It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, regarding the Chargers performance in Dallas in their second preseason game. Well, perhaps no preseason exhibition game should ever be related to on a Dickensian level, and, really, this game wasn’t exactly the worst of times as it related to the Chargers. In this game we saw a lot of the good in the 2011 Chargers team, and still a few things that need improvement.
1. The Philip Rivers led offense is the best. With #17 behind center, and a plethora of sure handed receivers, the Chargers will always be a threat to score.
2. Turnovers. Or more specifically, the three turnovers created by a hard-hitting defense combined with a lack of turnovers on offense. That’s a combination that has carried the Chargers to a top playoff seeding in seasons past.
3. Tackling. I can’t stop admiring the improved swarming and tackling ability of this defense. Previous iterations of the Chargers defense seemed to lack that fundamental skill, but this defense is flying to the ball and completing the tackle, which is often the difference in stopping a third-down conversion.
4. Ryan Mathews. It was an up and down game for the second year running back, but he showed flashes of determination and athleticism on a number of plays, including a 2nd-quarter touchdown.
5. Speaking of the running game. Both Mathews and Jordan Todman averaged five or more yards on the ground, while Jacob Hester was his usually productive self in short-yardage situations.
6. Coaches Challenges. Hey, coach Norv went 2-2 on challenges in the first half, rather than the 0-2 I had come to expect in most games last year.
The Needs Improvement
1. Ryan Mathews. He looked good on a number of plays, but the ground game looked equally uninspired on a number of plays. Said ESPN analyst Ross Tucker, via Twitter, “The difference between (Cowboy RB) Felix Jones & Ryan Mathews hitting the hole is palpable. Jones running like he means it. Mathews isn’t.” Ouch.
2. Pressure. The 1st-team defense was not able to get enough pressure on Romo. Given that a number of pass-rushing specialists were unavailable, I’m not too concerned at this point. But the Dallas offensive line is in a major stat of flux, and should have been owned by the Chargers’ pass rush.
3. Defense versus the run. Jones averaged eight-yards per carry, while the Cowboys’ back-ups weren’t that far behind him. At one point it seemed like the Cowboys could run the ball at will, behind an offensive line that will have seen more change than Chastity/Chaz Bono by the time the season starts.
Overall I think we saw a solid performance by the Chargers in Dallas, the type of performance that will produce a win in most games this season. Other than a few tweaks here and there, the starters look like they are ready to play and should dominate the Vikings on September 11. And almost as important, the backups were much improved compared to last week’s performance against the Seahawks. If they can hang on to the ball on offense and hang on to their opponents on defense, all things point to this being a great season.
Regarding the good and bad of the Chargers second preseason game, where do you think the Chargers stand at this point? Am I being too hard on the Chargers running game or their defense? Sound off below and share your thoughts on last night’s win.
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