Eyeing Up the Enemy: Los Angeles Chargers

Bob Rose

New Orleans Saints QB Drew Brees began his NFL career as a 2nd round draft choice (32nd overall) out of Purdue by the San Diego Chargers in 1999. After five seasons and a 30-28 record with the Chargers, Brees was allowed to hit the free-agent market. He would eventually sign with New Orleans in 2006, where he would forge a record-breaking Hall of Fame career over the last fourteen years. The Chargers franchise has relocated to Los Angeles, where they enter their fourth season and first in a new stadium. New Orleans will take on Brees' former franchise at home in a Monday Night matchup to cap off Week Five of the 2020 NFL season before heading into a bye week.

USATSI_9587453_168388561_lowres
Oct 2, 2016; San Diego, CA, USA; New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) is sacked by San Diego Chargers outside linebacker Melvin Ingram (54) during the second quarter at Qualcomm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

The Saints and Chargers will meet for the thirteenth time with L.A./San Diego holding a 7-5 edge in the series and a 4-1 record in New Orleans, site of this showdown. The Saints have won the last three games between the two, however, all with Brees behind center. That includes a 35-34 road victory by the Saints the last time these teams met, on 10/2/16 during the Chargers last year in San Diego.

USATSI_9587280_168388561_lowres
Oct 2, 2016; San Diego, CA, USA; New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) and San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers (17) shake hands after the Saints beat the Chargers 35-34 at Qualcomm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

Los Angeles underwent a complete makeover this offseason, parting ways with several of their longtime stars. Fourth-year HC Anthony Lynn leads a squad that finished last in the AFC West and now has new starters at quarterback, running back, and several other positions. The Chargers did re-sign RB Austin Ekeler, TE Hunter Henry, and LB Denzel Perryman this offseason provided an experienced boost of talent to their rebuilding effort. Los Angeles will still have a much different look than in years past, and today we have a look at how the Saints shape up against their Week Five opponent.

LOS ANGELES CHARGERS

USATSI_11130697_168388561_lowres
Aug 25, 2018; Carson, CA, USA; Los Angeles Chargers defensive end Melvin Ingram (54) works against New Orleans Saints offensive tackle Ryan Ramczyk (71) during the first quarter at StubHub Center. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

2019 Record: 5-11 (4th; AFC West)

Head Coach: Anthony Lynn (4th season; 26-22 record)

2019 Offensive Statistics

21.1 points/game (21st in the NFL)

  • Total Yards = 10th
  • Passing Yards = 6th
  • Rushing Yards = 28th

2019 Defensive Statistics

  • 21.6 points/game (14th)
  • Total Yards = 6th
  • Passing Yards = 5th
  • Rushing Yards = 18th

Offseason Losses: Philip Rivers (QB), Melvin Gordon (RB), Derek Watt (FB), Travis Benjamin (WR), Russell Okung (T), Michael Schofield (G), Brandon Mebane (DT), Thomas Davis (LB), Adrian Phillips (S)

Offseason Additions: Bryan Bulaga (T), Trai Turner (G), Linval Joseph (DT), Nick Vigil (LB), Chris Harris Jr. (CB), Justin Herbert (QB-Rookie), Kenneth Murray (LB-Rookie), Joshua Kelley (RB-Rookie)

USATSI_11147548_168388561_lowres
Aug 25, 2018; Carson, CA, USA; Los Angeles Chargers wide receiver Keenan Allen (13) and wide receiver Mike Williams (81) at the line as New Orleans Saints cornerback Marshon Lattimore (23) defends at StubHub Center. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

Gone is 14-Yr starter Philip Rivers, who San Diego chose over Brees in 2005. In as the new face of the franchise is 6th overall selection, Justin Herbert, out of Oregon. Veteran signal-caller Tyrod Taylor may start the year while Herbert learns the offense but expect the rookie to take over the role sooner rather than later. Herbert will have some talented offensive weapons around him. Three-time Pro Bowl WR Keenan Allen is one of the better receivers and route runners in the game. Fellow 1,000-Yd WR Mike Williams provides a prominent and athletic target, while fifth-year TE Hunter Henry is one of the league's most underrated players when he can stay healthy. 

Losing the talented Gordon in free agency is a blow, but Austin Ekeler has been a valuable and versatile weapon in his three years. The Chargers have an offensive line that allowed 34 sacks and several QB knockdowns last year hopes for improvement from the offseason additions of Bulaga and Turner. The Chargers were able to roll up yardage proficiently but need more consistent balance from their running attack and must better convert their red zone opportunities into points while cutting back on the crippling turnovers that were the fourth most in the league last season.

USATSI_11130747_168388561_lowres
Aug 25, 2018; Carson, CA, USA; Los Angeles Chargers defensive back Derwin James (33) intercepts a pass intended for New Orleans Saints wide receiver Ted Ginn (19) and defensive back Desmond King (20) assists during the first quarter at StubHub Center. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

Statistically, the Los Angeles defense looked solid in 2019 but could not come up with big plays in crucial moments. The Chargers forced just 14 turnovers, the lowest total in the league, and only three teams performed worse than their 45.1% in third-down percentage. Los Angeles has a lethal tandem of edge rushers with Joey Bosa (11.5 sacks) and Melvin Ingram (7 sacks), but the rest of the defense was only able to generate 11.5 sacks outside of them. 

Perryman is a solid ILB and will be joined at the position by the 23rd overall draft selection Murray, who will be expected to upgrade the team's run defense immensely. Veteran CB Harris teams with the talented Casey Heyward in hopes of generating more turnovers and solidifying coverage against top receivers in the secondary. S Derwin James returns from a foot injury that forced him to miss all but five games last year to give the Chargers an All-Pro playmaker on the back end.

USATSI_11130689_168388561_lowres
Aug 25, 2018; Carson, CA, USA; New Orleans Saints running back Alvin Kamara (41) is defended by Los Angeles Chargers defensive back Derwin James (33) during the second quarter at StubHub Center. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

QB Drew Brees is undefeated against his former team, and the Saints have averaged over 34 points in those three matchups with Brees averaging over 300 yards passing while throwing 9 touchdowns and 3 interceptions. New Orleans WRs Michael Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders will face stiff challenges against Harris and Heyward. 

Saints TE Jared Cook and RB Alvin Kamara could enjoy an advantage over an L.A. pass defense that struggled to defend those positions last year. Ingram and Bosa are disruptive along the edge, but Terron Armstead and Ryan Ramczyk are the best pair of offensive tackles in the league and have shut down some of the NFL's best pass rushers over the last three years.

USATSI_11130704_168388561_lowres
Aug 25, 2018; Carson, CA, USA; Los Angeles Chargers wide receiver Mike Williams (81) is defended by New Orleans Saints cornerback Marshon Lattimore (23) during the first quarter at StubHub Center. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

Saints CBs Marshon Lattimore and Janoris Jenkins will have a marquee battle against L.A. WRs Keenan Allen and Mike Williams. Their ability to contain the receivers will allow the defense to design different coverage packages to control the receiving skills of TE Hunter Henry and RB Austin Ekeler. The New Orleans defense must establish control of the line of scrimmage against a questionable Chargers offensive line to eliminate the threat of a running game and pressure Herbert or Taylor to disrupt the offensive flow. Ends Cameron Jordan and Marcus Davenport, along with a deep rotation of defensive tackles, will be a challenge for the remade Los Angeles line and will be the key to success on that side of the ball.

USATSI_11130685_168388561_lowres
Aug 25, 2018; Carson, CA, USA; New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) passes during the second quarter against the Los Angeles Chargers at StubHub Center. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

This contest will be just the second time that Brees will face his former team under the lights of the Superdome and perhaps the last time for the 41-Yr old legend. Brees has always downplayed any extra meaning behind playing the team that gave up on him fifteen years ago. However, his teammates have acknowledged the extra intensity on how he prepares for the Chargers matchups - even during past preseason games. More importantly to both Brees and his team is for them to head into the 2020 bye week with momentum by notching a win against an out of conference foe.

Comments (2)
No. 1-1
SamL
SamL

The positional matchups on offense and defense should make the game very interesting.


News

FEATURED
COMMUNITY