Chargers Defense / Special Teams:
This Chargers defense received a lot of hype going into the 2019 season, and their opening game performance was disappointing, especially in the run game. The Colts running back Marlon Mack gashed the Chargers, finishing with 174 yards on 25 attempts.
The run defense was nonexistent, with the whole front seven getting dominated on seemingly every play by the Colts’ (very good) offensive line. This was a worrisome aspect for the Chargers last season too but the improvement was expected due to the addition of Thomas Davis and key guys returning from injuries that had their seasons cut short last year, especially in the linebacker room.
The loss of All-Pro safety Derwin James is felt heavily in the run game, but the Chargers defense will have to figure it out until he returns from his injury. This is also a Chargers team that has shown they like to start slow in their first couple games of the season, and I believe this defense will steadily improve and prove they deserve the hype they were getting.
The depth at the cornerback position is also concerning, and although Casey Hayward showed his top-level coverage ability, there isn’t much help on the opposite side. With the injuries to both Michael Davis and Trevor Williams, the Chargers were forced to put in Brandon Facyson, who was picked on the rest of the day by Jacoby Brissett.
Facyson is not a guy the Chargers want to rely on, and unless Williams or Davis are suddenly healthy, Tom Telesco may want to try making a move to acquire a more trustworthy cornerback. Another idea is to push Desmond King outside, or let former cornerback turned safety Nasir Adderley give it a shot.
Update: Williams was placed on IR on Wednesday.
Anthony Lynn said the #Chargers are looking into making a move at corner with Trevor Williams (quad) and Michael Davis (hamstring) both dealing with injuries.
— Daniel Popper (@danielrpopper) September 9, 2019
There were a few positive takeaways on the defensive side of the ball, including the deadly duo of Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa looking dominant. Bosa finished with a defensive grade of 87.3, which was the highest defensive grade on the team, according to PFF.
Davis also racked up 14 tackles, while fellow linebacker Kyzir White also impressed with his ability to be all over the field. Denzel Perryman is still nursing an ankle injury, but his return will also be important for the defense as a whole.
Hopefully, first-round pick Jerry Tillery will make his presence more felt as the season goes on, considering he was rather quiet against the Colts.
Overall, it was a disappointing Week 1, but the Chargers were dealing with one of the best offensive lines in football and still showed a few bright spots. This defense has the firepower to be amongst the league’s best, but they need to play much better than they did on Sunday.
Believe it or not, the Chargers had a very solid game in the special teams department. Other than an unfortunate muffed punt from proven returner King, the Chargers were perfect on field goals, covered well on punts and kickoffs, and even had a big play from fan favorite rookie Drue Tranquill who blocked a punt.
Tranquill was great on all aspects of special teams, as was fellow rookie and second-round draft pick Adderley. These are both guys that can end up having a big impact on defense, so it was very promising to see them making plays on special teams.
With the unfortunate news of trusted kicker Michael Badgley suffering a groin injury, the Chargers had to rely on first-year punter/kicker Ty Long to handle the kicking and punting duties. Surprisingly, he outplayed Hall of Fame kicker Adam Vinatieri, finishing perfect on all kicks and punting two balls inside the Colts’ 20-yard line.
After last year’s horrible punting performance from Donnie Jones, it’s very promising to see a guy like Long who not only handled the immense pressure in his first game action but played really well.