The Los Angeles Chargers finished the first quarter of their 2019 season with a 2-2 record. In this article, I’m going to discuss how position groups, players and overall performance have compared to my preseason predictions and expectations thus far.
In my preseason prediction for the Chargers, I had them finishing 12-4 again and taking the division. This thinking came mostly from the overall talent on both sides of the ball and the fact that the Chargers showed an ability to close out and win close games (especially on the road) in the 2018 season. The Bolts have already suffered some key injuries and their two losses have come on self-inflicted wounds and costly mistakes. After a dominant win over the Miami Dolphins, the Bolts could be trending in the right direction.
This is a Chargers offense that has quietly been playing at an elite level, although they are banged up it has not completely been shown with their points scored. They are currently sixth in the NFL in yards per game, and they have done this despite key injuries and some extremely costly penalties. Keenan Allen, Philip Rivers, and Austin Ekeler have all been amazing thus far, and they will only continue to shine when guys like Mike Williams and Hunter Henry are fully healthy and back on the field.
Offensive Line/Running backs
These are the position groups that carried the most uncertainty coming into the 2019 season, and rightfully so. With Melvin Gordon’s holdout and Russel Okung’s unfortunate blood clots, the two best players from the offensive line and running back rooms were not going to be playing come Week 1.
There was still a lot of faith in the running back room and the depth it carried, especially considering Anthony Lynn’s proven success with running backs. There was simply less trust and hope in the offensive line but they have been quietly solid as they continue to improve each week.
The assumption was that the Chargers would use a running back-by-committee approach until Gordon returned, but Ekeler has proven to people everywhere that this would not be the case.
Ekeler has shown complete ability to handle a starting running back role, with a skillset that shines in the Chargers’ offense. Austin has an ability to slither and power through tackles, while also possessing the breakaway speed and receiving skills that make him an absolute threat to any opposing defense.
Ekeler has been a top playmaker in the NFL so far this season, putting up some ridiculous numbers: 56 rushes for 220 yards and three touchdowns, while also bringing in 24 balls for 270 yards and another three touchdowns. Now that Gordon has ended his holdout, the hope is that the Chargers continue to utilize the unique skillset that Ekeler possesses while also letting Gordon thrive.
Justin Jackson has also been great (7.9 YPC), albeit he has seen limited opportunities and even had two touchdowns called back. Jackson has proven he can be trusted as a depth guy in the third-string spot.
— NFL (@NFL) September 30, 2019
The offensive line was a big point of concern coming into the season, especially considering the loss of star left tackle Russel Okung. Okung has proven to be extremely reliable protecting Philip Rivers’ blindside. This meant that Russel’s replacement, Trent Scott, had some pretty big shoes to fill.
Scott has been inconsistent, but the idea that he has been a disaster is simply incorrect. In the run game, the line has shown strength and speed which mixes perfectly with offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt’s run style that includes a lot of sweeps, motions and guards pulling.
The consistency is all that’s missing, especially in regards to awfully-timed penalties that have already brought back three Chargers touchdowns on the year. I’m in no way saying the Chargers’ offensive line has been great, but it has definitely exceeded expectations and has continued to improve each week. A huge part of this is the veteran leadership of center Mike Pouncey combined with the unbelievably high football IQ of Rivers.
These two have chemistry and are able to make the job easier for the rest of the linemen by recognizing blitzes and communicating them.
The return of Gordon combined with Ekeler’s play and the solid run blocking by the offensive line is very important if this Chargers offense is going to continue performing at a high level.