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Scouting the San Diego Chargers

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It's gameday, are you ready?

Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

Chargers Basics

- 8th ranked offense in yards, 6th ranked passing game, 29th ranked rushing game, 9th ranked scoring offense

- 9th ranked defense in yards, 3rd ranked passing defense, 13th ranked rushing defense, 3rd ranked scoring defense

The Chargers are ranked in the top 10 on both offense and defense in yards allowed and points allowed.

Offense

QB

Phillip Rivers is having an MVP-caliber season. Rivers is 2nd in completion percentage behind Tony Romo, 7th in passing yards per game, 3rd in passing touchdowns with 17, 4th in 1st downs, 2nd in passing 1st downs, and 5th in passer rating.

(courtesy of pro football focus)

Rivers has worked every area of the field with success. Though he is graded negatively in the deep middle portion of the field, he has thrown two touchdowns against zero interceptions. The area of the field from 10-19 yards deep is his most productive area in any direction. The majority of Rivers' TD passes have come from the short/middle portion of the field.

Phillip has shredded defenses that have blitzed him completing 64.6% of his passes for 636 passing yards, 6 touchdowns with only 1 interception. Pressure from the front 3-4 linemen has helped keep Rivers in check where his overall passer rating drops by about 26 points. Rivers time to throw is 2.79 seconds. For reference Peyton Manning's time to throw is 2.26 seconds. 2.79 seconds to throw is 6th worst in the league behind leader Geno Smith (3.13 seconds).

RB

The running back position has been decimated by injury. Ryan Mathews, Donald Brown, and Danny Woodhead will all be missing in action. Their starter is Darren Sproles-esque Branden Oliver, an UDFA rookie out of Buffalo measuring 5'8" and 208 lbs. He's a more powerful back than Sproles, but his running style can be described in one way: elusive. On 86 touches, Oliver has forced 19 missed tackles. Even with his small sample size, that's good enough to be ranked 11th overall in the NFL.

WR

Keenan Allen leads all Charger receivers with 34 receptions. Though he has been used primarily in the short area of the field, his YAC is rather low and his season long is a meager 24-yard reception. Allen has yet to score a touchdown on the season. Deep, Allen has been targeted 9 times with 1 reception for 22 yards. After the short middle of the field, Allen has done well in the intermediate portion of the field in any direction. In this quadrant, Allen has 11 catches on 13 targets for 167 yards.

Eddie Royal is 2nd among Chargers wide receivers with 23 receptions on 37 targets. Royal is not going to make the tough or contested catch, but he has seen a resurgence in the slot this season. Half of his receiving yards have come on YAC, and he has been a valuable redzone weapon with 5 touchdowns overall.  Royal has not worked the left side of the field extensively.

Malcolm Floyd has been targeted 31 times and has 20 receptions for 412 yards and 3 touchdowns. He has been the deep threat for the offense averaging an astounding 20.6 yards per reception. Floyd is primarily an outside receiver, he has no targets from 10-19 yards in the middle of the field. Beyond 20 yards, Floyd has 7 receptions on 13 targets for 271 yards and 1 touchdown.

TE

After 13 NFL seasons, Antonio Gates is still dangerous. He averages 6 targets per game and has compiled 27 receptions for 363 yards and 7 touchdowns.  Gates is going to work the middle of the field. Between the numbers, he has 26 targets and 18 receptions. When he does play outside it will be on the goalline when Rivers tries to feed him the fade.

Someone I'm continually puzzled by is Ladarious Green. He's much like Virgil. Great athleticism, could be used more in the passing game, but for some reason is limited in targets. Green has 11 receptions for 156 yards on the season.

OL

If this group plays up to it's reputation, Phillip Rivers is in a lot of trouble tonight. Nobody outside of LT King Dunlap has graded out positively according to Pro Football Focus. RG Chad Rinehart has already given up 3 sacks while Dunlap, RT DJ Fluker, and RG Johnny Troutman have all given up 2 sacks apiece.

If you thought the Broncos OL was in a bit of distress, this is probably the most injured and patchwork group they have faced in quite a while.

Defense

Run support

20/73, 10/99, 21/83, 25/85, 21/91, 20/114, 39/154. The Chargers can be run on. There have been several teams including the Seahawks, Raiders, and Chiefs who have either rushed for high per carry averages or have been able to compile 100 or more yards. This past week, the Chiefs ran 39 times for 154 yards. Under four yards per carry but the sheer volume helped the Chiefs play some ball control keeping Phillip Rivers and a potent offense off of the field.

Pass Rush

The Chargers have 14 different players that have registered a sack. 7 different linebackers have sacked the quarterback. This tells me the Chargers will mix things up and blitz different positions on the field. This also tells bme they have to blitz more to apply pressure since their front has been inconsistent getting to the quarterback. Defensive End Corey Liuget leads the way with 3 sacks to go along with 8 hits and 10 hurries.

Though Dwight Freeney has only managed 2 sacks on the season, he has created a good amount of pressure with 6 hits and 21 hurries. I would venture that the Chargers test Paul Cornick with Freeney early and often.

Coverage

This is an absolute pain to try and project. We know that Flowers will be out of the game. Verrett is questionable. It's looking more and more like Shareece Wright and Richard Marshall will be your starers on the outside. If Verrett is out, Shareece can kick inside and one of Chris Davis or Steve Williams can come onto the field and play outside. Both Richard Marshall and Shareece Wright played against the Broncos in all three games last year. Wright was brutalized the most allowing 4 touchdowns on 37 targets.

With a poor pass rush and dinged up secondary, the Broncos offense should stick to 11 personnel all game and look to take advantage of the diminutive Charger corners.

Advantage/Disadvantage

When the Broncos run the ball, advantage = Broncos

It has been ages since I have been able to pick the Broncos running game against an opponent. But after two solid games I think the time has come where we can recognize the Broncos running game as respectable. Hillman has the right size and speed to exploit the light box counts that come from 3-WR sets. If the Broncos want to muscle up and use multiple TE's or even a tackle, they can also set up some big plays on playaction. The past couple of weeks, opponents have have able to keep the game close and run the ball effectively. So long as the Broncos are controlling the tempo and pace the running game is in play.

When the Broncos pass the ball, advantage = Broncos

Manning trails only Andrew Luck in yards per game. They are the only two quarterbacks that average 300 yards or more passing. They are also tied with 19 touchdown passes with Luck playing one more game than Manning. The Chargers have been able to bottle up the Broncos offense to a certain extent the past three meetings but they are in no condition this time around to compete. It is going to take a lot of mistakes on the Broncos part to keep the Charger secondary from looking foolish.

When the Chargers pass the ball, advantage = Chargers

Phillip Rivers is one of the few quarterbacks in the league that can will his team to victory. He played out of his mind most of the season and was most impressive against a swarming Seahawk defense. Rivers can make plays, in the past his kryptonite has been Von Miller. In 6 career games against the Chargers Von has sacked Phillip Rivers 8 times. With the amount of zone and Cover 3 the Broncos play, Rivers is bound to move the ball.

When the Chargers run the ball, advantage = Broncos

Game after game, runner after runner, the Broncos D-line has dominated up front. Branden Oliver is elusive but the Broncos have the speed at linebacker to play sideline to sideline.

Prediction

Better teams snuff out inferior opponents. The Broncos are fortunate to play San Diego on a short week with all the injuries throughout their lineup. This is yet another opportunity to make a statement and take the division by the horns, and I think the Broncos are ready to lead again.

Broncos 38 Chargers 16