They can lose 8 games in a row. Their QB could be an NFL MVP. They could miss the playoffs.

9. For the Chargers, fans must trust process over prima donnas. Preparation over online gaming time. And a Defense that wants to live in sub-packages should welcome the challenge posed by Kingsley's air raid offense.

10. Is this a danger game for the Bolts in some respects, away from home against an unfamiliar foe with some talented players? Of course. But we think the Bolts should win this one. Brick and mortar over polyvinyl chloride plastics anyday.


A thread on the Miami Dolphins, the Chargers’ 2022 opponent in Week 14 (at Chargers)

1. Tua v Herbert. It’s the conversation that ignites Dolphins Twitter more than any other. And it’s easy to see why most Chargers fans have already claimed victory. In 2021, Tua recorded 2,653 yds, 16 TD, 10 INT (from 13 games) at 6.8 ypa. Herbert threw for 5,000 yds and 38 TDs at 7.46 ypa.

2. Does Tua have the physical traits ever to be an elite NFL QB? Perhaps not. But why are we so quick to judge him after 2 years? Coming into the league fresh off hip surgery and lacking prototypical size, there was always a chance Tua would be slow out of the gates.

3. Unfortunately for Tua, modern NFL GMs do not see patience as virtuous, knowing their jobs are rarely secure for long if wins are not immediately forthcoming. So it’s easy to overlook that Miami’s OL ranked 32nd for pass blocking per PFF (51.8) and 31st for run blocking (53.7) in 2021.

4. But there may be hope for Tua truthers yet. New HC Mike McDaniel brings with him an offensive scheme which may suit Tua’s strengths in the quick game. Indeed, Tua’s skillset and 4.8% turnover worth play rate is eerily similar to Jimmy G’s (4.6%) who has, after all, QB’d SF on deep playoff runs.

5. I see no reason why, with weaponry including Tyreek Hill/Waddle/Gesicki and a cavalcade of speedy RBs (Edmonds, Mostert, Gaskin), the Dolphins cannot aim to achieve similar things on offense to SF in 2022.

6. If the additions of Terron Armstead and Connor Williams to the OL can take that group to about league average, I think the Dolphins have a decent chance to improve their 9-8 record from 2021.

7. On Defense, DC Josh Boyer showed no discernible drop-off from fellow ex-Patriot Brian Flores. His unit utilised high amounts over Cover 0 to pressure QBs at the 3rd highest rate in the NFL (28.5%) and, in the process, secured the 8th most turnovers on the season (26).

8. A hot young offensive HC, dangerous pass-catchers, and a fearsome secondary composed of Xavien Howard, Byron Jones and Jevon Holland + ascending pass rushers, Jaelen Phillips and Emmanuel Ogbah, lead us to believe that the Dolphins will be a frisky opponent.

9. While many Chargers fans are counting this match-up as a victory, it should be noted that the Shanahan scheme (run by McDaniel) with its heavy usage of outside zone runs puts great strain on a Defense’s LBs. What would you say is the Chargers greatest weakness defensively?

10. I hope I'm wrong, but I don’t like the bad juju Chargers fans have invited through seemingly constant Twitter trolling of Dolphins fans. This game might be a lot closer than people think.

What do you reckon?

A thread on the Tennessee Titans, the Chargers’ 2022 opponent in Week 15 (at Chargers)

1. Have the Chargers successfully fortified their run defense? One of the great questions of the 2021 offseason will be answered conclusively in Wk 15 when King Henry rolls into So-Fi with his bruising understudy, rookie Hassan Haskins, behind him.

2. There’s no denying the Titans love to run the rock. They led the NFL in rushes in 2021, accumulating the 3rd most TDs (23) and 5th most yards on the ground. Henry was on a tear (with 937 yds and 10 TDs through 8 games) before a foot fracture in late-October effectively ruined his season.

3. The Titans’ tough, run-first, genetic coding has been developed under the watchful eye of hulking HC Mike Vrabel. Tough football on both sides of the ball is the outcome of this particular protein synthesis and in 2021, they allowed the 6th least points on Defense and missed the 5th least tackles.

4. However, despite boasting a 12-5 record and claiming the AFC No 1 seed, the Titans lost to the Bengals in the Div Round. Tannehill’s 3 INTs (including picks on his first and last throws) proved the difference, as Chase McLaughlin sent the Bengals to the AFC title with a 52 yd field goal.

5. It’s been a bitter offseason for Titans fans who, just as they were coming to terms with their brutal playoff exit, had to stomach GM Jon Robinson’s Draft Day decision to trade away much loved WR1 AJ Brown. It leaves the passing offense in a state of uncertainty.

6. To replace him, the team drafted Arkansas wideout Treylon Burks and made a move to obtain former-Ram R Woods (coming off ACL surgery). At QB, Tannehill will be feeling the pressure with rookie Malik Willis showcasing superior arm and leg talent in the pre-season.

7. All this said, the nucleus of this football team remains strong and disciplined. The Defensive Line is powerful (behind phenom Jeffrey Simmons) and there’s no shortage of talent in the secondary, led by All Pro safety Kevin Byard. But Landy's season-ending injury may hurt them.

8. If a few swings at the batting plate connect – namely, Farley fulfilling his draft potential and other younger players like Molden/McCreary taking to the NFL quickly – the Titans should again be contending for the AFC South. But how much more than this can they realistically achieve?

9. The last time these two teams met, Melvin Gordon fumbled the game away on the second of two woeful goal-line carries. Isaiah Spiller would be wise to watch this tape as the Titans D will come for him knowing his college fumble history (8 lost fumbles).

10. I would be more concerned about this game if it were played in Nashville where the fans sing loudly to the music of King Henry’s processions into the endzone. But come Wk 15, the Chargers should be locked in and, at home, I think they will do unto the Titans what King Henry VIII did unto 2 of his wives.

A thread on the Indianapolis Colts, the Chargers’ 2022 opponent in Week 16 (at Colts)

1. Many Chargers fans have developed a soft spot for the Colts. Frank Reich is (mostly) remembered fondly for his efforts as the QB Coach/OC in San Diego from 2013-2015. And, of course, "El Capitan" traded the thunder bolt for a horseshoe for one final year before that great man’s retirement.

2. External perception is that the Colts are run by an Owner (Jim Irsay) who "gets it", a bold GM (Chris Ballard) who’s built a sturdy roster, and a cerebral HC who played the sport’s most important position himself (and is much loved by his players).

3. Yet for all the warm glow that’s been generated in Indy since they rebounded admirably from the shock 2018 retirement of Andrew Luck, Colts fans have a bitter taste in their mouths entering 2022 after a humiliating loss to Jacksonville in Wk 18 (26-11) ruined their 2021 playoff aspirations.

4. Some of the bitterness may dissipate if 37yo Matt Ryan can provide more than a 1-year solution at QB (something that’s eluded the Colts since Luck’s retirement). It is essentially a 2-year deal and Ryan arrives in Indy fresh of his lowest passing yardage total since 2010 and having completed passes at 7.1 ypa.

5. PFF graded Ryan (who admittedly had a bad situation in Atlanta last season) as the League’s 17th ranked passer. However, his highest graded games came against Washington, Detroit and NYJ. At his age, how much of an upgrade (if any) over Rivers is he likely to be?

6. Perhaps a more pertinent question is how much better than Wentz can Ryan be? For all the slander directed Wentz’s way (including by Jim Irsay), in 2021 he recorded 27 TDs and only 7 INTs, and the Colts’ offense ranked 8th for not turning the ball over (with the 4th least INTs).

7. None of this may matter if bell cow RB Jonathan Taylor clocks in with another MVP calibre season. Fresh off 1,811 rushing yards and 18 TDs, he has developed into a quite extraordinary player and is every chance of eclipsing 2,000 yards in 2022 (the gold standard for any RB).

8. What may matter more is the departure of generally underrated DC Matt Eberflus whose defensive unit generated the 2nd most turnovers in 2021 (33), missed the 3rd least tackles and conceded the 9th least points. Incoming DC Gus Bradley will be hoping to address the pass rush (which ranked 31st for pressures).

9. The Colts are a good outfit but certain qns bear upon their potential to meet fan expectations this year. How good is Ryan? Can 31yo Stephon Gilmore return to All Pro form? Can Kwity Paye take a leap in Year 2? Can Parris Campbell stay healthy? Will Raimann and Alex Pierce contribute meaningfully as rookies? Is Gus a fraud?

10. When the Colts meet the Chargers in Week 16 it’s likely that both teams will have everything to play for. Monday Night Football. In Indy. Reich/Bradley vs their old team. I can’t wait to watch what should be a cracking match-up. We. Must. Stop. Taylor.

How do you feel about this one BFTB?

Final Opponents Thread: A thread on the Los Angeles Rams, the Chargers’ 2022 opponent in Week 17 (at Chargers)

1. How is the fight for LA going? Well. The Rams have just won the Super Bowl and the Chargers remain a tenant in the Rams’ state-of-the-art SoFi Stadium for a peppercorn rent (with no equity in the building). I think we need to concede victory on this one, Chargers fans.

2. The Rams comport themselves with few signs of self-doubt and more than a touch of braggadocio. Their Owner is the NFL’s 2nd richest. Their GM says, "Eff them picks". They move heaven and earth for superstars and are willing to mortgage their future to win in the present.

3. But they also have the brains to match their hubris. McVay’s taken his Shanahan roots and shown a willingness to grow his own branch from that coaching tree: using more 11 personnel than his mentor and, more recently, employing numerous shotgun runs and empty-set passing (both anathema to Shanahan).

4. The Rams ranked 7th for Points on Offense in 2021 behind imported QB Matt Stafford, 5th for Passing Yards, 2nd for Passing TDs, and 3rd for % of drives ending in an offensive score (45.9%). They were a well-oiled offensive machine.

5. Similarly creative, DC Raheem Morris took the Cover-2 heavy scheme he inherited from Staley in 2020, and rather than reverting to his own preferred schemes, went even more "Staley" than Staley himself. The Rams ran masked coverages (ie, pre and post snap safety movement) more than any NFL team in 2021 per PFF.

6. While the 2021 Rams were known for their superstar power: Stafford, Kupp, OBJ, Whitworth, Donald, Von Miller, Ramsey. Lesser-known players (acquired later in the Draft or via UDFA) also contributed significantly to their Super Bowl: Darious Williams, Greg Gaines, Jordan Fuller.

7. This has been the Rams’ modus operandi: they’re prepared to trade early round picks for established players, but they also hit on late round picks to unearth uncut gems while adroitly taking advantage of the NFL’s FA compensation formula.

8. The Rams have replenished their superstar club again in 2022 (with Bobby Wagner & Allen Robinson arriving) but a sizable list of departing players, a less than convincing OL, and Stafford’s elbow issues are question marks possibly preventing a repeat performance this year.

9. Staley and McVay have different leadership approaches. Staley is the retiring, humble football coach. McVay is the extrovert, happy posing topless for Hard Knocks in his pool. Staley’s been married 11 years to a teacher. McVay was recently wedded to a Ukrainian supermodel. But both men are smart as a whip.

10. When these two face off in Week 17 on SNF so much will be at stake. Both owners will be desperate to win and so will their head coaches: Staley to establish himself and McVay to solidify his growing reputation as the best and brightest NFL mind. I think it’s a toss of the coin game.

What do you think - who wins?

This FanPost was written by a member of the Bolts From The Blue community and does not necessarily reflect the views of the Bolts From The Blue editors or SB Nation.