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4 matchups to watch in Chargers vs. Chiefs

The Chargers’ roster will go through a final audition on Sunday before the offseason begins, promising a complete overhaul of LA’s roster going into the 2024 season.

With a battle against the Chiefs’ backups on deck, here are a few matchups to watch in the contest.

Chargers WR Alex Erickson vs. Chiefs CBs Joshua Williams & Jaylen Watson

Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports
Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Erickson has been one of the pleasant surprises of this stretch of Charger football. The 31 year old has consistently made important catches and his chemistry with Easton Stick has been evident – Erickson had 7 catches for 98 yards against Denver last week. The eighth-year pro is also a pending free agent, meaning that Sunday is his final pitch to stay in Los Angeles beyond this season.

It’s not abundantly clear who will take the bulk of the reps in the slot for Kansas City – L’Jarius Sneed and Trent McDuffie have shared the role for most of the season, but neither player will play more than a quarter or so in all likelihood. Williams and Watson are both primarily outside corners, the latter of whom is a familiar name to Chargers fans thanks to a 99 yard pick six of Justin Herbert last season. There’s also a potential that Erickson will draw rookie Nic Jones, who has yet to log a regular season snap on defense.

Chargers OL Jordan McFadden vs. Chiefs DTs Derrick Nnadi and Tershawn Wharton

Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports
Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

McFadden is currently in line to start a second consecutive game with Zion Johnson (neck) still being held out of practice this week. The fifth-round rookie from Clemson held his own against the Broncos last week, giving this game some momentum potential.

It wasn’t very long ago that Chargers fans got excited about Johnson for the way he held his own against Chiefs defensive tackle Chris Jones. Jones will likely barely play on Sunday as Kansas City tries to avoid injuries to their top stars, but Nnadi and Wharton are no slouches, either. If McFadden is able to give the Chargers a boost – last week’s performance on the ground was one of their most effective of the year – it could go a long way towards a potential competition for a starting spot next offseason.

Chargers CBs vs. Chiefs WR Justin Watson

Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports
Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Rashee Rice, Kansas City’s best receiver this season, seems like he could miss Sunday’s game with a hamstring injury that has kept him out of practice all week. Otherwise, he’d likely play a bulk of the snaps to try to keep him in the rhythm he’s developed over the past few weeks.

Instead, expect Watson’s snaps to spike, along with Mecole Hardman and Justyn Ross. Watson is also no stranger to the Chargers, having beat JC Jackson on a 41 yard touchdown in that September 2022 matchup. Jackson is, of course, now gone, leaving behind a corner room that has continued to struggle with the explosive play. While that’s improved slightly with Derrick Ansley calling the plays, Los Angeles’ current trio of Asante Samuel Jr., Michael Davis, and Deane Leonard don’t have the consistent downfield presence to keep a burner like Watson from impacting the game. It’s unclear if Leonard will suit up, having missed the last two games with a heel injury that’s kept him limited in practice this week.

Chargers LBs Nick Niemann and Daiyan Henley vs. Chiefs RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Isiah Pacheco has been banged up for the last month, which should only make Kansas City’s decision to rest him against the Chargers easier. With Jerick McKinnon on injured reserve, that leaves Edwards-Helaire to take most of the carries, with La’Mical Perine the backup.

Edwards-Helaire is more of a threat to catch the ball than Pacheco would be, which means that coverage by LA’s linebackers will be critical in stopping the Chiefs from driving the ball. That’s especially true with Blaine Gabbert starting instead of Patrick Mahomes, which should lead to a drastic drop in depth of target for Kansas City. Niemann got the start last week with Kenneth Murray sidelined due to a shoulder injury and performed decently well against the Broncos, but Chargers fans have been clamoring to see Henley, LA’s third-round pick last April. Henley played one drive on defense against Denver before experiencing some groin tightness, but has practiced in full this week and should be a full go on Sunday.

Story originally appeared on Chargers Wire