This 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!
According to DraftKings Sportsbook, the Browns are 2-point underdogs against the Chargers.
Chris: “The Chargers are only allowing 109.8 yards rushing per game, but are allowing 5.42 yards per carry, which ranks 31st in the NFL. Is their run defense really bad, or is that high number the mark of some anomaly?”
Michael: “That number is certainly an anomaly. The Chargers have been fairly stout against the run aside from three explosive runs. They allowed a 52-yarder to Clyde Edwards-Helaire in week two, a 50-yarder to James Robinson in week three, and a 75-yarder to Dameon Pierce in week four. If you take out those three runs, the Chargers are allowing 65.5 yards per game on the ground. I know reality doesn’t work that way, but knowing they’re one or two better pursuit angles by their free safety away from having one of the best run defenses in the league gives me confidence that this won’t be as much of a blood bath as some are making it out to be.
The Chargers are currently 11th in total defensive DVOA and 18th in run defense DVOA. While that second number isn’t the best number, it’s a lot better than where they were a year ago.”
Chris: “I know Austin Ekeler is a valuable all-around back, but the Chargers still predominantly seem like a pass-happy team with Justin Herbert. How has the offense been through four games — up to expectation, struggled a bit, etc?”
Michael: “While it has looked excellent at times, I’d have to say the offense is struggling a bit compared to preseason expectations. It certainly doesn’t help that Keenan Allen has barely played this year and that Rashawn Slater has been lost for the season, but I didn’t think the offense was all that explosive before both those unfortunate things came to pass.
Justin Herbert has the league’s second-lowest aDOT (average depth of target) through the first month of the season. That just doesn’t sound right when you’ve got a quarterback with a rocket launcher strapped to his shoulder. It’s mainly due to Joe Lombardi’s offensive scheme that utilizes a ton of stick and spacing concepts to march methodically down the field in chunks of 5-7 yards at a time. Things looked better against Houston, but Lombardi had been calling games fairly conservative. In week one it happened in the second half against the Raiders and it came early on against the Jaguars as the team tried to feel out Herbert’s recent rib injury.
At the end of the day, this offense isn’t built to play conservative and as long as they continue to lean into that mindset, I’m not sure how far this team can go this season, despite the immense offseason hype.”
Chris: “With Joey Bosa out, who are the Chargers relying on to pick up the pass rushing slack?”
Michael: “Both second-year edge Chris Rumph II and veteran linebacker Kyle Van Noy have been splitting snaps at the opposite pass rush spot across from Khalil Mack since Bosa left the Jags game with a groin injury. Van Noy has seen the lion’s share of snaps but has been largely ineffective compared to Rumph. The team also recently signed Derek Tuszka, a former draft pick of the Broncos several years ago. He saw time against the Texans, as well.
Long story short, they’ve got other bodies to fill the void, but none of them come close to what Bosa brings to the table.”
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 guy who has been playing well lately, especially against the Texans this past Sunday, has been defensive tackle Morgan Fox. While undersized, he’s made his money as a situational pass-rusher along the interior as a member of the Rams and now he’s doing the same with the Chargers. He’s currently tied for 16th in pass rush grade among defensive interior players by Pro Football Focus and currently sits 11th with 11 total pressures while playing in a part-time role. He’s a high energy guy and the pass rush is usually a lot better when he’s able to make something happen.”
Chris: “The Chargers are early favorites to beat the Browns on Sunday (Browns +2.5 as of this question, per DraftKings Sportsbook). Who would you pick against the spread?”
Michael: “I’m going with the Chargers on this one. They’ll continue to invite the run and Nick Chubb will obviously salivate at that, but I think they’ll control the game offensively and limit Chubb enough that the Browns won’t be able to sustain enough drives to keep up with LAC’s offense. If the Browns want to win this game, I believe Jacoby Brissett will have to play above himself and make more plays than he’s used to with his arm.”
Thanks again to Michael for taking the time to answer my questions.