The Los Angeles Chargers escaped with a win in Week 1 over the Cincinnati Bengals 16-13; a win that likely left many fans breathing a sigh of relief. The defense was definitely the superior unit in that game as, aside from allowing a long Joe Burrow touchdown run, they mostly shut down the Bengals offense and forced a couple of turnovers as well. While the Chargers did avoid turning the ball over, they didn’t score much either. While there’s not much to be said about the game itself, it did bring some clarity on how the pecking order looks in the lineups, which we didn’t have as much of due in part to no preseason. There are a few younger new names here that look to end up being names for Chargers fans to watch for this season.
Joshua Kelley and Other New Chargers Players To Watch Going Forward
With Melvin Gordon gone, there was a question of just who would get the bulk of the carries or if it would entirely be a committee. Austin Ekeler and Justin Jackson looked to be the obvious answers, but there was also fourth-round rookie Joshua Kelley in the fold. While it does appear Ekeler will have the bulk of the carries (he had 19 on Sunday), Kelley looks to now be the change-of-pace halfback. And possibly a pretty good one at that.
He had 12 carries for 60 yards and the lone Chargers touchdown of the day. He has a more physical, hard-running style than either Ekeler or Jackson. This looks to work pretty well in this offense. It’s definitely going to be interesting to watch him play going forward, and see if he eventually gets more carries from Ekeler – who had a solid stat line but isn’t really a three-down back.
Some Chargers fans may look at that name and ask “who?” And to be fair, it’s not like he made much of an impact for the Chargers on Sunday. However, we may see more of him going forward as he currently has taken the #3 wide receiver spot – over the rookies Joe Reed and K.J. Hill, who looked to be more likely bets. Simply put, head coach Anthony Lynn apparently wanted another speedy option like Tyrell Williams or Travis Benjamin in that spot – and neither Reed nor Hill could provide that satisfactorily.
Enter Jalen Guyton, who had only one catch for 16 yards (his only target too). But he still had 64% of the snaps on Sunday. Meanwhile, Reed and Hill were only out there for a combined 20% of snaps. The current situation doesn’t favor them, although we’ll probably see them eventually. That said, Reed did have a 46-yard kickoff return, so watch out for him in that spot at least.
So while Guyton may still only be the fourth look after Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, and Hunter Henry, he’s still the WR3 for the Chargers right now. Assuming that he doesn’t go the way of Andre Patton (shudder), it may not be long before we see him start bringing in a deep pass or two.
Nasir Adderley ended up getting the starting nod at safety opposite Rayshawn Jenkins, although he ended up splitting time there with Desmond King, getting in on 40% of the snaps. Adderley did not record any stats and ended up taking a bad angle on the Joe Burrow touchdown run. Some of the more casual fans might have forgotten about last year’s second-round pick in Adderley after he spent almost all of last year on injured reserve. But we’ll probably be seeing more of him, even if in a semi-limited capacity.
Also, though this one isn’t really a surprise at all, first-round pick linebacker Kenneth Murray was out playing a major role right away. He was in on eight combined tackles, good for second-most on the team (four solo). Though probably more Chargers fans were expecting this, Murray’s still gonna be a name to watch. He was on the field more than any other Chargers linebacker (91% of snaps).
A couple of these names may be ones Chargers fans are already familiar with, and a couple of others maybe not. But it’s starting to become more clear who will be playing what roles on the team, at least for now (in the areas where there was a question, that is). We’ll get even more clarity over the next week or two – particularly on the part of Guyton since against the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 2, the Chargers will likely be forced to pass more than in Week 1.
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