As the Chargers head into their second game of the preseason, they should be mindful about improving their consistency in both the run game and special teams. The Chargers lost their preseason opener to the Seattle Seahawks, but should still come away with some valuable lessons. If the Chargers are not able to run the ball with effectiveness or take advantage of field position opportunities, they'll be backing themselves against a wall, forcing themselves to pass the ball too much and becoming vulnerable to turnovers.
(Photo Credit: Mike Nowak/San Diego Chargers)
ESTABLISH THE RUN
The Chargers need to become a better running football team, period. Only twenty rushes per game is simply not going to cut it. If the Chargers throw the ball fifty times in a game, they'll obviously increase their chances of giving away interceptions. The Chargers are a great spread team, and operate and protect well out of the shotgun. The offensive line pass protects very well. However, they need to become better at the power running game. The offensive line needs to improve in their communications with each other. There were times against Seattle that the O-line failed to pickup their blocks and missed on screen plays that could have turned into huge gains. These guys will continue to gel, and I have no doubt that these mental breakdowns will get corrected. But the timing and execution is not there yet and it showed. Whether it's Jacob Hester getting a better feel of where Tomlinson wants to go, or if it's LT's vision and patience that need to sharpen up, there is plenty of room to improve in the run game.
EXECUTE ON SPECIAL TEAMS
Special teams is difficult to grade in the preseason because there are so many young guys who play in these packages. A good special teams unit is an established one. The Chargers are doing some experimentation right now, and as they should, since the preseason is the best time to do these types of evaluations.
Buster Davis had a nice showing as the team's starting return man. As he gets more comfortable back there, he'll use his blocks better and allow his speed to get him past defenders. Darren Sproles was one of the best returners in the game last year, but if the plan is to use him less in that role, then hopefully the drop off in production isn't dramatic.
Nate Kaeding missed about a 33 yard field goal attempt, which is out of character for a guy who has been one of the most accurate regular season kickers in the NFL. These kicks should be automatic... not sure what happened on that miss.
The Chargers also used backup punter Truman Spencer, and he was shaky. He punted the ball out of bounds and he also punted the ball into the endzone for an avoidable touchback. The Chargers are not used to giving up touchbacks when Mike Scifres is booming kicks with tremendous hang time. Spencer is likely just a camp kicker and probably won't make the final roster.
GENERATE MORE SACKS AND NEGATIVE PLAYS
I don't buy into the theory that simply pressuring or hurrying a QB is good enough. If an NFL quarterback cannot move in the pocket and deal with the pass rush pressure that inevitably comes in games, then he probably shouldn't be playing in the league.
Sacks not only take plays away from the offense, but they also create negative yardage. Pressure without sacks usually wont be enough. If the QB is chased out of the pocket but is still able to complete a pass downfield, then the pass rush was not successful. It's pretty simple isn't it? Create negative plays, and get hits on the Quarterback.
I think the Chargers have the personnel necessary to generate sacks. However, two of their featured pass rushers are limited by injury; Shawne Merriman is still working his way into becoming 100 percent again, and Larry English has been hampered by a nagging hamstring injury. These guys need the reps to get into their rhythm, and so it is important that they get a chance to use the preseason as a tune up. Aside from those two, I'm also anxious to see Jyles Tucker and Antoine Applewhite perform. If the Chargers decide to only carry five outside linebackers, Tucker and Applewhite would be competing to be that fifth OLB. Someone needs to stand out and show the team that not only are they versatile in being able to play both the SAM and the WILL, but they also need to get to the quarterback and make plays in the backfield.
I think the Chargers are incredibly deep; there won't be many available roster spots when final cuts are to be made. The preseason is a great time to evaluate the young guys and to see how they stack up both against each other and against some of the more established veterans. I think the Chargers will continue to improve each week and put themselves into position to win the division once again.
Labels: Preseason 2009
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