For those who claim it foolish to read too much into preseason play, I'd argue that there is indeed valuable insight into a team's prospects that can be gained through watching exhibition games. While preseason win totals are certainly not an accurate predictor of regular season records, what the preseason can tell us is what the team's core offense and defense does, and doesn't, do well. The most obvious example for me is the fact that all preseason long, the Chargers struggled to maintain a consistent running attack but were able to make big plays through the air, down the field. This is a trend that has carried over into the regular season, and as such, brings up some interesting discussions. Have the San Diego Chargers changed their offensive identity under Norv Turner? Has the emergence of Philip Rivers and the aging of Ladainian Tomlinson caused the team to change its approach towards generating offensive production? Do the Chargers have the personnel to required to be a successful power running team, or will they lean heavily on their passing attack?
(Photo Credit: Mike Nowak/San Diego Chargers)
Going back to the preseason, Chargers running backs through four exhibition games averaged a paltry 3.5 yards per carry. Their average through week 1 of the regular season? 3.3 yards per carry. Heading into this season, I thought it would be a goal of the Chargers to get back to running the football with effectiveness. AJ Smith said leading up to the draft that the Chargers needed to improve their run game:
"I just know we're not good enough. But I will say this, which I've said before: we need to have a solid, consistent running game. We have to."
The Chargers have tried to run the ball, but are often unsuccessful. They lack creativity, and make running the ball seem like a chore. Running the ball on first down is becoming trademark Chargers football, and it's not fooling anyone. It would be one thing if the Chargers were a team who could run the ball with unashamed repetition, daring the opposing defense to stop them. But the Chargers are simply not that good yet. These are not the Minnesota Vikings; they are more like the Indianapolis Colts.
As far as I'm concerned, I think the Chargers might as well come out and say they are a passing team. They should be more open about the fact that they have an elite Quarterback in Philip Rivers who is surrounded by weapons. The Chargers are a very good passing team and should be proud of it. Having said that, having a balanced attack is obviously the ideal situation, so the San Diego Chargers would be better off using the pass to set up the run. Stop running into stacked boxes on first down, use more play action, more screens, and I think the Chargers have more success.
Says Head Coach Norv Turner, "We want to be a running team. We want to pound the ball. We want to mix the run. But there was a lot of times over the last year and a half that, when we go back and throw it like we did in the fourth quarter, 12 for 14 for a 144 yards, we're pretty good. So we're always torn with that (running vs. passing). But we're going to continue to run the football. But we've got a lot of guys who can make plays and contribute, so we've got to be a great a protection team, and we've got to find a way to use all the guys we have."
The Chargers seem intent on getting 20-25 rushes in per game, but the question still remains if they will be productive or not. What's your take; should the Chargers continue to pound the ball, or will they be better off letting Philip Rivers take over the game? Can the Chargers win a championship with their offense? Drop a comment below and let me know what you think!
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