Chargers vs. Broncos Week 6 Scouting Report: Grades and Key Matchups

Chargers Texans

The Scouting Report for Monday Night’s Broncos-Chargers game is produced by The 33rd Team’s Scouting Department, led by former Eagles, Cardinals, and Ravens personnel executive T.J. McCreight and assisted by scouts Justin Casey, Kevin Cohn, and Evan Pritt.

Justin Herbert vs. Russell Wilson

  • Los Angeles is second in the NFL, averaging 291 yards passing per game and ninth in the NFL, with an average of 24.4 points per game. 
  • Justin Herbert is second in the NFL with 1,478 yards passing, tied for fifth with 10 TD passes and fifth in the league with a 100.8 rating. 
  • Herbert is a franchise quarterback that has top-level ability. I love how he can drive the football and make some ‘wow’ throws. He has an outstanding grasp of coverages, and you can see nothing will surprise him during the football game when you watch the film.
  • Herbert will get rid of the ball quickly and has only been sacked five times thus far in 2022. He is a deceptive athlete with excellent feet, balance and instincts to avoid the rush.
  • Russell Wilson has struggled thus far this season, with only four TDs and three interceptions. His 82.8 QB rating is 22nd in the league, and he has been sacked 16 times — only five QBs have been sacked more than Wilson.
  • Wilson does not look like the same player that we saw in Seattle. He has never been below a 60% completion percentage in his career, but this season he has dipped to 59%. He is locking on to people and not working his eyes.
  • Wilson does not look comfortable with his new team and has yet to hit his stride. Too often, there are people open, and he just flat out will miss. The Broncos gave up several assets for  Wilson, and expectations are high. It is not time to hit the panic button, but it is getting close.
  • Wilson is not running with the football as much as he once did, and he’s not as effective. He does not look explosive and struggles to run — when you study Wilson, that is the most significant difference. Wilson in Seattle could get out of trouble, get to the marker and effortlessly slide — this Wilson in Denver looks much different.
  • Advantage Chargers. When you study how Wilson has played this season, it is hard to fight for him to win this battle. In regards to Herbert, he is playing at an extremely high level and with supreme confidence.

Austin Ekeler vs. Broncos Run Defense

  • If the Broncos have a defensive weakness, it is against the run. They are allowing 4.68 yards per carry, ranked 20th in the league. They are a bit of a boom or bust against the run. They rank 10th in the percentage of run plays for zero or negative yards. They are also 28th in yards after contact and have given up the second most broken tackle yards at 187.
  • The Chargers averaged under three yards per rush before they exploded for 238 yards on seven yards per carry against Cleveland.
  • The Broncos’ DL is not big up front, and their LBs do not play downhill. Jonas Griffith will take poor angles and try to jump around blocks and get out of position. Josey Jewell is their best run-defender at LB, and he left the game against the Colts with a knee injury. Besides D.J. Jones inside, they don’t have guys who can take on and shed blocks. They may have to play Mike Purcell more, who is more stout on run-downs. Dre’Mont Jones is an active player who will get upfield and swim blockers, but he can be pushed around. They miss the length and tackling radius of Pro Bowl safety Justin Simmons in space. While he is returning to practice this week, his game-day status is still unclear.
  • Austin Ekeler had an outstanding game last week against Cleveland, rushing for 173 yards and a touchdown. He also had four catches for 26 yards receiving and another touchdown. He has easy, natural hands out of the backfield and can snatch the ball on the run.
  • Ekeler has top-level instincts with the ball in his hands and understands how to run the football. He plays with a low center of gravity and can move laterally. However, he is quicker than fast — his long speed is just average, as we saw in the Browns game when he was chased down from behind.
  • He averages 5.1 yards per carry for the season — 13th in the league — and 62 yards per game on the ground. 
  • Advantage Chargers. Ekeler should build off the Cleveland game, and I expect him to have a good day against Denver’s defense.

Mike Williams vs. Patrick Surtain

  • Williams has stepped up with three 100-yard games in the four games that Keenan Allen has missed. He ranks 11th in yards receiving (392).
  • He lines up primarily out wide, but he will align in tight splits and run shallow crossers and deep overs.
  • He’s a big, physical receiver with outstanding ball skills, strong hands and a massive catch radius. He is outstanding on jump balls, and back shoulder throws. Plus, he will win most contested catch opportunities.
  • He is a physical route runner but also fluid enough to avoid zone coverage traffic.
  • Given his size and strength, I would like to see him be more physical after the catch.
  • Surtain is the second-ranked corner by Sports Info Solutions’ points saved metric, and the film study backs it up.
  • He can play any coverage and any technique (and do it well). If they played more man coverage, he would rarely have a ball thrown in his direction because he gives up minimal separation. His reactions and burst to close in zone are exceptional. His tackling is also top-tier.
  • He hasn’t really been beaten this year, but if there is anything that can beat him, it’s a well-placed back shoulder or 50-50 high ball. However, I would not plan my offense around that strategy.

Bradley Chubb vs. Khalil Mack

  • This is a matchup between two players who were fifth overall picks in their respective drafts.
  • Mack is putting up his usual productive numbers, as he is ranked tied for sixth in sacks (5) and forced fumbles (1), to go along with 14 pressures and seven QB hits.
  • Chubb is off to a good start and putting up similar production, tallying 4.5 sacks, one forced fumble, 13 pressures and seven QB hits.
  • Mack isn’t quite the same player he used to be, but he still serves as a top-end edge player. He has seen some decline in explosiveness but does a good job making up for it with savvy and instincts. The former Bears and Raiders star does an excellent job setting up pass-rush moves and has a good feel for where the ball is at all times. He has great strength to deliver a blow to opposing tackles and can shed blocks with his strong hands. He still has the speed off the edge to run around tackles and get to the quarterback. He is an outstanding run player as well. He gets a push against the run with his strength and rarely gets blown back when tackling. He plays with a good motor, can set the edge and keep contain on the outside. Mack is still a very productive player and someone offensive coordinators have to game plan around.
  • Chubb has been up and down in his career but is having an excellent season for the Broncos. He has stayed healthy so far this season, which was an issue for him early on. At this point, he is a more explosive player than Mack showing better get-off and speed on edge. The Broncos star relies heavily on his speed rush to get to the quarterback. Chubb plays with a good motor and is impactful in the pass rush. He does show good strength and ability to shock tackles off the ball. However, he has less variety in his pass-rush arsenal than Mack. He also isn’t nearly as good against the run as Mack. Chubb is not a liability in the run game, but his instincts are just OK, and he does not show the same willingness. If Chubb can develop more variety in his pass rush moves and more willingness against the run, he has the talent to ascend into a top-end player.
  • Mack is still a better player than Chubb, but the gap is not significant. Mack has had a decorated career, and I don’t see Chubb being remembered as quite the same talent as Mack at the end of their careers. However, if Chubb can stay healthy and continue to develop his game, he has a chance to be better than Mack is currently. If you had to pick a player for the next two seasons, Mack would be the choice, but I think Chubb would be the better option over a longer term.

Extra Points

  • Melvin Gordon has put the ball on the ground more than you would like throughout his career, with 19 fumbles. However, this year it has occurred at an alarming rate. He has fumbled on 5.8% of his carries which is more than double the next-highest RB.

Broncos’ Keys to Victory

  • Give Russell Wilson success early and work to get him to the player he is capable of being. Start with some easy completions and give him some confidence.
  • Play disciplined defensively and use great technique when tackling Ekeler. They can’t allow him to spin off or run through arm tackles.

Chargers’ Keys to Victory

  • Strive for offensive balance and attack the middle of Denver’s defense with the run game.
  • Tighten up their run defense, where they rank 32nd, allowing almost 6 yards per carry.

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