The Chargers kicked off the 2023 season with a matchup against the Dolphins that wasn’t packed to the brim with storylines. This week, things are a little less exciting matchup-wise, but it’s still as important as they come. There’s no connection between the quarterbacks and no notable revenge game potential in sight.
But football is football and we’re still going to have a blast watching this one.
Below, fellow BFTB analyst and I once again wrote up three storylines to watch as the Chargers take the field in Nashville to face the Titans.
1.) Justin Herbert bounce back game
The Chargers put up the second-most yards on offense in Week One headlined by 234 yards on the ground via Austin Ekeler and Joshua Kelley. When your ground game is taking everything that it wants, you don’t have to rely neatly as much on your passing game. That was probably a refreshing change of pace for the fan base, but then you remember how much you love watching Justin Herbert sling it so you can’t help but feel conflicted.
The Titans were stingy on the ground, allowing just 69 yards rushing to the Saints who were without suspended back Alvin Kamara. Through the air, however, the Saints were able to earn chunk plays consistently and ultimately finished with 282 yards passing. That was the fourth-most in the NFL in Week One. - Michael Peterson
2.) Can young players step up in the absence of several veterans hobbled by injuries
The Chargers did not start off their second week of prep in good standing with the injury report. After Daiyan Henley and Chris Rumph II were the only two to grace the report last week, the Bolts began Week Two with three news names. Unfortunately, all three are full-time starters and impact players in Austin Ekeler, Joey Bosa, and Erick Kendricks.
After the defensive collapse against Miami, it’s tough to imagine now entering their next game 0-1 and feeling confident in the ability to pull out a victory without two defensive starters at crucial positions...or is it?
Down the second half stretch of the 2022 season, the Chargers were, at times, missing Joey Bosa, Derwin James, Sebastian Joseph-Day and J.C. Jackson. Specifically, they were missing Bosa, Joseph-Day, and Derwin against the Dolphins in Week 14. We all remember how that went, right? Maybe it’s just me, but this team tends to find a new gear to play at when they know the deck is stacked against them. Just look at last season! The Chargers dropped the a handful of games they rightly should have won (Broncos, Seahawks, Jaguars in the playoffs) when their team came into the night “healthy”. - Michael Peterson
3.) Does the Chargers' Run Defense stand up to its first real test?
The run game numbers from the Chargers' Week 1 matchup were adequate for most teams but exceptional compared to the 2022 numbers for the Bolts. However the tape does not reflect the perception the data presents, 20 attempts for 70 yards was one of very few things Staley was happy about on Sunday but once he sees the way run fits were messed up, gaps left open and leverages lost, he will have quickly stifled any kind of arrogance. Over the first two drives the Dolphins were averaging 9.6 yards per carry and looked like they could have carried that on before they realised it wasn't needed when they could pass the ball for 10.4 yards per attempt instead. The second level in particular needs to improve their understanding of how gap assignments change with personnel, formations and both pre and post snap motions. The apex position is one I'm expecting the Titans to target as this was a weak area in an already weak showing during those opening exchanges.
The Titans may have only averaged 4.7 yards per carry in Week 1 but that was against a stout Saints' front 7 and the threat that backfield possesses isn't something to take lightly. Tennessee added Tyjae Spears via the draft and he is already looking like the counterpoint to Derrick Henry's all-out power approach to the position, so the Chargers' will have to be more aware and flexible than in previous matchups with the Titans if they hope to force the ball into Ryan Tannehil's hands. - Ryan Watkins