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MORSE: Week 8 Preview – Patriots at Los Angeles Chargers

Mark Morse
Mark Morse on Twitter
1 month ago at 9:55 am ET
Posted Under: 2021 Patriots Season

MORSE: Week 8 Preview – Patriots at Los Angeles ChargersDavid Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

The Patriots coming off the manhandling of the lowly Jets face a quality opponent in the Los Angeles Chargers.  The Chargers are in 2nd place in the AFC West and are coming off their BYE week.

Offense

STARTER 2ND 3RD
QB Justin Herbert Chase Daniel Easton Stick
RB Austin Ekeler Joshua Kelley Justin Jackson
WR Mike Williams Joshua Palmer
WR Keenan Allen Andre Roberts
WR Jalen Guyton
TE Jared Cook Donald Parham Jr. Stephen Anderson
FB Gabe Nabers
LT Rashawn Slater Trey Pipkins III
LG Matt Feiler Brenden Jaimes Senio Kelemete
C Corey Linsley Scott Quessenberry
RG Michael Schofield III Senio Kelemete Brenden Jaimes
RT Storm Norton Michael Schofield III Bryan Bulaga IR

 

Second-year QB Justin Herbert, coming off the rookie of the year award is the real deal.  According to Bill Belichick “He’s as good a quarterback as I’ve seen come out here in quite a while, I think he’s going to be one of the top quarterbacks in the league for a long time to come.”  Herbert has lived up to preseason hype. In six games this season, Herbert has led the Chargers to a 4-2 record near the top of the AFC West (1/2 game behind the Las Vegas Raiders) while passing for 1,771 yards with 14 touchdowns and four interceptions. If he continues on this path he will be in the MVP conversations much of 2021.  However, the Patriots traveled to Los Angeles last year and thumped the Chargers 45-0!  Can Bill Belichick and his staff come up with another game plan to stump the young QB?  Herbert is very mobile and can easily keep drives alive with his feet.  Containing him while applying pressure will be the pass- rushers goal this week, rather than making sacks.  We don’t want to see any flybys from the Defensive Ends.

 

Running back Austin Ekeler was hurt during the season and was held in check by the Patriots.  He had 8 rushes for 36 yards and 4 catches for 32 yards.  He is the engine that makes the Chargers’ offense go.  He has been one of my favorite players in the league for years.  Ekeler has rushed 73 times for 356 yards (4.9 YPC) and 4 TDs.  He is even a better receiving threat with 27 catches on 32 targets, 242 yards (9.0 YPC), and 3 more TDs.  If you stop Ekeler, you can force Herbert to be one-dimensional. And force him into mistakes.  The Patriots have had difficulties stopping the short passes to the backs.  It appears they will give up the play in front of them and try to make the sure tackle, rather than give up the chunk play down the field.

The Chargers have two excellent Wide Receivers in Keenan Allen and Mike Williams.  Allen runs very precise routes with multiple moves to get open.  In fact, he gets wide open, often.  No shade on the Patriots’ DBs, he does this to the rest of the league too!  Allen has been targeted 58 times with 39 receptions for 419 yards (10.7 YPC) and one TD.   When Herbert needs a first down he goes to the veteran.  Mike Williams has emerged as the number one receiver this year.  At 6’4” 218 lbs, Williams is a difficult matchup for any DB.  The former 7th overall selection in the 2017 draft is having his finest season, despite being slowed by a knee injury.  He was less than effective during the Chargers 34-6 loss at Baltimore in Week 6.  Coming off the BYE week and having the opportunity to rest the knee he is stating that he is a full go for the Patriots.  Williams has 33 catches on 54 targets for 498 yards (15.1 YPC) and 6 TDs.  He is the big-play threat.  Can Joejuan Williams, a bigger DB, coming off his best game as a pro last week, be counted on to perhaps be part of a double team effort on Williams.  Shaun Wade another bigger CB, has practiced this week.  Might we see his debut?

Jared Cook leads the TE’s in receptions with 21 but he is not the threat he has been in the past.  Donald Parham Jr. is a big target at 6’ 8”.  The second-year pro has just 7 receptions.

The Chargers Offensive line is very Non-descript.  They have a potential superstar in their #1 selection, 13th overall in LT Rashawn Slater.  C Corey Linsley is a very underrated player.  Herbert has been sacked 11 times in 6 games.  In comparison, Jones has been sacked 14 times in 7 games.  Considering the injuries and COVID issue the Pats have faced and the fact that Jones is the most blitzed QB in the league I think the Patriots, with a healthy O-line, have the advantage.

 

Defense

STARTER 2ND 3RD
LDE Jerry Tillery Christian Covington Joe Gaziano
NT Linval Joseph Forrest Merrill
RDE Christian Covington Justin Jones IR
WLB Joey Bosa Kyler Fackrell
LILB Drue Tranquill Q Nick Niemann Kenneth Murray Jr. IR
RILB Kyzir White Amen Ogbongbemiga
SLB Uchenna Nwosu Chris Rumph II Damon Lloyd IR
LCB Chris Harris Jr. Asante Samuel Jr. Ryan Smith
SS Derwin James Jr. Alohi Gilman Trey Marshall
FS Nasir Adderley Mark Webb Jr.
RCB Michael Davis Tevaughn Campbell Kemon Hall

 

The Chargers are susceptible on Defense.  They have given up 150 points in 6 games.  The Patriots have given up 140 in 7 games.   Granted the Patriots have played NY Jets twice and Houston.  The fair comparison is that both teams have played Dallas and lost.  Chargers lost by 3 and the Patriots missed the go-ahead FG at the end to lose by 2.

Linval Joseph leads the D-line in tackles with 26.  Against the run, the Chargers are dead last in the league in Defense-adjusted Value Over Average (DVOA).  Their front seven is light against the run, the strength of the Patriots.  Joey Bosa is their top sack master with 3.5 and the team has 13 on the season.   The ILB Kyzir White and Drue Tranquill are more like big safeties than stout Inside Linebackers.  Kazir White has 2 INTs.  The Chargers have given up over 180 yards on the ground in 4 straight games.

The strength of their defense is their Safeties.  Derwin James is one of the best safeties in the league.  He leads the secondary with 50 tackles.  Nasir Adderley is second on the team with 37 tackles.  Asante Samuel Jr. has 2 Interceptions and the defense has 9 takeaways so far this year.

 

Special Teams

STARTER 2ND 3RD
PK Dustin Hopkins
P Ty Long
H Ty Long
PR Jalen Guyton Andre Roberts
KR Andre Roberts Nasir Adderley
LS Matt Overton

 

During the BYE Week, the Chargers added WR/KR Andre Roberts, who was cut by Houston recently. Roberts has made the Pro Bowl three straight seasons as a returner. He is averaging 21.1 yards a return in kickoff this season, but the previous three seasons, it was 29.4 in ’18, 26.6 in ’19, and 30 in ’20.

Chargers also signed K Dustin Hopkins who was cut by Washington on October 20th.  He replaces Tristan Vizcaino.  Hopkins is one of 3 kickers in the NFL that has kicked 145 FGs inside the 50-yard line over the past 7 seasons.

 

 

Leftovers from Sunday

There were more than 15 observations from Sunday’s game.  I will mention a few here because the players deserve the recognition.

  • Kendrick Bourne threw a heck of a downfield block on Brandon Bolden’s “screen pass” TD. Bourne took the CB into the endzone and planted him there.  The CB was never able to get to the pylon and knock Bolden out of bounds.  The pass was supposed to be a screen pass, and despite the fact that Jones lofted the throw, the O-linemen were late getting out to block.  Bolden just outran his blockers to the endzone.
  • This post on Twitter by Hoops Empire shows Mac Jones is clearly the number one rookie QB, as these stats will bear:
    • 1st in Yards
    • T-1st in TDs
    • 1st in TD%
    • Lowest INT%
    • 1st in completion % (4th in NFL)
    • 1st in yards per attempt
    • 1st in QBR
    • Least time to throw
    • Least poor passes
    • 1st in on target %
    • Most blitzed QB

In the league, Jones is ranked 13th by Pro Football Focus (PFF) with an overall 80.5 rating.  He is just behind Dak Prescott.  Tom Brady is ranked #1.

  • It is looking like I was dead wrong about Christian Barmore. The Alabama rookie has been a force along the D- line.  I was critical of the trade-up in the draft because I saw him as being lazy.  There has been no sign of that.  His play is improving every week.  I haven’t given him the credit he is due.
  • Jakub Johnson had a career day on Sunday catching two passes for 32 yards. His long was a 29-yard reception highlighted by a Derrick Henry-like stiff arm.  Johnson does the dirty work of blocking and had a good game of that on Sunday helping the Pats to 148 yards on the ground (really 151 when you figure the last three rushes were kneel-downs by Hoyer).  Subtract those 3 kneel-downs, and the Patriots rush for an average of 5.2 yards per carry.
  • You know Bill Belichick loves him some Special Teams.  He sang the praises, S Cody Davis, in his post-game speech to the team in the locker room.  According to Belichick Davis had 5 tackles on Special Teams.  ESPN stats have him at 4 tackles.  Either way that’s a heck of a game for a Special Teams player.
  • Can we finally dismiss the misnomer that the Patriots can’t draft 2nd round DB’s? Kyle Dugger had quite the game, leading the team with 9 tackles, a spectacular Interception, and a pass breakup (PBU)!  That’s two INTs in two weeks.  Dugger also leads the team in tackles this season while playing three different positions on defense.
  • Joejuan Williams was named to the PFF Team of the Week 7. On 5 targets, he had 3 PBU and only allowed 1 completion.  He had an 87.0 rating.  His play this week may be critical with the size of LA Chargers Mike Williams at Wide Receiver.
  • Damien Harris is having a very good year despite the early struggles of the offensive line. These are some of his stats compared to the rest of the running backs in the league:
    • 1st in runs of 20+ yards (5)
    • 2nd in100 yard games (3)
    • 3rd in TDs (5)
    • 7th in yards after contact (311)
    • 7th in missed tackles (20)
    • 8th in yards (437)

Posted Under: 2021 Patriots Season


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