Who's the Guy: Justin Herbert
The Chargers have a superstar quarterback with the arm talent and athleticism to single-handedly win games as a one-man show. The 6-foot-6 QB is a flame thrower from the pocket with the accuracy, touch, timing and anticipation to make every throw in the book. In addition to displaying spectacular passing skills, Herbert is an improvisational wizard with the skills to make scramble tosses on the move while rolling in either direction. With a talented cast of big-bodied pass catchers around, the Chargers' QB1 is a nightmare to defend.
Don't Sleep On: Mike Williams
Keenan Allen is the Chargers' No.1 option in the passing game, but Williams is a more dangerous playmaker. The 6-foot-4, 218-pounder averages 16-plus yards per catch throughout his career with 26 scores. As a jump ball specialist with outstanding leaping ability, Williams specializes in winning 50-50 balls down the boundary and in the red zone. Considering his superior size and exceptional ball skills, the Chargers' WR2 deserves some extra attention on key downs.
Know His Name: Joey Bosa
The four-time Pro Bowler is a disruptive force off the edge with a non-stop motor and an array of pass rush maneuvers that overwhelm pass protectors on the edges. Bosa's knack for getting to the quarterback and knocking the ball loose (13 career forced fumbles) makes him a feared playmaker who must be accounted for in critical moments. With Khalil Mack on the opposite side commanding his fair share of attention, the Raiders cannot forget about No. 97 in critical moments.
Under Pressure: Brandon Staley
The second-year head coach spent the entire offseason facing criticism for his unconventional approach to fourth downs and two-point conversions. As an ultra-aggressive decision maker, Staley has boldly taken chances that make traditionalists shake their heads. In addition, the defensive wizard directed a unit that languished near the bottom of the league in several major categories. Given his reputation as a high-level schemer, the pressure is on Staley to show the football world that he has the talent and tactics to develop into an A-plus head coach in this league.
Numbers Game: 509
Keenan Allen leads all receivers in the NFL with 509 catches since 2017. The five-time Pro Bowler has finished each of the past three seasons with 100-plus catches (2019-21), which is the longest active streak in the NFL and tied for the third-longest streak in NFL history.
The Chargers offense is built around the talents of their superstar quarterback. Offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi has combined elements of a high-percentage, quick-rhythm passing game with a variety of vertical pass concepts designed to stretch the defense from sideline to sideline and end zone to end zone. With a pair of extra-large receivers to target in Allen and Williams, and a dynamic pass-catching back (Austin Ekeler) with the capacity to get loose in space, the Chargers have surrounded Herbert with enough playmakers to enable him to play fast break basketball on the grass.
As a Vic Fangio disciple, Staley wants to test the discipline and patience of the quarterback with a variety of two-high coverages designed to take away the deep ball. While the tactics might make the defense susceptible to the run due to the "light" box, the scheme works when the front seven plays with great effort and technique. The Chargers struggled to transition to the scheme a season ago. The defense lacked the personnel along the frontline to effectively "two-gap" at the line of scrimmage. With a new crew of defenders acquired in free agency (SEE: Sebastian Joseph-Day and Kyle Van Noy) and via trade (Khalil Mack), the Chargers will look to employ a "bend but don't break" scheme that enables them to eliminate big plays while not surrender significant yardage on the ground.
Matchup to Watch: Derwin James vs. Darren Waller
It is hard to find a better matchup on the field than this All-Pro vs. All-Pro battle. James is a freak athlete with cornerback-like skills in a linebacker's body. He will hover around the line of scrimmage as an extra run defender but is at his best in coverage against tight ends. Waller poses a serious challenge to the All-Pro safety as a super-sized wideout with outstanding route running skills and sticky hands. The veteran pass catcher has torched opponents as a "FLEX" weapon on the perimeter and he will have plenty of chances to twist James into knots as a wideout in the Raiders' spread formations.
Head inside Intermountain Healthcare Center to view the best photos from the Silver and Black's Wednesday practice.