Entering game one of the preseason, perhaps the most anticipated element of that first tilt was to finally see all of the club’s new additions on the field in uniform. Both sides of the football saw upgrades this offseason so the post-game evaluations need to be broken down in that manner. Here’s a look at what we saw from the Bolts opening game of the 2012 year.
Unfortunately what sticks out like a sore thumb from the first quarter of action with all starters on the field is the fact that third down defense still needs some work. This team needs to learn how to get off of the field as soon as possible and not give opponents second and even third chances to score points on a given drive. There were far too many occasions where linebackers lined up as if they were blitzing only to drop into coverage and allow easy five to seven yard completions over the middle.
To go along with that on the negative side, the defense at the end of the first half was atrocious. The team seemed to revert to the Chargers of old sitting back in a soft zone, allowing the Packers to easily march the ball down the field to score freebie points. That type of porous defense needs to be eliminated if this team wants to see a real change in the regular season.
While those areas were a bit disconcerting, there are plenty of positives to take away from the game as well. First and foremost, Melvin Ingram equals love at first sight. This kid has such versatility to play solid against the run, drop into coverage, and of course rush the passer with ferocity. He drew a holding flag and forced an interception by collapsing the pocket on Aaron Rodgers. Ingram can be summed up in three words: persistence, effort, intensity.
The two other young guys who stood out were on the defensive line in rookie Kendall Reyes and third-year nose tackle Cam Thomas. Reyes showed his ability to get into the backfield with a great first step and will be a versatile, useful defender for the team in the near future. For Thomas, he looked strong at the point of attack, used great leverage techniques, and slid down the line to stop ball carriers in the backfield. Things are definitely looking up for the defensive front in 2012.
This discussion has to begin with the same song, different verse when it comes to running back Ryan Mathews who enters this season with such high expectations. He had a grand total of one carry in the opener and suffered a 4-6 week injury with a broken clavicle which will require surgery to be repaired. Head Coach Norv Turner said: "My hopes for Ryan have not changed. I still expect him to have a great year.” The Mathews ratio of carries to injuries has not been a friendly one during his short career thus far, but the Bolts just have to hope that this injury doesn’t keep him out of the regular season opener.
Behind Mathews however, veteran Ronnie Brown showed that he still does have quite a bit of jump left in his 30 year old legs. Brown had a few carries that really looked like his old tape from the Dolphins where he would stick one foot in the ground and just cut up field through the hole and pick up big chunks of yardage. He definitely has the leg up on the others for the backup role as Le’Ron McClain seems more like a goal line option than a valid 10-15 carry a game guy.
Without a doubt, the most positive thing to take away from the game was the showing of tight end Antonio Gates. He looked as if he could get open on command and the seam route that he ran for a touchdown was just pitch-and-catch for him and Philip Rivers. Seeing him look like the Gates of old is really encouraging for a sign of things to come.
Vincent Brown will be asked to do a lot more in year two and he certainly looked up to the task as he made a beautiful catch where he high-pointed the football and climbed the ladder to make the grab. His dynamic open field running after the catch also showed up on his touchdown catch which is a positive for moving on from Vincent Jackson.
One lingering area of concern is where we all thought the team might struggle and that is on the offensive line. Jeromey Clary again looks overmatched as rookie Nick Perry owned him during his time on the field. For years fans have been calling for a Clary replacement, but the team has stuck by him as an entrenched starter. That decision still looks a bit suspect at this point.
There isn’t a whole lot to say on this front, but punter Mike Scifres was in top form as he pinned Green Bay deep inside of their own five yard line early and then boomed a 60-plus yarder when necessary. He will continue to be a valuable weapon in winning the field position battle all year long.
In the battle of the kickers, Nick Novak hit upright on 35-yard attempt which doesn’t help his cause to get the kicking job over Nate Kaeding. Kickoffs were handled by Kaeding as well and he looked solid on that front as well. Hopefully the once fragile psyche of Kaeding can be overcome and the team moves forward with him as their kicker of choice.
In the preseason, it is less about the score and more about the performances of the new faces trying to gel together in their first taste of real action together. Still a 21-13 victory is definitely a good thing and the Bolts will hope to rectify their errors in game one next week when they try it all over again versus the Dallas Cowboys.
Tell us what you think! Do you think the defense can learn to get off of the field on third downs and at the end of halves or will that be a recurring problem again this year? What are your thoughts on Melvin Ingram? How about Kendall Reyes and Cam Thomas? Is Ryan Mathews officially injury-prone? Can Antonio Gates regain that step he lost due to injury over the past two seasons? Are you worried about the play of the offensive line? Is Mike Scifres the MVP of the Chargers? Please fill up the comments section below with your thoughts on game one of the preseason!
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