The offseason has finally come and gone, and we have NFL Sundays to look forward to for the next 18 weeks. Some teams are coming into the 2021 NFL Season with optimism, some with uncertainty, and some are already planning for the 2022 NFL Draft. I cannot wait for this season to begin.
The Washington Football Team opens their season with a 1 pm kick-off for a home showdown vs the Los Angeles Chargers. Washington won the NFC East at 7-9 and made the playoffs last season while the Chargers, with the same record, came in third in the AFC West.
After their 7-9 campaign last season, the Chargers brass believed they underachieved, and GM Tom Telesco decided to clean house and hire a new coaching staff. Brandon Staley, formerly the defensive coordinator for the Rams, was hired to lead this group and he brought with him OC Joe Lombardi and DC Renaldo Hill. Staley is a defensive-minded coach, so Lombardi is tasked with continuing the maturation process of sophomore quarterback Justin Herbert. Herbert had a magnificent rookie season and gives Chargers fans warranted optimism headed into the future.
On the other hand, Washington’s staff has stayed completely the same. The Football Team came into this past off-season with money to spend in free agency and walked away with a new offensive weapon in Curtis Samuel, a new shutdown corner in William Jackson, and, most importantly, a new signal-caller in Ryan Fitzpatrick. Washington’s defense feasted on a weak strength of schedule last season, but the offense was anemic and provided little to no help.
The Chargers will be as formidable as any opponent Washington took on during the 2020 NFL Season. LAC had holes in two key areas – their secondary and offensive line – and they have made improvements to those positional units. Let’s take a step back and break down this matchup and see how I believe Washington will fare in Week One versus an up-and-coming team from the AFC.
Washington FT vs LA Chargers Preview: Offense
Let’s start this breakdown by diving into how the Charger’s offense should bode against Washington’s defense. With the 6th pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, the Chargers seem to have drafted an absolute stud at the game’s most important position with Quarterback Justin Herbert. Herbert was not set to start the season, but after a freak injury to Tyrod Taylor, Herbert was thrust into the role of starting quarterback and took home the NFL’s Offensive Rookie of the Year Honors. Herbert, in 15 games, amassed 4,336 passing yards, 66% completions, 7.3 yards per attempt and threw 31 touchdown passes to 11 interceptions.
With Keenan Allen, Austin Ekler, and Mike Williams, there is no shortage of weapons for Herbert to work with. The biggest problem Herbert had to face was bad offensive line play. Herbert was sacked 32 times last season, the 9th most for any quarterback in the NFL. Staley, understanding this issue, spent the 13th overall pick on LT Rashawn Slater, and signed former All-Pro C Corey Linsley from Green Bay. These two additions should massively benefit Herbert by giving him more time in the pocket – something he already excels at.
On the other side of the ball, Washington has arguably the best defensive front in the entire NFL. Washington also has two cornerbacks that are above average and should be able to apply pressure on Allen and Williams. Despite the upgrades to the Chargers offensive line, which I believe will pay dividends as the season progresses, I see Washington’s front giving Herbert enough problems to throw him off of his A-game.
For offensive lines, continuity is one of the most underappreciated aspects of the positional group as it relates to its success. While I believe Slater and Linsley are great players, the fact that these two players are new to the team may take time to develop into the great offensive line they believe they can be. Also, the Chargers lack the pass rush that Washington has – so while the Chargers offensive line has looked great in training camp, they have yet to deal with a unit as talented as Washington’s.
All things considered, I expect Washington to be able to consistently apply pressure to Herbert – whether it be from the interior or off the edges. I still expect Allen to have a big day even if he is constantly matched up with Fuller or Jackson, but besides the Herbert-Allen connection, Washington’s defense should prove strong enough to keep the young gunslinger in check and keep him uncomfortable for most of the afternoon.
Washington FT vs LA Chargers Preview: Defense
For the past few seasons, the Chargers had one of the most deadly edge-rushing duos in the NFL with Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram causing havoc for opposing quarterbacks. While Bosa continues to be a menace on the outside, the Chargers decided to move on from Ingram. Washington’s offensive line is their biggest positional question mark on offense, but the Chargers do not have an overpowering defensive line to take over the game.
With Fitzpatrick at the helm, Washington will surely look to push the ball down the field to Terry McLaurin and Dyami Brown more often. The Chargers will be starting veteran cornerback Chris Harris on one side paired with rookie Asante Samuel Jr. as CB2. LAC also has Derwin James back and healthy and he should be able to make an impact on the game.
Washington should look to attack the Chargers in the middle of the field since their linebacking unit is mediocre at best. James will make his presence felt with his ball hawk playing style, but I think Washington can still have success on the ground. All things considered, this game should shape up to be a low-scoring affair.
Washington FT vs LA Chargers Preview: Conclusion
After breaking down both units, I see this game as a very close match-up. Apparently, so does Las Vegas, as the line is currently Washington -1 at home. I think Washington’s pass rush will give Herbert enough issues to contain him for long enough to get the win this week. I do expect Keenan Allen to have a great game, but if Washington is able to bend and not break and force the Chargers into field goals, they should win this game.
Prediction: Washington 23 Chargers 21
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