Before each game, I will be covering three players who need to perform well to help the Chargers come out on top. This week the Chargers face the Oakland Raiders.
With a dynamic offense and elite talent on defense, the Raiders have started hot this season going 3-1. The Chargers are significant underdogs in this game. Many fans and experts alike have the Chargers penciled in the loss column.
If the Chargers are going to want to stay competitive or even relevant for the rest of the season, here are some players who need to outperform the competition.
LB Jatavis Brown
Plan on Jatavis Brown being involved in the Chargers’ defense for the rest of the season. Don’t worry, this could be a very good thing. If not for the success of this season, for the success of the Chargers in future seasons. Many fans were upset at the Chargers for not drafting Myles Jack in the second round of the 2016 NFL draft. There are still plenty of reasons to remain upset at the Chargers, but not drafting Jack shouldn’t remain one. Brown has shown a good amount of talent and is a way better compliment to Denzel Perryman than Manti Te’o. Against the Raiders, the Chargers should utilize Brown’s speed to keep Derek Carr under pressure. The Raiders’ offensive line is a good one, so this will be a solid test to see if Brown can weave his way through tough linemen and make plays.
The Raiders will be missing their starting running back Latavius Murray. With the run game being less of a threat, there is even more of a reason to let Brown loose on Carr.
TE Antonio Gates
Philip Rivers has lost all of his reliable targets. Every receiver he has relied on before this year is gone–except for Antonio Gates. If there was a time that Gates could brush off five years of wear and tear, now would be the time. It’s an impossible thing to ask of a player who has been around the league for so long, but it might be the only way the Chargers can stay competitive. With Gates in, the Chargers can have a successful 12 personnel formation. This will allow Hunter Henry to move around the line, helping with blocking and pass-catching during play action. The Chargers’ offense might still shine with this formation, but how many snaps Gates can be relied on will determine the amount of success.
Every cornerback not named Casey Hayward
The Chargers lost their best player on defense this week in Jason Verrett. Not only is this a significant gut punch to the fans, but this is an injury the Chargers can’t game plan around. Putting Verrett on a receiver would hinder an opposing offense alone. Now the Chargers don’t have that option, and they are relying on free-agent signings and bottom depth corners to cover some of the most productive receivers in the NFL. Casey Hayward has shown to be a great signing, but everyone else is going to have to perform well above expectations to keep this Raiders’ offense in check.
DE Joey Bosa
Finally, Joey Bosa will be in pads Sunday. How involved is up in the air, but make no mistake, when he steps on the field, all eyes will be on him. I imagine the Raiders will want to give him a warm welcome to the NFL. By that I mean a pounding and a face full of grass..or clay. It is Oakland after all. Bosa has split the fan base with those who supported his holdout and those who didn’t. Good play by him will make that seem far in the past, allowing us to gather hand-in-hand to hate on other Charger missteps. If he struggles, the memory of him not being there for training camp and preseason will forever sear his legacy.
FS Dwight Lowery
I talked to a fellow Chargers fan a few days ago and asked him what he thought of Dwight Lowery so far this season. His response, “Who?” To be fair, if you don’t follow everything Chargers, you probably wouldn’t know who Lowery is (and probably enjoy a more cheery life). Lowery hasn’t given the average fan an opportunity to get to know him. He has been a ghost so far this season. With all the injuries in the secondary, Lowery will be relied on to give help over the top. He can’t show up late to assists and he can’t afford to miss tackles. It’s time Lowery introduces himself to the fan base with a solid performance against the Raiders.