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LAKE FOREST — The Los Angeles Chargers present plenty of issues for opposing defenses.
Justin Herbert is one of the best young quarterbacks in the league. Wide receiver Keenan Allen is still producing at a high level in his 11th year in the NFL. Running back Austin Ekeler is a dual-threat weapon out of the backfield.
With all these different and talented options at the Chargers’ disposal, Bears linebackers Tremaine Edmunds and T.J. Edwards will have their hands full on Sunday night at SoFi Stadium.
Linebackers coach Dave Borgonzi views Herbert as one of the more talented quarterbacks in the league.
“He’s got one of the strongest arms in the league,” Borgonzi said. “He can make all the throws, in cuts, balls on the sideline, he can make every throw there is. And also, he’s athletic. So he presents a lot of problems in that he can make every throw and then he can scramble and he can scramble and he can throw. He scrambles really effectively and he’s accurate. It’s the first time I’ve gone against him. He’s a really good player.”
Herbert has thrown for 1,592 yards, 10 touchdowns and four interceptions this season. According to Pro Football Focus, Herbert is 57 of 76 for 652 yards and has thrown four touchdowns and three interceptions when passing between the numbers this season. A majority of those passes were between 0-10 yards, which should be where Edmunds and Edwards will be operating for a majority of the game.
Allen has 46 receptions for 574 yards and four touchdowns on the season. He’s caught 26 passes between the 0-10-yard range and has made receptions across the whole field, so if the two linebackers are in zone, they will need to be prepared to go from sideline to sideline to make a play on the veteran wide receiver.
And the same can be applied for Ekeler. He has only played in three games this season due to an ankle injury and has not been too productive the last two games, running for a combined 72 yards and adding only 36 receiving yards. In the Week 1 matchup against the Dolphins, though, Ekeler ran for 117 yards and a touchdown and had 47 receiving yards.
The production may not be there right now for Ekeler, but Borgonzi knows exactly the type of player and impact Ekeler can have on a game.
“Yeah, so I laugh because we played against the Chargers in 2019, we opened up against them, and he was a little bit of an unknown at that point and he’s a good player,” Borgonzi said. “He had 107 receptions last year in the pass game. He’s an effective guy out of the backfield and the thing about Ekeler, he’s a strong runner so we’ve got to really tackle this guy, bring your feet when you’re tackling because defenders will bounce off of him if you don’t bring good feet. Really good player in the run game, very effective in the pass game. We’ve got our hands full with him.”
Herbert, Allen and Ekeler will be the toughest quarterback, receiver and running back trio the Bears have faced this season, but Chicago may be getting Los Angeles at a good time.
These past three weeks, the Bears’ defense had made some much-needed improvements. The Commanders, Vikings and Raiders only scored a combined 44 points on offense, which averages to just 14.7 points per game. The defense has also created six turnovers in that span (four interceptions and two fumbles).
Credit needs to be given to coach Matt Eberflus and what he has been able to do with the defense.
“For me, just seeing him all those years in Indy, it kind of feels like the same,” Borgonzi said. “It’s both the execution and the call. So, obviously his intensity, the way he calls a game, he’s got a great feel for in-game calling. It’s made a real difference.”
The Chargers, however, have been disciplined with not having turnovers on offense. Los Angeles only has five giveaways on the season, which is tied for the second-least.
The Bears’ defense is starting to figure some things out, and this primetime matchup will be a major test for the Bears’ linebackers and the entire defense to see if they can continue making strides in the right direction.
“Yeah, no, it’s exciting,” Borgonzi said. “Again, sometimes it takes a little bit and you can really see the defense these last few weeks, we’re playing fast, we’re playing physical and again, it’s not about the call, it’s about the execution. It’s not like we’re inventing new calls or anything. It’s the same defense we played last year, we’re just executing it better and part of that, too, I think is that guys are more comfortable in the system.”
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