Patriots vs. Chargers: three to watch out for in the Los Angeles offensive

The New England Patriots travel west to the “City of Angels” with quarterback Justin Herbert and the Los Angeles Chargers for their “Halloween Date”. Sunday’s eighth week matchup will take place at 4:05 p.m. ET at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, California.

While many Patriots players are expected to get some attention during Sunday’s game, here are three players on the offensive who might raise an eyebrow when the Pats take on the Chargers.

Damien Harris

Despite some initial concerns about his ball safety, Damien Harris has become one of the most effective runners in the conference. The Alabama product amassed 437 yards to the ground with five touchdowns. While the Chargers are an impressive football team in all three stages, they have a sore spot that the Pats will no doubt take advantage of on Sunday. The bolts’ defense has been porous so far in 2021. They allowed an average of 162.5 yards per game and 5.5 yards per game. While the Patriots’ running game has had its share of growing pains this season, the team has been passing the ball fairly efficiently lately. This is due in part to Damien Harris’ mileage. Harris has won 100 yards in consecutive games, 101 yards against Dallas (October 17), followed by 106 yards against the New York Jets (October 24). While there is no guarantee of such success, the Pats will try to play the ball often on Sundays. Should the Pats give him room to maneuver, Harris will be able to break for a considerable distance. He can also be a factor in getting out of the backfield, a trait he showed during his days in Alabama. If the Chargers succeed against the Pat’s barrel guards, Harris may need to be a little more creative with the ball.

Michael Onwenu

With Onwenu expected to stick to the right tackle this week (while Trent Brown continues his time in the injured reserve), he should win his fair share of matchups with Chargers’ defensive end / linebacker Joey Bosa. Ohio State product usually positions itself to the left of the Bolts’ defense, giving it the ability to help both run defense and overtake the passerby. At his best, Onwenu has shown a consistent and formidable ability to overwhelm defenders in the run game while being well anchored to protect the passerby. It rarely happens that it is easily bypassed in a pass block. If the Patriots are to succeed on Sunday, they must hold Bosa back in hopes of giving Mac Jones as much time as possible. Of course, it is easier said than done to be successful at such a task. Bosa is hands down the Chargers’ best defender and one of the most formidable pass rushers in the NFL. In the past, the Patriots have taken an “isolation” approach to defending strong pass rushers. However, Bosa’s versatility makes this strategy problematic. Therefore, Onwenu has to prove his enormous wingspan in order to keep Bosa in front of him. The Michigan product should be up to the task, but it needs the support of its teammates with both running and pass protection. In addition to the right guard Shaq Mason, the running backs, tight ends or even a wide receiver of the Pats are called to chip Bosa when he trips into his routes.

Hunter Henry

For the first time in his career, Henry will take to the field in a visitor’s uniform during a Chargers home game. The 26-year-old finds his spot on the Patriots offense and that’s good news for New England passing. Although widely praised for his versatility, he is most productive when he plays the traditional “Y” role, emphasizing his distance running skills as well as his boxing ability. He has also proven to be a strong blocker and reliable pass catcher. He leads the team with four touchdown receptions and has developed quite a synergy with quarterback Mac Jones. In turn, what makes Henry such an effective receiver is his track running ability, which he can do as well (if not better) than any tight end in the league. With the Patriots poised to make heavy use of the game in progress on Sunday, their passing opportunities will likely come largely from the action. In that regard, Henry should see significant glances in close range situations as well as a handful of targets in the end zone.

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