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Scouting the Browns’ Week 5 opponent: Los Angeles Chargers - Our Q&A with Bolts from the Blue

We ask about the Chargers’ struggles with their run defense, how rookie OT Rashawn Slater and CB Asante Samuel Jr have played, and more.

Las Vegas Raiders v Los Angeles Chargers Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

On Sunday, the Cleveland Browns’ take on the Los Angeles Chargers. To help preview a few topics from the Chargers’ perspective, we reached out to Michael Peterson from Bolts from the Blue and exchanged five questions with him. Enjoy!

Dallas Cowboys v Los Angeles Chargers
The Chargers’ run defense still hasn’t quite put it together.
Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

Chris: “I’ve only had the benefit of watching the one Chargers game this season, which was last week against the Raiders. Heading into that came, the Chargers’ defense was statistically ranked just about the worst in the NFL, which made me think that good things would be coming for the duo of Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt in Week 5. But then, the Raiders’ running game never gained any steam. What’s the true story about the Chargers’ run defense? Is it a vulnerability?”

Michael: “Yes, the Chargers’ run defense was the worst in the NFL heading into Monday Night Football against the Raiders. Do I think that was a fair assessment at the time? Of course. The Cowboys and Chiefs gashed them for a whole lot of yards over that two-game span. However, something could be said for the players still learning and getting accustomed to Brandon Staley’s system. Joey Bosa said in a press conference prior to the game that he didn’t believe their run defense was really that bad. Coincidentally, that’s what they showed on Monday night, but it’s also fair to note that the Raiders weren’t that good of a running team, either.

I think the truth is somewhere in the middle. The Chargers improved their run defense and the Raiders run game just wasn’t enough to overcome their opponent’s inspired play. But in the end, I do think it’s a vulnerable spot in which the Browns can exploit. The interior of the Chargers’ defensive line is still the weakest part of their defense and the Browns’ interior offensive linemen are their strength. If the Chargers can’t find a way to curtail Chubb and Hunt’s production, it might be a long game for L.A.’s defense.”

Las Vegas Raiders v Los Angeles Chargers
Rookie OT Rashawn Slater has been fantastic to start his rookie year.
Photo by Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images

Chris: “What has been the weakness (if any) on the Chargers’ offensive line, and how has first-round OT Rashawn Slater performed?”

Michael: “Backup right tackle Storm Norton is far-and-away the weakest link on this revamped Chargers offensive line. With starter Bryan Bulaga currently on IR, Norton has been thrown into the fire against the likes of Micah Parsons and Maxx Crosby. He’s been fine enough through the past two weeks, but I think the uber-athleticism of Jadeveon Clowney will be a bit much for him. I expect a pretty rough day at the office for Norton this Sunday.

As far as Slater has played this season, he’s been absolutely stellar. On 190 pass block snaps, he’s allowed zero sacks and just six total pressures. Per Pro Football Focus, he’s the seventh-highest graded tackle in the NFL. That’s one heck of a start for a rookie lineman.”

Las Vegas Raiders v Los Angeles Chargers
Pressure can sometimes rattle Justin Herbert a bit.
Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

Chris: “I don’t know if Justin Herbert gets enough credit for how well of a rookie season he had, and he’s off to a great start in 2021 as well. Is there any area that the young quarterback has still struggled with a tad?”

Michael: “Through the first two games, I would have told you he was struggling to avoid mistakes stemming from a need to force a play with his elite arm talent. He threw three interceptions in those first two games with more than one being a head-scratcher. But since the Chiefs game, he’s been money. Seven touchdowns to zero turnovers. That’s more like the Herbert we’ve all come to expect. If I have to nit-pick a bit, I’d say he’s still like most young quarterbacks and the occasional pressure in his face can rattle him but he really is fairly quick to bounce back from bad plays. So even if a team forces him into a pickle, he’ll usually find a way out in no time.”

Los Angeles Chargers v Kansas City Chiefs
Rookie CB Asante Samuel Jr has also gotten of to a great start.
Photo by David Eulitt/Getty Images

Chris: “How has second-round pick Asante Samuel Jr. performed for Los Angeles?”

Michael: “He’s been a dynamite draft pick so far this season. When you’re a rookie and you’re also leading your team in interception early on, that’s a great sign. He’s a super-competitive presence on the outside and that stands out the most when he’s tasked with making open-field tackles. That’s been a weak spot for the Chargers’ secondary in the past and his addition has really helped solidify that group. It’s also tough to argue against back-to-back weeks where he’s won the Pepsi Rookie of the Week honor.”

Las Vegas Raiders v Los Angeles Chargers
LB Drue Tranquill has played pretty well in 2021.
Photo by Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images

Chris: “Tell us about one player who Browns fans may not have heard of, but who could have an impact on this Sunday’s game.”

Michael: “One player some Browns fans may not have heard of is linebacker Drue Tranquill. He has played sparingly thus far in the season due to the team’s base defense only trotting out two linebackers but when he’s been on the field, he’s always come through with a timely play. Tranquill will be a starter in place of Kenenth Murray this week who was put on IR prior to the Raiders game. If you don’t know about him now, you likely will by the time Sunday’s game comes to an end.”

Thanks again to Michael for taking the time to answer my questions.