Before each game I will be covering 3 players that need to perform well to help the San Diego Chargers come out on top. This week the Chargers face the Kansas City Chiefs.
Regular season football is back, and it couldn’t start off faster than playing an extremely important game within the division. If the Chargers pull off a victory against the Chiefs they will already have more wins against the division than all of last year. Here are the players that need solid performances to help that happen.
Dec 13, 2015; Kansas City, MO, USA; San Diego Chargers running back Melvin Gordon (28) is tackled by Kansas City Chiefs outside linebacker Tamba Hali (91) in the first half at Arrowhead Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports
RB Melvin Gordon
This game will be the Chargers chance to prove they aren’t the 4-12 team from last year. The easiest way to do that is show not only a commitment to the run, but an ability to pick up yardage in the running game. With Branden Oliver out for the year, the success of the running game rests heavily on Melvin Gordon’s shoulders. The good news is Melvin Gordon has shown improvement this preseason scoring 2 touchdowns. The bad news is the Chiefs have a strong front 7, one of the best in the league. So getting the running game off to a good start will remain a challenge. If Melvin Gordon can move the chains or provide manageable second downs or short yardage third downs for Philip Rivers and company, this game will run smoother for the Chargers offense than we have seen in years.
Jan 3, 2016; Glendale, AZ, USA; Seattle Seahawks defensive tackle Brandon Mebane (92) against the Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
NT Brandon Mebane
The running game is something all Kansas City Chiefs fans can hang their hat on. It’s strong, and it’s been strong for years, especially when facing the Chargers. Last year in week 11, the Chiefs ran for 153 yards and 3 touchdowns, and then in week 14 ran for 150, 40 of those yards coming from Alex Smith. The Chargers need to do a better job stopping the run than they did all last season, and it all starts up front with newly-made Charger and defensive captain Brandon Mebane. Running lanes were large and plentiful facing the Chargers last year and it’s up to Mebane to close those up. If Mebane can keep offensive linemen busy up front, look for Denzel Perryman to wreck shop. If Mebane can do his job, it will in turn allow the linebackers to hit gaps stopping the run and pressure the pass.
Sep 13, 2015; San Diego, CA, USA; San Diego Chargers linebacker Kyle Emanuel (51) intercepts a pass against the Detroit Lions during the second half of the game at Qualcomm Stadium. San Diego won 33-28. Mandatory Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports
OLB Kyle Emanuel
If Mebane plays effectively, then having Kyle Emanuel playing well might be a necessity. If the Chiefs are finding trouble running up the gut of the Chargers defense, they might simply try running around it. It will partially be up to Emanuel to make sure that doesn’t happen. Emanuel is being compared to Jarret Johnson for his edge disruption ability. If that’s the case, it isn’t hard to see why the Chargers decided to go with him over Jeremiah Attaochu for the starting OLB position. If Emanuel can stop runs headed his way, and Mebane can help stop the run from establishing up front, then Alex Smith might have to throw the ball. With the Chargers corners this year, Smith might as well take a knee.
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ILB Manti Teo
Earlier I joked about the Chiefs not being able to throw against the Chargers, but we can’t overlook the Chiefs tight ends and their pass catching ability. Look for the Chiefs to utilize 3 tight end sets to get mismatches in the middle of the field. This is not a responsibility put solely on Manti Teo’s shoulders, but as a team captain and a player that will be relied on to drop back in coverage, I am listing him here.
C Matt Slauson
Matt Slauson is a huge improvement at the center position from last year. He will have his work cut out for him facing Dontari Poe. The running game and the passing game will rely on the line being able to hold its own against the Chiefs front 7. The success of the offensive line starts with Slauson.
Who do you think needs to have a good game to help the Chargers pull off a win? Let me know in the comments down below. Bolt up!