Two AFC teams that had high expectations entering the season have each found their way to disappointing 4-8 records entering Week 14. The Los Angeles Chargers travel to Jacksonville to take on the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Check out our conversation on the Chargers and on this weekend’s matchup below:
1. Let’s talk about Philip Rivers. It appears his age has finally caught up with him. His arm strength seems to have diminished and he has played poorly in fourth quarters this season. What has ailed Rivers in 2019? With Rivers’ contract expiring after the season, do you expect the Chargers to move on from him? Or perhaps Rivers retires?
Michael: Rivers has consistently been inconsistent year-to-year. One year he decides to lead the league in interceptions and the next he will put up career numbers in the majority of passing categories. Some years it looks like he can still play with a regressing arm and some years it looks like it’s the biggest thing holding this team back. Rivers looks incredibly uncomfortable in the pocket, regardless if his offensive line is healthy or not. He crumbles too quickly in the pocket and a lot of plays are dead before they could even break open.
This Rivers’ mentality looks much more similar to his play in 2015 and 2016 as opposed to the last two seasons where they finished with winning records.
Regardless of how this season ends, I believe Rivers will be back for one more year so he can get a taste of the new LA stadium. He has voiced that intention to play into the new stadium and I think the team will respect that statement even though he may or may not deserve to lead this team following this year.
2. I think it’s fair to say both the Jaguars and Chargers have struggled and been major disappointments this year. Still, this is an intriguing AFC contest. Are there any specific matchups between the Jaguars and Chargers you are looking forward to watching (in-person) on Sunday?
Michael: The biggest match-ups to watch for are going to be the ones in the trenches. Both teams have weak offensive lines while both also claim some of the best pass-rushing units in the league.
Josh Allen, Yannick Ngakoue, and Calais Campbell could have a field day against this front five and Rivers could be in for one of his worst games of the year if they can pressure him the way most expect them to.
3. Who is one player from the Chargers that Jaguars fans may not be aware of you think can make an impact on Sunday and why?
Michael: Rookie linebacker Drue Tranquill is a name most Jaguar fans may not know but they’ll see a lot of him on Sunday. He has been a key contributor on special teams and has worked his way into the middle linebacker rotation with Denzel Perryman. Whether it’s a big tackle on punts or kickoffs, he finds a way to set the tone for the ensuing drive.
4. Austin Ekeler has had a great season with 718 receiving yards, 380 rushing yards and 10 total touchdowns. Meanwhile, Melvin Gordon has struggled a bit after returning from his holdout, averaging just 3.9 yards per carry and only amassing 123 yards on 20 receptions in the passing game. What has made Ekeler so successful this season as a dual-threat back (although most of his success comes as a receiver)? Why has Gordon struggled? How do you see the running back group working out moving forward this season and into 2020?
Michael: Austin Ekeler is thriving in a pass-catching role out of the backfield that has always thrived with the Chargers. Danny Woodhead was a huge beneficiary of the position in the mid-2010’s and we all know just how good LaDainian Tomlinson was during his prime. Ekeler benefits from the team often being behind on the scoreboard but he has the knack for wiggling out of tackles and finding yards after the catch. This is the biggest difference between him and Melvin Gordon. Ekeler finds a way when Gordon fails.
Gordon has found some success in recent weeks on the ground following the firing of Ken Whisenhunt and the promotion of Shane Steichen to offensive coordinator. He thrives in late game situations where he seems to gain strength and power while everyone else falls off. Hopefully that can continue.
5. If you could take any one Jaguars player on the roster and place him on Los Angeles’ roster, who are you taking and why?
Michael: I would pick Josh Allen every day of the week and twice on Sunday. This defense is at its best when the pass rush is successful because it allows the secondary to play aggressive and jump balls coming out due to the heat barring down on quarterbacks. Allen has a half-sack more than Joey Bosa at the moment and that fact speaks for itself. You can never have too many players who can rush the quarterback.
Bonus: Score prediction?
Michael: 24-17 Chargers.
Thank you to Michael for taking the time to answer my questions with thorough and insightful responses. You can follow him on Twitter, and, of course, to keep up with all things Los Angeles Chargers, follow Bolts From the Blue as well.