It’s finally here! With the Thursday night matchup between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Dallas Cowboys, the 2021 NFL season has finally opened! This Sunday, 28 teams will face off, trying to get that Opening Day win. The Los Angeles Chargers open their season against the Washington Football Team at FedEx Field at 10 am PT. There are a number of interesting storylines to watch in this matchup. With that said, here is the Chargers-Football Team week 1 preview.
Herbert vs. Young – The Rookies of the Year Face-Off
The face-off between the reigning rookies of the year is sure to be the talk of the week for each team. Quarterback Justin Herbert defied all odds last season and put up arguably the best rookie quarterback season ever. He threw for over 4,300 yards and 31 touchdowns, along with breaking numerous rookie passing records. He was rightfully given the honors of winning the Offensive Rookie of the Year award. Chargers fans were considered about the future of the team’s quarterback situation after Philip Rivers left for Indianapolis, but those concerns were promptly squashed. With a stacked receiving core, Herbert’s future is looking quite bright.
Meanwhile, in D.C., the Football Team had possibly found the future star of their defense. Chase Young, the reigning
Defensive Rookie of the Year, was a devastating force on the field. With 44 tackles (32 solo, 10 for loss), 7.5 sacks, and 4 forced fumbles, Young was simply not a player an offensive coordinator could ignore. In fact, the opposite is more accurate. Coordinators would need to plan specifically for Young, which is quite a feat for a rookie. It’s safe to say that the hype around Young coming out of college was well deserved.
So who will come out on top? Well, that boils down to how left tackle Rashawn Slater performs. A storyline often overlooked is the fact that Slater and Young will be matched up. For those uninformed, Slater and Young have a history. Back in 2019, when Young was on a rampage through college football with Ohio State, Slater and Young faced off. Slater was the only tackle in the country who seemed to be unable to stop Young’s relentless attack. While the Herbert-Young matchup is the headliner, this is another story to keep an eye on.
Staley vs. Rivera: Youth or Experience?
Another storyline to keep an eye on is the showdown between head coaches. The Los Angeles Chargers have Brandon Staley, who will be making his regular-season debut on Sunday. Staley, who has bounced around from team to team, is regarded as a defensive-minded genius. He worked with star Denver Broncos linebackers Von Miller and Bradley Chubb, with Chicago Bears star linebacker Khalil Mack, and just last year, he was the defensive coordinator for the 1st-overall Los Angeles Rams. And now, he is on the other side of L.A. with some new lethal weapons to work with. Staley could possibly do what previous defensive coordinator Gus Bradley could not: utilize star defensive end/linebacker Joey Bosa and strong safety Derwin James to their fullest potentials. But first, he needs to get through his first NFL game as a head coach.
Meanwhile, the Football Team has Ron Rivera, one of the most highly-respected and experienced coaches in the league. Once the longtime head coach of the Carolina Panthers, Rivera has generated a lot of respect as a veteran head coach. Rivera was made the head coach in 2011, the same season the Panthers drafted future star quarterback Cam Newton. With Cam Newton captaining the squad, Rivera led the team to 3 playoff appearances, one of them ending in a Super Bowl appearance. Those 9 seasons in Carolina, as well as his season in D.C. last year, give Rivera a massive edge over Staley in terms of experience. Will Staley and his high-octane offense be able to surpass Rivera? Or will Rivera and his stalwart defense manage to hold out against Staley? We’ll find out on Sunday!
Along with these intriguing storylines, there are a number of players on each team to watch on Sunday. As expected, Justin Herbert and Chase Young top the lists for each team. However, some other players, such as the Chargers safety Derwin James, D.C.’s quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, and the whole Chargers offensive line will play key roles in determining this game’s outcome.
Unlike the preseason, every game matters from here on out. Whoever wins here will have momentum going into their matchups next week. Both teams, though, are pretty closely matched. It’s highly possible that each team can win this game. The catalyst in determining who wins this game is Justin Herbert. Whether Herbert can replicate, or even surpass, his play from last year’s campaign will be key in determining the winner on Sunday. If he does not play well enough, D.C.’s young stars on defense will feast. This was the Chargers-Football Team week 1 preview.