Scouting Report: Joey Bosa, Melvin Ingram pose challenge to Chiefs in Week 1
Chargers star DE Joey Bosa was limited in practice during the week with a left foot injury, and head coach Anthony Lynn said the injury could keep Bosa out of the game. His status should be a game-time decision.
Starting DT Corey Liuget starts a four-game suspension this week for violation of the league's policy on performance-enhancing substance and will not play.
For the Chiefs, safety Eric Berry continues rehabbing a sore heel. The Chiefs should know Friday if Berry can play in Week 1. His absence would serve as a blow to the team's revamped secondary.
TE Demetrius Harris received a one-game suspension from the league stemming from his guilty plea to marijuana possession charges and his arrest in March 2017. Harris can return next week, but Alex Ellis takes his place as the No. 2 tight end against the Chargers.
Key Offensive Players
#17 QB Philip Rivers – Entering his 15th season, Rivers has seen just about everything possible in the NFL. The offense runs mostly through him. Expect Rivers to have 35 to 40 passing attempts and test the Chiefs rebuilt secondary often.
#28 RB Melvin Gordon III – Gordon continues to improve with each season spent in the league. The Chargers get him the ball 20-25 times per game, both in the running and passing game, although he will do most of the damage on the ground. Gordon will be one of the go-to guys near the goal line. Look for him to have 80 to 100 yards rushing and another 30 receiving.
#13 WR Keenan Allen - Allen is the unquestioned No. 1 wide receiver on this team. He will be thrown the ball early and often, you can count on him having 10-15 targets per game and 7-12 receptions.
#12 WR Travis Benjamin – Benjamin is the speed threat and gadget guy in the receiving corp. He is the big play guy, averaging 16.7 yards per catch last season. Watch out for him on a reverse or end around at least once.
#81 WR Mike Williams – at 6-4, 220 pounds, Williams poses a matchup nightmare. Keep an eye on him in the red zone as he has the perfect size to take over the previous role held by tight ends Hunter Henry (injured) and Antonio Gates (recently re-signed).
What the Chargers Like to Do
The Chargers have some unique tendencies. With the starters this preseason the offense appeared very right-hand dominant in the passing game. In the Week 15 game vs. the Chiefs last year the Chargers were more balanced in where they threw the ball. Crossing routes, pick plays, flood route concepts, running back flares, and four verticals are some of the more common ways they attack a defense in the air. When Rivers feels pressure, he gets the ball out of his hands quickly.
In the run game the Chargers favor power schemes and inside zone to the right along with outside zone and stretch plays to the left. One of their favorite plays is an inside zone to the right with Benjamin lining up on the right, cutting down his splits (leaving less space between him and the offensive tackle to his side). Benjamin then goes in orbital motion with Rivers faking a handoff to him to hold the backside defenders. The ball is usually handed off to the running, and the wide receiver in motion is just misdirection. The Chargers run this play multiple times a game to set up the eventual hand off to Benjamin running wide to the left.
Where to Attack the Chargers
Melvin Gordon is a very good running back but failed to top 80 yards against the Chiefs last season. Kansas City also held Rivers in check, keeping him under 240 yards passing in both games and forcing six interceptions. The secondary must step up against a solid receiving corps. The Chiefs' defensive ends and outside linebackers need to take advantage of the tackles for the Chargers and drive them back into Rivers’ lap, forcing him into mistakes.
Key Defensive Players
#54 DE Melvin Ingram III – Ingram ranked second on the team in sacks a year ago with 10 1/2 and comes off his first Pro Bowl season. His 29 sacks during the last three seasons illustrate the difficulties offensive lines have handling Ingram.
#99 DE Joey Bosa – Bosa lead the team last season with 12 1/2 sacks and four forced fumbles. Ingram and Bosa make up a very dangerous pass-rushing duo.
#26 CB Casey Hayward – Hayward earned All-Pro honors last season and finished second on the team with four interceptions. Hayward is the class of the Chargers secondary. Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes needs to minimize risks when throwing to Hayward’s side of the field.
#37 S Jahleel Addae – Addae led the Chargers with 90 total tackles during the 2017 season, so expect to find him around the ball a lot.
#33 S Derwin James – James makes his NFL debut Sunday but possesses all the tools to make a big impact in this game. He's an athletic freak with an alpha dog mentality (think Jalen Ramsey from Jacksonville) who is still learning his craft. He gives the Chargers defensive big-play potential.
The Chargers defense relies on fast, athletic players that flow well to the ball. The defensive end combo of Bosa and Ingram combined for 23 sacks last year and can bring pressure on every down. Hayward and James provide the Chargers with ballhawk potential in the secondary.
The loss of Liuget hurts the middle of the Chargers defense. The speed of the defense can be a liability at times because the team flows too fast to the action and becomes susceptible to cutbacks and reverses. Running right at the defense stands a better chance of success rather than stretching runs to the sidelines.
The linebackers flow fast to the run, leaving the intermediate passing game wide open on play-action passes. The secondary struggles to cover crossing routes while in man coverage and defending the wheel route when facing a post/wheel route combination.
Special Teams Notes
Punt returner Benjamin has shifty speed and remains dangerous in the open field. Best to angle punts to the sideline to limit his running lanes.
Desmond King is an average kick returner and not a real threat to break a big run back.
Kicker Caleb Sturgis comes off a left hip flexor tear from Week 1 of the 2017. He still has a good leg and boots most kickoffs into the end zone. Sturgis connects on 81 percent of his field goal tries.