Stopping Broncos’ run game point of emphasis for Chargers
COSTA MESA, Calif. — A focus for Los Angeles Chargers defensive coordinator Gus Bradley every week is containing the run on early downs so talented edge rushers Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa can get after the quarterback in obvious passing situations.
However, Bradley’s defense has struggled stopping the run so far this season. The Chargers have allowed 152.5 rushing yards a contest, worst in the NFL.
The Chargers allowed 109 rushing yards to the Raiders last week, which was a step in the right direction.
“It’s better, but we’re still not to where our standard is yet,” Bradley said. “Today [Thursday], we walked through every run fit. It’s just an understanding and we keep repeating it over and over again.”
The Broncos will no doubt try to run the football against the Chargers to protect quarterback Trevor Siemian, who enters Sunday’s contest with a left shoulder injury.
In a season-opening loss in Denver, the Chargers allowed the Broncos to rush for 140 yards on the ground. So containing C.J. Anderson and Jamaal Charles will be a point of emphasis for the Bolts on Sunday.
The Broncos managed just 46 rushing yards in last week’s loss to the New York Giants.
The Chargers are attempting to break a seven-game losing streak at home that dates back to Week 10 of last season when they defeated the Tennessee Titans in San Diego. According to ESPN Stats & Information, it’s the second-longest active losing streak at home — the San Francisco 49ers lost nine straight at Levi’s Stadium.
Here are five things to watch as the Chargers host the Broncos at StubHub Center:
Play tough in the red zone: While they have given up yardage in between the 20-yard lines, the Chargers have been stingy in the red zone so far this season. The Bolts have allowed touchdowns in the red zone just 40 percent of the time, which ranks as No. 5 in the NFL. Denver’s offense has struggled in the red zone the past three games, scoring touchdowns just two out of 11 times inside the 20-yard line, so keeping that going will be important for the Chargers.
Put the game in Siemian’s hands: The Broncos are banged up along the offensive line. Starting right tackle Menelik Watson is out with a calf injury, and his replacement, Donald Stephenson ,also suffered a calf injury this week. So the Broncos will move left guard Allen Barbre to right tackle. Barbre had been splitting time with Max Garcia at left guard. With the changes up front, the Chargers’ defensive line needs to stop the run first, and then keep Siemian in the pocket and make him uncomfortable.
Contain Demaryius Thomas: The Broncos also will be without cat-quick receivers Emmanuel Sanders and Isaiah McKenzie due to injuries, so Siemian likely will look for Thomas, their big-play receiver, to jump-start the offense. The Chargers can’t let Thomas take over the game with his explosive playmaking ability. Thomas has 59 career receptions for 837 receiving yards and a career-high eight touchdowns in 14 games against the Chargers.
Score early: The Bolts have been outscored 50-7 in opening quarters so far this season. The offense needs to get going at the start of the game to put pressure on the Broncos.
Create turnovers: The Bolts have forced just six turnovers this season, but four have been in the past two games. The Chargers are 2-1 in games in which they’ve won the turnover battle this season. The Broncos have turned it over five times in the past three games.