The number 1 air raid offense from 2017 started off just as hot averaging 329 yards per game through the air so far in 2018. The Chargers have spread the ball by taking advantage of all of their offensive weapons through the first two weeks of the 2018 season.
Melvin Gordon and Austin Ekeler are both dual-threat running backs. This keeps them active in the passing game and keeps the defense honest, as neither being on the field prevents the Chargers from using any play (run or pass) in the entire playbook. Gordon is currently the team leader in targets with 20, catching 15 of those for 140 yards, 2 touchdowns and a 75% catch rate. Ekeler has seen 8 targets, catching all of them for 108 yards, 1 touchdown and a 100% catch rate. With running backs who start off a season being this reliable in the receiving game, it gives the quarterback, Philip Rivers, confidence in their ability and Rivers will keep feeding them the ball. This allows the running backs to be game script proof; they’ll be used when the Chargers are winning the game and when they are chasing points on the scoreboard.
The Chargers’ tight end duo has returning Antonio Gates, who is easing backing into his role after missing training camp, and Virgil Green, an excellent blocking tight end but who the Chargers have been getting him involved in the passing game as well. Gates has seen 4 targets, catching 2 of them for 16 yards and a 50% catch rate. Green has seen 5 targets, bringing them all in for 76 yards and a 100% catch rate. Rivers loves to look for tight end match ups in the red zone and while running play action. Rivers and Gates have connected on 84 touchdowns, the most ever for a quarterback-tight end tandem. Gates has only scored on two other receptions during the Rivers era, both on trick plays from LaDainian Tomlinson.
The receiving core has four main components consisting of Keenan Allen, Tyrell Williams, Travis Benjamin and Mike Williams. Allen has seen the second most targets on the team with 19, hauling in 14 of them for 175 yards, 1 touchdown and a 74% catch rate. T. Williams has seen 8 targets, catching 5 of them for 56 yards, 1 touchdown and a 63% catch rate. Benjamin has had 5 targets, but was only able to bring 1 in for 1 yard and a 20% catch rate. M. Williams has 8 targets, collecting 7 of them for 108 yards, 1 touchdown and a 88% catch rate. Allen is a target monster due to his elite footwork and ability to create space. T. Williams and Benjamin are both burners and can make their day on one play. M. Williams is a physical receiver and excels at high pointing the ball. As Rivers gets more familiar with M. Williams, look for a lot of jump balls be thrown his way.
Philip Rivers is known to spread the ball around and sustain long drives, this will allow all the weapons to continue to see targets. Allen and the running backs will be more consistent seeing steady targets from week to week and as the season rolls along Gates will start to increase his target share.