We’re just a few short days until the Chargers kick off their 2022 season against the Raiders inside SoFi Stadium. As of Friday morning, the Bolts are still 3.5-point favorites over Las Vegas, per DraftKings Sportsbook. The over/under is currently set at 52.5.
It’s been over eight months since their last game of the 2021 season and you can bet your backside that the Chargers have had this game circled in red on their calendar since early January.
Both teams have improved. Both teams look like real contenders on paper. All there is left is for them to do battle between the lines.
When that happens, here are the three biggest things I’ll be keeping an eye on.
1.) How will the secondary handle the pass-catching trio of Davante Adams, Hunter Renfrow, and Darren Waller?
While not wanting to fall behind in a division where every team seemingly is going “all in,” the Raiders went out and somehow added All-Pro wide receiver Davante Adams to their roster from the Packers. Adams has spent his career catching passes from one of the best quarterbacks in NFL history and will now catch passes during the second half of his career by his college quarterback, Derek Carr.
Luckily — or unluckily, some of you may say — the Chargers are the first to get to test the revitalized relationship of Carr and Adams. At the same time, the Chargers’ big-money free agent, cornerback J.C. Jackson, could potentially miss his team’s first contest after undergoing minor ankle surgery over two weeks ago. Jackson was expected to shadow Adams in this matchup but his absence would force the Chargers to find a Plan B fast. That’s also in addition to putting a cap on the Raiders’ other two pass-catchers, Darren Waller and Hunter Renfrow.
As I see it, Samuel Jr. will likely get the draw on Adams as the team’s best remaining man corner. Derwin James should get the job of erasing Waller from the game plan while new Charger Bryce Callahan likely draws Renfrow in the slot. Michael Davis will also figure in, of course, but it remains to be seen how fast he’ll bounce back from a down year in 2021.
2.) How much of an impact will Gerald Everett have on the offense?
For the most part, the Chargers offense remained intact over the offseason. The only real notable differences are the addition of rookie right guard Zion Johnson and the swapping of veteran tight end Jared Cook for the much younger and explosive Everett. We can all foresee pretty clearly how Johnson will affect this offense, but I’m mainly intrigued with what Everett will inevitably bring to the table.
Everett has yet to eclipse 500 yards receiving during his five-year career with both the Rams and Seahawks. That isn’t all that surprising as the Rams much prefer their wideouts to get the rock, but at least Seattle allowed him to set career highs of 478 yards and four touchdowns during his lone campaign in the pacific northwest.
Throughout training camp, Everett spoke on his excitement to be a part of this offense due to the coaching staff’s intention of getting him the ball in more than one. During one of his pressers in camp, Everett mentioned that he expects to get the ball on jet sweeps which is a great opportunity for him to utilize his athleticism and contact balance out of the backfield (he had nine broken tackles last season).
The Raiders currently employ former Charger Denzel Perryman at middle linebacker alongside converted-safety Divine Deablo and Jayon Brown. Deablo (6’3, 226) looks like the team’s best cover linebacker and it’s likely he draws Everett in coverage. Johnathan Abram could also be tasked with covering Everett, but that’s not exactly what the Raiders want for a safety who would rather be cracking skulls than sticking with pass catchers in space.
Overall I believe Everett could be an X-factor for the Chargers in this game, especially as a red zone threat. Just like other teams used to do against the Bolts, Perryman is an easy target to pick on once the field gets condensed. Yes, he’s a heavy hitter. But Everett’s notable short-area agility should be able to create separation at will against the 5’11 enforcer.
Gerald Everett scored a TD and tried to leap into the stands.— Ari Meirov (@MySportsUpdate) November 30, 2021
Washington fan wasn’t letting that happen.
3.) Will the revamped Chargers defensive line have their way with a lackluster Raiders front five?
The Raiders offensive line went from being one of the team’s strongest position groups to one of their worst in just the span of a few seasons. Understandably, this is an area that the Chargers need to exploit front start to finish on Sunday if they hope to exit SoFi with a victory.
With three new additions to the front in Khalil Mack, Sebastian Joseph-Day, and Austin Johnson, both the Chargers run defense and pass rush should be much improved. Saying it’s expected to be elite, even, really shouldn’t be all that crazy.
Kolton Miller, the Raiders’ left tackle, is one of the best in the NFL. He finished the 2021 season with a PFF grade of 84.0, easily the best of the group. The other four members of the line include left guard Johnson Simpson, center Andre James, right guard Lester Cotton Sr., and right tackle Jermaine Eluemunor. They finished last season with PFF grades of 52.6, 64.1, 58.5, and 59.8, respectively.
To compare that to the Chargers defensive line, Joey Bosa returns with an 85.8 overall grade while Mack posted an elite 92.3 in 2020 (his last full season). Joseph-Day earned a decent 61.6 and Johnson ended the year with a 58.3. Not the best, but both are still upgrades over the likes of Jerry Tillery (46.3).
On paper, this should be a dominant game for the Chargers defensive front. Especially after how their last matchup ended, this new run defense needs to show up from the very first play.
Odds/lines subject to change. T&Cs apply. See draftkings.com/sportsbook for details.