Postgame observations - SD @ CHI 06

Marcus McNeill is good enough to start. Will he have growing pains? Sure. But right now, he is our best (healthy) option at left tackle. He is supremely confident in his ability to protect the quarterback and this is clearly evident in his play. He run blocking is more difficult to judge, mainly because defenders do their best to avoid the mammoth man. However, Marcus is a very good runner and there is a clear path that he leaves behind him. With LT’s excellent vision, I fully expect him to exploit his new blocker. This is important because now the Chargers will be equally effective running the ball from either the right side or left.

Philip Rivers is a competitor and a smart and extremely accurate Quarterback. 9/14 passing could have easily been 11/14 had receivers caught the ball. Giving up the INT to Brian Urlacher had a ripple effect on Rivers in that he was a little too cautious at times when placing the ball away from defenders (there was a pass to M. Floyd that was thrown away from the defender and just out of Floyd’s grasp). But overall, Rivers made smart decisions and looked poised against an intimidating defense. The 21 yard completion to Floyd later in the half was impressive. Rivers shook off a tackle, scrambled to the sideline while keeping his head downfield and made a nice completion to his big target.

Marlon McCree is a baller…the guy is always around the play and came up with a nice interception. Cromartie and McCree had INTs in consecutive weeks and this bodes well for the defense – these guys are doing exactly what they were brought in for; capitalizing on turnover opportunities. Jammer had a great opportunity to come away with an INT off of a tipped ball but was unable to locate and secure it. However, Jammer played well overall with 3 tackles and a pass defended.

Antonio Cromartie is getting better every week. He made some nice plays including a pass breakup, good downfield kick coverage, and a nice tackle near the LOS on a receiver. But he was also penalized and that will kill you in the end. His flag for taunting is a wake-up call but it was fun to see that from the secondary. The defense now has young, impact first-rounder (with swaggers!) at all 3 stages – Castillo on the line, Merriman in the linebacker corp, and Cromartie in the secondary.

But speaking of penalties, you can’t expect to win when you commit 11 of them. And when you turn the ball over 3 times, you are really making it difficult to win the ball game. Even though the Chargers outgained the Bears in yards and possessed the ball longer, they had costly turnovers and were not able to get the ball in scoring position often enough.

Shaun Philips is a very, very good player. Watch him on special teams and you will be surprised on how consistently close he is to making a big play. Whether its blocking a kick or making the big tackle in coverage, Shaun Philips is a beast on special teams. He is also a terror off the edge rushing the passer, but he has obviously established himself in this area. Do not overlook him on special teams, however; he deserves more credit for his play there.

Our backup linemen need reps. There is a significant drop-off in pass protection when the second unit hits the field. This is worrisome but it can really only be corrected with reps in games. The interior linemen struggle greatly in pass protection and our backup tackles, aside from McNeill, do not seem ready to start. Conversely, our first team O-line unit is very good. Against one of the top 3 defenses in the league, the Chargers power run game was able to rush for 134 yards on 25 carries. With all the pro-bowlers and alternates the Chicago Bears have on their D, this is an impressive stat. The Bears were only able to gain 98 yards on 27 carries. Their biggest gain was for 15 yards, a credit to our secondary’s ability to tackle the ball carrier.

Gordon is the new return man, and really impressed me. He should continue to handle the return duties after averaging almost 29 yards in kick returns. He is much bigger than Sproles and looks more durable. He also has good height which gives him a good view of the field and how the play is developing.

Igor Olshansky is going to have a very good year. He has been outplaying Castillo thus far in the preseason, and is ridiculously strong. He is becoming too much to handle for the tackles with his new finesse moves that he combines effectively with power. He shuts down his side of the field when defending the run. He is putting good pressure on the QB and is going to see the field more on 3rd down. He had a sack for minus 9 yards and was credited with a QB hurry.

Kassim Osgood is the preseason favorite for the AFC Pro Bowl on special teams. The guy makes all the plays, which has me wondering if the kick coverage unit comes to expect Osgood to make the tackle every time, and as a result maybe the other players are relaxing a bit? Is this why we have special teams breakdowns? Maybe the unit is so used to the same few players making all the plays that the rest of the team isn’t fighting as hard?

Michael Turner is the 3rd best running back in the AFC West. He is better than LaMont Jordan. He is better than Tatum Bell.

Besides Marlon McCree, who is going to start? There is still no safety who is head and shoulders outplaying his competition. Is this a good thing or a bad thing? I don’t feel too comfortable with the continued inconsistency back there, but I like the competition factor. Still, the Corners need to know who they are riding with.

August 21, 2006

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