The Chargers came up just short of beating the Dolphins as they fell 36-34 inside SoFi Stadium on Sunday afternoon. The game was a shootout from the very start and just like all shootouts, it’s a bummer when one team ultimately has to lose. This week, that team was unfortunately the Chargers.
While the defensive performance brought with it a whole host of potential “losers” this week, there was still enough “winners from the offense that we could make a fairly balanced list.
Let’s go ahead and dive before we all start spiraling again!
RBs Austin Ekeler and Joshua Kelley
It took the Chargers just one game to completely change the narrative surrounding their run game, which has been one of the worst in the NFL over the past two seasons. In all, they ran the ball 40 times for a whopping 234 yards to go with three touchdowns.
Ekeler and Kelley each toted the rock 16 times with the former gaining 117 yards and a touchdown while the latter recorded 91 yards and his own score. Justin Herbert added 18 yards on several scrambles and a short quarterback sneak for a touchdown.
The Chargers front five had their way with Dolphins in the trenches from start to finish and it’s the main reason Herbert’s stat line looked rather underwhelming at the end. He simply did not need to throw it around the yard for the team to have a chance to win which is another huge difference from years past.
OC Kellen Moore
The Chargers wasted no time in snatching up Moore to be the their new offensive coordinator after they moved on from Joe Lombardi. Entering this season, fans were told to expect two things: 1.) The Chargers were going to throw it deep more often and 2.) The Chargers were going to be better at running the football.
After one game, only the latter came true, but it’s likely the one many didn’t expect to happen as quickly. As noted above, the Chargers rushed for over 200 yards and scored three times on the ground. That caused Herbert to get to just 33 pass attempts, a number he surpassed 14 times a season ago.
Moore also got the Chargers to 34 points in just the first week, a total that matches their season-high from a year ago. All signs are pointing up for this unit, but there were still some rusty-looking plays in the pass game that should be polished in their Week Two game matchup against the Titans who just allowed 282 yards to the Saints (fourth-most in Week One).
Woods didn’t have a loud game by any means... but if there’s one positive to pull out of the shelling the defense went through, it’s that JT Woods played 14 snaps, made 4 tackles without missing any, and wasn’t credited by PFF with an allowed reception.
For a player that saw almost no opportunities on the field because of his lack of physicality and tackling ability, it’s great to see him start this season as strongly as he did.
CB J.C. Jackson
Had it purely been physical limitations ailing Jackson all game, he doesn’t end up on this list. The fact that he was even able to be out there is fairly miraculous, less than a year removed from tearing his patellar tendon.
However, J.C. made some incredibly boneheaded mental mistakes. He gave the Dolphins a free three points at the end of the first half with a completely unnecessary pass interference. He had a chance to make us forget about that little slip-up with an interception in the end zone, but chose to take it out of the end zone and pinned the Chargers inside their own five yard line.
Fans are pulling heavily for J.C., but it’s hard to empathize for a guy who’s letting his emotions get the best of him multiple times a game.
EDGE Joey Bosa
If you weren’t paying close attention to his game, you may have noticed a severe lack of “star pass rusher” throughout the afternoon. That’s because the superstar duo of Bosa and Khail Mack failed to make much of an impression on this game. The two combined for 10 pressures according to Pro Football Focus with Bosa notching four of them. All four were on hurries with him failing to land a real hand on quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. Tua averaged 2.45 seconds from snap to release on Sunday and that made it one tough task for anyone trying to take him down.
By the end of the day, Bosa actually finished with more penalties than total tackles. On the first play of the game, Bosa was called for an offsides penalty. Later, he was flagged for grabbing a face mask that only poured salt in the wound of the defense allowing a conversion on third-and-long at the same time.
It was a very forgettable evening for the Big Bear and an even worse time for fans who couldn’t wait to see what Bosa and Mack could do to a Dolphins offense that was missing starting left tackle Terron Armstead.
LB Kenneth Murray
It’s year four for Murray and it might be time to finally call it quits. I’ll admit that sounds awfully harsh, but that’s just how outclassed Murray looked while on the field Sunday. The former first-round pick bit hard on almost every play fake and was late on most assignments. If you went on “X” at all during the game, it wasn’t just Charger fans wondering what they were watching from him.
Kenneth Murray is in absolute HELL right now LOL pic.twitter.com/nP6mDehNYR— Billy M (@BillyM_91) September 10, 2023
Just started watching some Chargers defense all-22 and watching Kenneth Murray getting sucked towards the line of scrimmage against empty formation is a priv.— Timo Riske (@PFF_Moo) September 11, 2023
The film is even worse than the TV copy.
Entering Monday Night Football, Murray was graded as the worst linebacker in the NFL by Pro Football Focus with an overall mark of 29.4. His coverage grade of 30.0 was also the lowest in the NFL (min. 40 snaps played) and his run defense grade (43.3) was sixth-worst in the league among qualifiers. In all, he allowed four-of-five targets in his direction to be completed and finished with just two tackles.