The countdown is on for the Chargers season opener.
The Bolts are off this weekend but will get to work Monday in preparation for Week 1 against the Raiders. Kickoff is Sept. 11 at 1:25 p.m. (PT) from SoFi Stadium.
With the regular season looming, we got a few of the Chargers' beat writers together to discuss where the Bolts are at right now.
Here's what Daniel Popper (The Athletic), Jeff Miller (Los Angeles Times), Elliott Teaford (Southern California News Group) and Eric Smith (Chargers.com) had to say:
What's the biggest storyline surrounding the Chargers entering Week 1?
Popper: Does J.C. Jackson play? The Chargers signed Jackson to a five-year deal this offseason to be their No. 1 corner, but he underwent minor ankle surgery last week. He might miss this matchup against the Raiders and Davante Adams. Jackson is going to be a crucial piece of this new-look defense whenever he gets back on the field.
Miller: The Sin City Sequel! The Chargers' first opponent of the 2022 season happens to be their last opponent of the 2021 season, the Las Vegas Raiders. The NFL's schedule makers couldn't wait to throw these two teams back into the same pit again. This very well could be the most emotional game of the year for the Chargers given the way last year ended. Coach Brandon Staley has openly talked about not being over that loss yet. I anticipate SoFi Stadium being electric-plus.
Teaford: Revenge. Can the Chargers exact payback from the Raiders after their season-ending loss in Las Vegas cost them a playoff spot? It should be an emotional season opener. It'll also be our first view of the Chargers' upgraded defense, a look at all the new names and faces acquired in a very busy offseason.
Smith: The Chargers and Raiders have met 125 times in their storied rivalry. But the emotions might be at an all-time high for this one considering how last season ended, when the Bolts saw a playoff berth slip away in heartbreaking fashion. The Chargers want to be in the dance this time around, and the first step to ensuring that happens in taking care of the division rival at home.
Presenting your 2022 Los Angeles Chargers
Which rookie or newcomer do you have your eye on?
Popper: Khalil Mack. We get our first look at Mack and Joey Bosa as a pass-rushing tandem in Week 1. I am expecting fireworks.
Miller: J.C. Jackson. Not sure we'll get our eyes on Jackson until Week 2 or 3, given his recent foot procedure, but he's definitely this team's most interesting addition to me. The Chargers haven't been great at creating takeaways, and interceptions are the exact reason Jackson got paid this offseason. Seeing if he can continue his turnover production with a new team - a team that desperately needs it - will be very intriguing.
Teaford: Well, cornerback J.C. Jackson, of course. He's got quite the reputation as a playmaker and he joins a pretty good secondary with Derwin James Jr. as one of the best in the NFL at safety. He's certainly the highest-paid safety in the league now after signing his contract extension last month.
Smith: Mack. The man is as motivated as I've ever seen a player be before the start of a season. I got an up close view of Mack over the past few seasons in the NFC North. If he's still the player he was a few years ago (which is highly likely), he'll create havoc all over the field in 2022.
An unheralded name to watch in 2022 is…
Popper: Donald Parham. He is back in practice after missing time with a hamstring injury, and I think the tight end is going to have a breakout season. He has great chemistry with Justin Herbert and is very hard to defend one-on-one because of his size.
Miller: DeAndre Carter. Before the season's over, Carter's name could be much heralded by those of us who cover the Chargers. We'll see how much he is used on offense. It was quite a bit in training camp. Not sure how much of that will carry over now, but it certainly could be a decent amount. Returning kickoffs is where Carter most assuredly will have a chance to impact games immediately. Every yard that special teams can shorten the field for Justin Herbert is an advantage.
Teaford: Justin Herbert. No, I'm kidding. Sony Michel just signed as a backup running back after Miami cut him loose. I'm curious to see how he fits in behind Austin Ekeler. They seem to play a similar type of game, running and catching.
Smith: Chris Rumph II. Chargers Head Coach Brandon Staley already said he plans on deploying Mack and Bosa quite a bit this season. But Rumph was among the preseason standouts and might have carved out a role for himself this season. If the Bolts get creative with Mack, Bosa and Rumph on the field together, the 23-year-old could excel.
Finally, take a peek into your crystal ball. What will we be saying about the Chargers after Week 18?
Popper: AFC West champions.
Miller: We'll be assessing their first-round playoff matchup. How's that for the L.A. Times being positive?! The Chargers are in for a rugged ride in a deep and talented AFC West. But I still have them improving enough on a 9-8 finish a year ago to advance to the postseason in Staley's second season. The defense has to be improved and there's no reason to suspect the offense won't be as good or better.
Teaford: The writers will be trying to figure out which Marriott is their best option for the playoffs, which means I fully expect the Chargers to advance to the playoffs. Will they have dethroned the Chiefs for the AFC West title? I don't know, but I'm guessing they'll have made the playoffs and perhaps posted a 10-7 record.
Smith: That the Chargers have snapped a four-season playoff skid. That's the expectation among players and coaches as the calendar has turned to September. Does this team have the potential for a deep postseason run? We'll evaluate that as the season goes along. But in an ultra-competitive AFC West, the Bolts will be among the seven AFC teams left standing. And one final thing ... this season could be a special one for Justin Herbert, too.
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