This season starts the way last season ended for the San Diego Chargers and Oakland Raiders. When the teams take the field Monday night, plenty will have changed since the Chargers spoiled the Raiders’ playoff chances with a 38-26 victory that cost Oakland the AFC West title.
What matters: A lot has changed since last year’s high scoring finale. Both teams are retooled for 2012 and look to be dramatically improved on defense. For the Raiders: Reggie McKenzie took over as general manager, a post held by Al Davis for almost five decades until he passed away in 2011. Dennis Allen, 39, will make his debut as the youngest head coach in the NFL. The Oakland Raiders have 23 new players on their roster including all five cornerbacks. For the Chargers: John Pagano was promoted from linebackers coach to defensive coordinator. The Chargers have 16 new players, including a dozen veteran free agents. The defense was restocked with high drafts picks in outside linebacker Melvin Ingram (round one, 18th overall) and defensive end Kendall Reyes (round two, 49th overall) and veteran free agents outside linebacker Jarrett Johnson, strong safety Atari Bigby and nose tackle Aubrayo Franklin. Outside linebackers Larry English and Shaun Phillips are also healthy after finishing last season on the IR list with foot injuries.
According to the San Diego Union-Tribune, San Diego Chargers running back Ryan Mathews will likely miss the start of the regular season against the Oakland Raiders. Playing in one of the two Monday night games, it appears he’ll miss Week 1 after suffering a broken clavicle against the Green Bay Packers on August 9 in exhibition action. Despite taking part in non-contact individual drills this week, Mathews expects to need more time in order to be ready for Week 2 action against the Tennessee Titans.
The team has four other runners on the roster, but top reserve Ronnie Brown is expected to get most of the carries. Le’Ron McClain will take some short-yardage rushes and play fullback when the formation demands one.
The Chargers left tackle continues to progress at a snail’s pace while rehabilitating his ailing back, with no timetable for his return.
SAN DIEGO —- Eric Weddle has a lot to do and little time to do it. Seconds are few between broken huddle and offensive snap, and the Chargers free safety must maximize each one during this precious time when the offense tips its hand.
“It’s exciting,” coach Norv Turner said of opening up the regular season. “Everything you do, every weight you lift, every meeting you have, every tape you watch, you do it for those 16 days.”
This is our Hot Seat Special Football Section. Ice down your rear ends, Chargers, and all San Diegans who enjoy heat as much as emperor penguins. Coaches are on the Hot Seat, football people are on it, players are on it. Even City Hall may soon be feeling some serious warmth.