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Chargers Mailbag: Week 1 Expectations & Prepping for the Raiders


Welcome to the Chargers Mailbag!

For those of you who don't know me, I'm Eric Smith. I joined the Bolts in June as the Senior Writer after spending six-plus years with the Minnesota Vikings.

I'm fired up to launch the Chargers Mailbag, which will be posted weekly. It's powered by fan-submitted questions and inquiries, so hit me up on Twitter each week to send them in.

Let's get it going!

Scott leads us off with a question about Week 1 against the Raiders. I'm actually going to go with two answers here, and both involve the Bolts in the trenches.

Offensively, the Chargers return the left and middle part of their offensive line, and that group of Rashawn Slater, Matt Feiler and Corey Linsley might be as good as any as trio in the league.

The Chargers will roll out a rookie right guard in Zion Johnson, however, plus Trey Pipkins III at right tackle after he won the starting job in training camp and the preseason.

Much was made about the Chargers adding Khalil Mack to pair with Joey Bosa, but the Raiders amped up their own pass rush by bringing in Chandler Jones to pair with Maxx Crosby.

If the Chargers can hold up against that duo and give Justin Herbert time to throw, odds are the quarterback can make something special happen.

The second part of this answer involves Mack, Bosa and the rest of the Chargers front seven. So much was made about the Bolts leaky run defense in 2021 and players and coaches are tired of hearing and talking about it.

If the Chargers can stop the run and force the Raiders to rely solely on the passing game, that will give Mack, Bosa and do-it-all weapon Derwin James, Jr., a chance to create havoc all over the field.

Mack, no question about it.

When I was with the Vikings in recent years, I saw firsthand how often he took over games and just wrecked them.

Pundits and national experts seem to be a little down on Mack right now, and that's likely because he's dealt with some injuries in recent seasons.

But the man seems as motivated as ever, and I'm not going to be one to bet against him.

If Mack is his usual self, that will be a boon for the Bolts defense in terms of rushing the passer and defending the run. Don't forget about that latter part. Sacks may get all the glory, but Mack's aggressiveness and physicality on the edge shouldn't go overlooked either.

Oh man, I love this question, so props to Chris for throwing a fun one in here.

For what it's worth, I wouldn't give any of these three things a super high chance of happening, but if I have to pick one then I'll go with "C."

First, Spiller is a talented back but rookies sometimes take awhile to get acclimated to the NFL. He has tremendous talent, and I could see him carving out a role in the passing game before he routinely gets 15-plus carries in a game.

Bandy is the man. The guy balled out in the preseason, and teammates and coaches rave about him. But as Staley said after the initial 53-man roster was released, it was simply a numbers game with him. If Bandy is the focal point, that likely means a bevy of unfortunate injuries for the Chargers on offense.

So that leaves Van Noy leading the team in sacks, which is what I'm going with. Van Noy has 26.5 sacks over his past five seasons, which comes out to a hair over 5.0 sacks per year.

Perhaps he doubles his career high of 6.5 and leads the team with 13 sacks or something. That could work by opposing offenses doubling both Mack and Bosa a lot, which would leave room for Van Noy to create pressure up the middle. Remember, even though he has experience at outside linebacker, he's listed as a starter at inside linebacker on the unofficial depth chart.

Thanks again to Chris for a fun question. Send in more of those and I'll try to get them in here.

What Coach Staley said on August 24 still holds true today. If you recall, and Travis alluded to it, but Coach said:

"It's really more about the wound healing. As soon as the wound heals, he'll be out at practice."

At this point, it has been 15 days since Jackson's procedure. He was not seen at Monday's practice, but we'll see if he returns to the practice field this week.

Staley said recently that Jackson has been in the building and staying connected to the team. But there won't really be an update until he returns to practice.

Everett is TE1 both on the unofficial depth chart and in the minds of everyone around here. That's not to say that Parham and Tre' McKitty won't have roles of their own, but Everett is clearly the top guy in that position group.

As for his expectations, here's a football phrase that could sum up his impact: yards after catch. Everett had 249 yards after the catch last season with Seattle, a figure that ranked 14th among all tight ends.

With a plethora of playmakers on the Bolts offense, defenses are going to have to pick and choose who they want to devote resources to when the Chargers are slinging the rock. That could open up the middle of the field (where there is the most space) for Everett, and he could tun a 5-yard catch into 15 or 20 yards.

One other thing to note, Herbert and Everett showed a strong connection in the red zone during training camp. Look for the 6-foot-3, 240-pound tight end to find some openings inside the 20-yard line, too.

In the Week 1 unofficial depth chart, Jerry Tillery was listed as the third defensive lineman next to Sebastian Joseph-Day and Austin Johnson. The backups were Morgan Fox, Otito Ogbonnia and Breiden Fehoko.

We'll see if that is the starting defensive line that trots out there on the first play against the Raiders.

For what it's worth, the Chargers could only line up with two down linemen, leaving a pair of outside linebacker, two inside linebackers and five defensive backs. That's a twist on a nickel defense, which we all know teams run the majority of the time in the NFL anyway these days.

Hmmm, good question to cap off the Mailbag.

For the Chargers, I'll go with safety Nasir Adderley. He received strong praise this spring and carried that over into a solid training camp, which included helping lead the secondary when James was not practicing.

Adderley has one interception in three seasons, but was close to coming down with a few picks a year ago. With more playmakers on defense in 2022, he could be the beneficiary by being in position to up his takeaway total in his fourth season.

As for the Raiders, Kolton Miller has developed into a solid left tackle. I'm interested to see how he matches up against Bosa, Mack and whoever else lines up in front of him.

We'll end it with this one. A big thanks to everyone for helping kick this off.

Again, you can find me on Twitter at @EricLSmith and submit your questions for the Chargers Mailbag.

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