Chargers at Eagles will be a revealing mid-term exam for both teams

Chargers at Eagles will be a revealing mid-term exam for both teams

Eagles

Chargers at Eagles will be a revealing mid-term exam for both teams

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This could be a really fun game for Eagles fans. Despite obvious struggles on offense and defense along the way, you have to admit coaches Sirianni and Gannon seem to be on the verge of “getting it”…

We’re exactly halfway through the formerly new season, and we know we haven’t seen a consistently competitive product yet.  But there are signs it’s getting better.  Most importantly, Sirianni and Gannon appear to be changing up and sequencing their calls more to adjust better to fluid situations.  That’s a nice development to witness.

In fact, according to The Great JB99 (in a recent post at BGN), Siri’s designs on offense haven’t really been as deficient as we once thought, since he didn’t have an NFL veteran QB to read what has been there for the taking.

The QB he does have is a superb natural athlete who is still learning the position at the pro level.  Jalen Hurts is not Lamar Jackson special, but he’s still a supremely gifted athlete who throughout his young life was always able to overcome mental mistakes with physical escapes.  Now his growth is being challenged at the cerebral “see the whole field, feel the defensive pressure, trust your protection” level.  Of course it’s not easy, even harder because God gave him a pistol, not a rifle.

But here we are.  Mid-term exam for Hurts…  EYE will bet on the young QB’s upside against the Chargers.

It’s also a mid-term exam for the Chargers.

Despite dropping a disappointing game to the New England Patriots last week, the LA Chargers (3-4) are favorites against Philadelphia (3-5) ahead of Week 9’s matchup.

LA will head to the opposite coast to take on the Eagles. A few weeks ago, this may have seemed like an easy win for the Bolts, but recent events are pointing to a much less comfortable competition. Philadelphia is carrying all the momentum coming into the contest after dominating Detroit last week while the Chargers were busy throwing away their game.

The Bolts know they need to get out of a rut and shake off the mediocrity of their last two games, and this Philly team may seem a great opponent against which to accomplish that feat. They have yet to string together any consistency and have repeatedly failed to stay in the game against some more competitive teams. The only question for the Chargers is if they are going to show up in their competitive fashion or continue their pained performances of the last few weeks.

Chargers QB Justin Herbert is at a sort of crossroads himself.

Justin Herbert is still one of the most talented young quarterbacks in this league. Saying the league “figured him out” is an overreaction and it’s time to reel it back in. It’s fair to be concerned, but he had two below-average weeks plagued by conservative play-calling and struggled against a Belichick-led defense. Nothing to sound the alarm over… yet.

Herbert knows how to bounce back from disappointing runs. He’s had to do it his entire career thus far. On a team that’s been known to frequently drop close games and perpetually come out on the losing side of a late-game comeback, Herbert has been steady-handed. Just a few weeks ago the second-year player reversed that narrative in a win over the Raiders after Las Vegas clawed back into the game.

That resilience translates between games too. Herbert is unusually composed for such an inexperienced quarterback and that cool confidence has a positive effect on the entire offense. If the past is any indicator, Herbert will be able to reset after this loss to New England and bring that forward-facing mentality to advantage for LA against Philly.

Herbert has thrown 17 touchdowns and has nearly 2000 passing yards this season. If he can take a deep breath and get back to his usual, spirited game against the Eagles, it will be pretty hard for the Chargers to lose this Sunday.

But if the Eagles can execute Siri’s increasingly appealing concepts on offense, with the run game as a priority, and hang in there with more of an aggressive defensive mix, they may actually ace this mid-term.

The Chargers run defense has been abysmal this season. They are allowing the most rushing yards per game and the highest rushing first downs of any team in the league.

Part of the problem is consistent double and triple teams on edge rusher Joey Bosa. Opposing teams have been able to break down the run defense by taking Bosa out of the equation and daring another player to make a stop. So far, that’s worked pretty well to the dismay of LA’s defense.

Last week against New England, stopping more runs from a solid Patriots rush attack was the chief focus for the Chargers defense. Thanks in part of the return of Justin Jones, there were definitely a few improvements that signified a potential upward trend in the run-stopping department. LA stunted New England total rushing yards to 141 throughout the game and held them to an average of 3.6 yards per carry.

Chargers head coach Brandon Staley praised his defense’s improvements after last week’s game, saying “I felt like our run defense took an incredible step forward today. I thought we tackled extremely well. I thought we were really physical. Getting Justin Jones back was important.”

All signs are pointing to an improving run defense, and that’s going to have to keep improving if the Chargers want a comfortable win in Week 9. Philadelphia is ranked sixth in average rushing yards per game at 131.6, and coming off of an explosive 236-yard performance against Detroit last week. If LA wants to keep the Eagles from hanging around, they have to be better on the ground and force Jalen Hurts to try and make strides through the air.

Another hole in the Chargers defense comes in the red zone. The Bolts are allowing opponents to score touchdowns on 61.54 percent of their trips to the red zone. That puts them at No. 18 in the league. Below-average ability to come up with clutch stops or force teams to settle for three points is going to keep putting LA in close game situations, and they need to avoid that against Philly.

The Eagles are currently boasting the fourth most efficient red zone offense with 72.41 percent of attempts converted to touchdowns. That mismatch needs to be a focus going into this week. Letting Philadelphia have their way with attempts to the end zone is not going to put the Chargers in a place to win pretty on Sunday.

The Chargers look to be making strides here too based on last week’s performance against New England. The defense held steady and came up clutch on the Patriots’ attempts, allowing just 25 percent of red zone trips to finish with a touchdown. Drue Tranquill was a big part of that effort. Despite battling a chest injury, the linebacker brought the pressure and intensity to the red zone that the Chargers had been lacking. Look for him to continue boosting his unit in Week 9.

As for Justin Herbert’s continuing development?

Things are a bit puzzling for Justin Herbert in Los Angeles. Staley and offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi seem to have taken the reins from his hands on the offense lately and opted to keep the passing game limited to short, easy throws.

That regression is triggering a lot of questions. Why not let Herbert do what he does best and air it out? Why not trust the young QB who has proven his ability to make good decisions and give him more flexibility to make plays?

If the Chargers really want a dominant win here, they have to answer these questions. Last week was especially troubling on first-downs, where the Bolts dropped below a five-yard average per first-down attempt. That doesn’t sound terrible at first, but this explosive offense was formerly averaging 6.6 yards on first-down.

To say the least, the play calling has been too conservative for the talent on this offense. Herbert’s ability to sling the ball is what makes him a threat, and now is not the time to cool him down. The Eagles secondary isn’t anything special, but they are allowing the eighth fewest passing yards in the league and the fewest yards per completion.

Herbert can’t sling it deep when everyone’s playing cover 2 zone to limit big plays. That’s how a lot of turnovers happen – see Mahomes.

Just these few things covered here point to a most interesting matchup.  Both teams and both QBs are taking a mid-term exam of sorts.  According to WynnBET, the LA Chargers are thee-point favorites on the road in Philadelphia. The moneyline is favoring the Bolts at -145 with the Eagles at +125.

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