We’re mere days away from the Chargers kicking off their 2022 season against the rival Las Vegas Raiders.
Starting lineups are beginning to crystallize, injury reports are finalizing, and football is back.
Here are some keys to the game on defense to ensure Los Angeles comes away 1-0:
Rattle Derek Carr
The stats match the eye test with Carr, revealing a quarterback who gets flustered when the rush begins to close in. Per Pro Football Focus, Carr’s turnover-worthy play percentage on all plays in 2021 was 3.2%, good for 13th in the league, along with Josh Allen, Dak Prescott, and Matt Ryan. But when the pressure starts to get home, Carr’s turnover-worthy play percentage jumps to 7%, the fifth highest in the league. Only Ben Roethlisberger, Jimmy Garoppolo, Tua Tagovailoa, and Sam Darnold were worse under pressure last season. Of those four, Tagovailoa is the only one with a starting job in 2022. With a weak offensive line in front of him, scheming ways to get Joey Bosa and Khalil Mack into the pocket will force Carr into mistakes.
Limit Davante Adams
You’ll never completely shut Adams down, especially now that he’s back playing with his college quarterback. But limiting his impact on this game will undoubtedly be a point of emphasis. If JC Jackson can play, it’s an easy fix: put Jackson on an island with Adams, hope your guy wins, and move on. But if Jackson can’t go as he continues to rehab from ankle surgery, Brandon Staley and defensive coordinator Renaldo Hill will have to get more creative. Neither Michael Davis nor Asante Samuel Jr. has the chops to stick with Adams one-on-one. LA will have to dedicate more safety help, likely from Nasir Adderley, in zone looks to keep Adams honest.
Hold up in run defense.
This goes without saying, considering Josh Jacobs ran for 132 yards on 26 carries in Week 18 last season. LA reinforced the defensive line this offseason and kept vaunted run stopper Breiden Fehoko over Christian Covington, who’s more of a pass rush specialist from the interior. Jacobs was 37th in the league in rushing DVOA among running backs with at least 100 carries last season, so his standout performance against the Chargers wasn’t the norm. If LA can field even a competent run defense this time around, they should be able to stymie Jacobs.
Win the turnover battle
In the Week 18 matchup last season, the Chargers failed to record a turnover while the Raiders intercepted Justin Herbert and forced an Andre Roberts fumble on a punt return. LA did force two fumbles, one on Derek Carr and one on tight end Foster Moreau, but Vegas recovered both. But in the Week 4 game, the Chargers picked off Carr and stayed clean on offense en route to a 28-14 victory. As mentioned, getting Carr off-rhythm will force him into mistakes. Converting on those mistakes and forcing the Raiders defense to spend most of the game on the field could be the difference, considering how high-octane Vegas’ offense looks on paper.