It’s Rashawn Slater v. Chase Young 2.0 this week.
For the Chargers’ first game of the 2021 season, the intriguing storylines are everywhere.
Both teams have young talent on either side of the ball. Those players also played against and/or with each other during their college years. Those types of connections always make a game more fun as it brings in the chance for bragging rights other things worth fighting a little harder for.
For week one, here are the three things I’ll be watching for when the Bolts take the field in Landover, Maryland this Sunday.
1.) Derwin James’ return to an NFL field
After missing 27 of the past 32 possible games, Derwin James is about to start a season healthy and on the field for the first time since his historic 2018 rookie campaign. And in all honesty, you could make an argument that the fans — and even the entire NFL — are almost as excited as he is about that fact.
This will also be James’ first season as an elected team captain. He’ll also be the one calling the plays on defense as he was given the coveted green dot by Brandon Staley. It’s not the biggest surprise, however, when you recall that safety John Johnson held the same role under Staley while with the Rams in 2020.
With playmakers at several positions across the Washington offense, James will have his hands full from the first whistle until the last.
2.) Rashawn Slater vs. Chase Young
Did any of you see the movie Godzilla vs. Kong? So, that’s what this matchup is going to be like, but also a lot more entertaining.
Just kidding. I actually enjoyed the film but I needed to correctly paint just how excited I am about this matchup.
Slater’s best film while at Northwestern was the game against Ohio State where he and Young went toe-to-toe the entire time. It’s also the biggest reason Slater went as high as he did in this past draft because that was essentially a teach-tape for an offensive tackle the way he handled a guy who would go on to be the second-overall pick that year.
Slater recently told the media that he believes that matchup doesn’t necessarily mean he’s going to do it again, calling Young and himself completely different players after all this time. That might be Slater just being humble and keeping himself even-keeled through his first game as a professional, but we all know he’s thought about that 2019 matchup more than once this week.
#Chargers LT Rashawn Slater says that the matchup between him and WFT DE Chase Young is in the past. He says they have both grown a lot since they faced each other in college. pic.twitter.com/5dh2zlj0mF
— Fernando Ramirez (@RealFRamirez) September 9, 2021
3.) Will there be any special teams mishaps?
Will there? I hope and pray the answer is no. But this is the Chargers we’re talking about. Has the new coaching staff done enough to stymie the mistakes that have plagued this team in recent years? Their first chance to show us otherwise will be Sunday.
If you watched the preseason, there were already mistakes of kick coverages trotting out there with 10 and 12 men. Most fans probably thought, “Hm, that sure didn’t take long,” but luckily that didn’t continue through the remainder of August.
As it stands, K.J. Hill is the team’s punt returner while Nasir Adderley will return kicks. I question the decision to name Hill the guy there as he runs a 4.60 in the forty which doesn’t inspire any hope of long returns, but they have their reasons. Adderley showed some nice moves as a returner during the final stretch of games to end last season so I’m all for him continuing to have that job this year.
Overall, I’m giving Staley and special teams coordinator Derius Swinton the benefit of the doubt on all of their decisions until the sky really starts to fall. Until then, let’s all try to relax and breathe normally, huh?