The discussions amongst fans and media following the Chargers’ loss to the Dolphins have spanned all sides of the spectrum – from being factual and objective to being completely over-reactionary.
Here are two truths and two overreactions from Week 1:
Truth: The offense is finding their identity
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New offensive coordinator Kellen Moore is implementing what is looking to be a fantastic new offense. Week 1 is always a bit rocky when a brand-new scheme has been thrown at players during the offseason, but the Chargers managed to put up fantastic numbers on offense all night. They were one of only six teams in the NFL to put up more than 30 points on offense in the first week – 28 of which came from four touchdowns and four extra points. The run game was solid, the wide receivers were running intricate routes, and Justin Herbert was finally allowed to pass over 10 yards consistently. As the weeks continue, this offense should be even more dangerous.
Overreaction: Kenneth Murray is the worst player in the NFL
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It’s been going on four years of watching terrible linebacker play from the team as a whole, but every year, Murray disappoints more and more, which should be impossible at this point. Murray is never in the right place, he can’t tackle in space, and he often collides with his teammates, resulting in missed opportunities for turnovers or, worse, injuries. In the Wild Card playoff matchup between the Chargers and the Jaguars last season, Murray collided with Michael Davis – who was playing at CB1 for the year – which quickly ended his season with a back injury. From that point forward, the defense progressively worsened as the Jaguars continued to score points while the Chargers scrambled to fix their sudden personnel issue in the secondary. On Sunday, Murray collided with multiple players and gave many fans flashbacks to that very moment from last season. Murray should have been cut last year, but instead, Los Angeles decided to make him LB2 again – for what reason I cannot understand.
Truth: The offensive line is just warming up
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Thankfully, left tackle Rashawn Slater has returned for the Chargers and Herbert is back in a more secure pocket. The line created massive holes for Austin Ekeler and Joshua Kelley to burst through on Sunday, resulting in some incredible rushing plays and over 200 yards on the ground. The line also held its own in the passing game, with Herbert having to rush for just 18 yards total and only taking two sacks on the final drive of the game. While the blitz was an issue in the final two minutes, the line as a whole was looking much better than last year, and with the playbook slowly solidifying itself in the minds of the offensive roster and week one acting as “preseason” for all of the Chargers’ starters, they should only get better.
Overreaction: Brandon Staley should have been left to buy his own flight home
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In just one offseason, Kellen Moore has already managed to do more for his offense than Staley has for his defense in two years. Hired as a young “defensive guru,” Staley was supposed to enter the office and start drawing up a plan to fix an abysmal defense left to him by ex-Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn and defensive coordinator Gus Bradley – but after two years, it seems like maybe firing those two coaches was the wrong decision after all. Since Staley has been head coach, the Chargers have consistently been in the bottom four in the league in every defensive statistic. It’s amazing that he has managed to be above .500 in his tenure, but this is attributed to Herbert constantly having to bail his team out nearly every game. Without him, the Chargers would have a very different record and future. Staley has to give up playcalling duties to Derrick Ansley for the good of the team. During the preseason, Ansley was able to call a backup defense that looked pretty great; they forced turnovers, tackled in space, stuffed the run, and stacked up sack numbers. On Sunday, not one starting defensive lineman had a hit, sack, or tackle. On top of this, Khalil Mack was lining up opposite Tyreek Hill – a matchup only seen in my worst nightmares. There is no identity on defense. It seems as though it’s every man for himself and the game plans are atrocious. In 2022, the Chargers managed to hold the Dolphins to just 17 points on offense and Michael Davis locked down Hill for the entire game thanks to Staley calling just three plays in man coverage. In 2023, the Dolphins are running it back with most of the same offense and the same offensive coaching staff. Yet, this past Sunday, Staley thought it would be a great idea to call over 80% of all plays in man coverage against the fastest offense in the entire National Football League, which in turn allowed Hill to dominate the defense for the whole game. Staley continued to outcoach himself – whether it was ego, nerves, or just plain stupidity, something has to change.