Michael Peterson of Bolts from the Blue was nice enough to answer five questions about his Los Angeles Chargers for us ahead of this weekend’s game. Be sure and head over to Bolts from the Blue to see Michael’s questions with my answers.
1. Give us a scouting report on Justin Herbert. What does he do well? Where does he struggle?
Herbert has been, arguably, the only reason this team isn’t pining for a top-10 pick in this year’s draft. I truly believe that there is an incredibly short list of quarterbacks who could have taken this same team situation with the Chargers and kept the team alive for the postseason this late into the year.
Herbert’s intelligence makes him an excellent fit for Joe Lombardi’s offense that requires the quarterback to essentially make the perfect decision over and over and over again. His ability to go through reads at a breakneck speed is astounding and it’s a big reason why his turnover-worthy throw percentage is one of the best in the league. Of his seven interceptions this season, only one wasn’t either a drop from one of his pass-catchers or a deflection at the line of scrimmage. Herbert has some of the worst luck when it comes to these situations and it doesn’t help when the offense is so predictable that defensive lineman can time their deflections perfectly on most dropbacks.
Another area where I feel Herbert is elite is his ability to maneuver the pocket. This was on full display against the Dolphins where he was essentially running for his life on every other play only to record a completion six yards down the field. But again, that’s just the offense he’s being asked to play within. Lastly, he’s an absolute menace when throwing on the run. He’s been one of the best ever since he entered the league in 2020 and it’s incredible how we haven’t seen him regress at all in that area over the past 2+ seasons.
Now as for where he struggles? That’s tough. One of the positives I mentioned above can also be seen as a negative in that, when it comes to his processing speed, he can occasionally go a bit too fast and miss receivers who would come open moments after they looked to be covered. It happened at least once against the Dolphins and it was quite apparent on the replay just how those moments can happen.
2. How equipped are the Chargers to stop Derrick Henry?
In all honesty, they’re not all that equipped to do that. The team is still missing some of their impact players among the front seven (defensive tackle Austin Johnson, edge rusher Joey Bosa) and it remains to be seen if defensive tackle Sebastian Joseph-Day will make his return this week after missing the Dolphins game with a knee injury. Derwin James is also still a non-participant in practice this week and his absence would certainly make things easier for Henry to run inside or outside against this defense.
Linebackers Drue Tranquill and Kenneth Murray both played a heck of a game against the Dolphins and they’ll both have to strive for a repeat performance if they don’t want Henry to run rampant on Sunday. Lastly, the defensive backs are going to have to understand that for the team to truly put a cap on Henry, they’ll have to mix it up in the run game just like everyone else. It’s certainly not what they ever WANT to do, but if they can find the courage to put a lick on Henry early, that could go a long way in telling the Titans that this defense truly came to play.
3. Give us a player on the defensive side of the ball that we have never heard of who will have an impact on this game.
This is a tough one. I’m going to go with backup strong safety Alohi Gilman. The former Notre Dame product got the start against the Dolphins in place of James and had one of the best games of his career. On the very first play of the game, the Dolphins attempted to get Tyreek Hill matched up with Gilman up the sideline and it ended in a nice pass breakup for the Chargers. That play helped set the tone for the rest of the game and it ended up leading many to believe Gilman deserves more of a starting role on this defense going forward.
In the game against the Browns earlier this season, Gilman also got the start due to free safety Nasir Adderley sitting out with an injury. Not only did he play well, but he also helped seal the game by picking off Jacoby Brissett in the end zone.
4. Grade the job Brandon Staley has done in his first (almost) 2 years as the head coach. Is he a guy that can lead the Chargers to a Super Bowl?
Through nearly two seasons, I believe I’d give Brandon Staley a solid “B” at this point in his head-coaching career. He had a winning record in his first season with the Chargers and he’s poised to potentially match the 9-8 record, or even improve on it, by the end of this year despite dealing with a horrendously long list of notable injuries. People forget that the Chargers played a good chunk of last season with a makeshift secondary that often saw the Chargers starter players that were signed off the streat just days prior. This year, they’ve missed several Pro Bowlers and a pair of All-Pro players. If anything, despite all the problems with this team, it may be one of the better coaching performances in recent years when you consider that Staley has not only kept this team afloat for a winning record, but they could very well end up in the postseason after all that they’ve been through.
Do I believe Staley can lead them to the Super Bowl? I actually do, but I also believe he has to make some tough coaching staff changes to make that happen. As it stands, the offense isn’t in a sustainable enough place to take this team deep into the playoffs. It’s predicated off Herbert being absolutely perfect down-in and down-out and that’s just now how you want your team to function for the entirety of a long, long season.
5. The Chargers are a 3-point favorite in this one. Which side of that bet are you taking?
I can’t believe I’m saying it, but I’m taking the Chargers here. In a game where both defenses are near the bottom when it comes to defending what the opposing offense wants to do, I’ll take the team that wants to pass over the one that wants to run it every play. If the game remains close near the end, the team that can score quicker is likely in the better place to come out on top before time ticks away. So give me the Chargers 26-24 at home on Sunday.