Michael Turner handled the rushing duties and provided a typical "Turner the Burner" outing; averaging 4.8 yards a carry and rushing for a touchdown. Turner is a bruising presence coming out of the backfield and has a surprising burst. Michael Turner could start for a number of teams and it comes as no surprise that such teams would be interested in acquiring him. However, his importance to the San Diego running game can not be overstated - his role in the upcoming season will be crucial to the Chargers success on the ground.
Marcus McNeill looked excellent in pass protection and even better in run blocking. He is a fun player to watch on running downs, because as soon as the ball is handed off, Marcus is like a shark hunting down a seal, or in this case, a linebacker. He almost always find a defender and completely erases him from the play. He has excellent speed for a man of his huge proportions, and has great body control. On passing plays, the rusher rarely gets by the moving wall that is number 73. Pre-snap, one notices the length of McNeills arms and the advantage it provides him coming out of his stance. Basically, McNeill does not need to bend completely over to get in his stance and this provides him a unique ability to quickly get into his pass blocking technique. He is such a wide player that the rusher takes a extra wide route to the QB, which provides the passer that extra half second that he needs to avoid the sack. There were many around the league that considered D'Brickashaw Ferguson as the only NFL-ready Left Tackle in the draft, Marcus McNeill could start immediately for the playoff contending Chargers. This may seem as a bold statement after only one preseason performance, but watching Marcus in practice and in a game situation, it is clearly evident that he is not at all overwhelmed. He has a confidence about himself and it translates to his play on the field.
The Linebackers looked excellent on the field, with plays coming from many guys. However, it may be a result of the scheme - Wade Phillips has made the linebackers the stars of this defense, and the fact is, they SHOULD be making plays. The scheme is designed as such. But in particular, Tim Dobbins play extremely well. He flies to the ball and is extremely physical. He was calling the defense and seemed like the Wade Philips's star pupil. Shaun Philips was a terror off the edge and he and Dobbins each had 4 tackles and 1 sack. Charger fans should be excited about the future of the linebacking corp with players like Merriman, Philips, and Dobbins forming an excellent unit that is very fast and very physical.
If there was any thought that the Chargers made a mistake in drafting Antonio Cromartie 19th overall, Cromartie silenced those critics with an amazing interception in the endzone. In a display of incredible athleticism and range, Cromartie provided a play on the ball that perfectly displays the things he brings to the defense; size, speed, and playmaking ability. In his first NFL game, Antonio Cromartie walks away with the ball he hawked from the opposing offense.
AJ Feeley continued his trend of mediocrity. For a veteran Quarterback, he was terribly unfocused and made some horrible throws. He underthrew his receivers, made some bad decisions, failed to hit the open man, and was skitish in the pocket. AJ Feeley finished the night with a 64 passer rating compared to Whitehursts 61. I expect Feeley to fight for the third string QB position at this point. It would be better for Whitehurst to get the majority of the work with the second team offense to help along his development. Whitehurst has a future with the Bolts, whereas Feeley has done nothing to warrant a roster spot at this point.
A pleasant surprise was the production the Tight End unit provided without Antonio Gates as the main pass catcher of the group. Ryan Krause was particularly effective catching 6 passes for 64 yards. It should be noted, however, that he was basically playing the role that Gates would be playing in the first team offense. Nonetheless, he made the most of his opportunity and provided a strong argument for the Chargers to carry 4 TEs on the roster.
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