Last week’s preseason game gave us our first glimpse of what the Chargers will look like in 2013. This Thursday, they head cross-country to face off against the Chicago Bears. The Bears were a pretty solid team last season, with a stout defense. Despite having a decent winning record, longtime head coach Lovie Smith was replaced by new head coach Marc Trestman, after missing the playoffs. Along with having one of the best defenses in the league, Chicago has one of the most talented wide receivers in the game, Brandon Marshall. Marshall had an astounding 118 receptions, 1,508 yards, and 11 touchdowns in 2012! I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little bit jealous of those numbers, as I would LOVE for one of our guys to have those stats. But, I digress…
This game will be fun to watch, as there has already been a TON of tension between Jay Cutler, and Philip Rivers, originating from Cutler’s time with the Broncos. Rivers & Cutler have stated numerous times that the rivalry is old news, but they aren’t fooling me. I know they both expect to win, and turn it up a notch when they are going head to head… even if it is preseason. Philip has already commented on how he would like this team to walk out of Chicago with a “W”. His main reason is that he wants the team to get used to winning on the road (which I COMPLETELY agree with). But, don’t be fooled. He would love to have a great game, and watch Freeney put Cutler on the turf! Cutler had an awful offensive line last year, so we will get a chance to see if it has improved.
So, as we head out to the “Windy City”, we have to improve some areas of play that didn’t look pretty last week. Here are three areas where I would like to see improvement, so that we can solidify a victory over… Da Bears… and show that last week’s loss to the Seahawks was opening day jitters for a very young and inexperienced crew. The introduction to the NFL is over, and it’s time to get focused! Here we go.
#1 Special Teams:
Last week’s special teams play brought back haunting memories of the 2010 “Special Teams Debacle”. That year, the Chargers had one of the worst special teams meltdowns that the NFL has ever seen! It didn’t seem to matter how well Philip Rivers, or the defense played.. the special teams constantly left them with horrible field position, let a REALLY big play happen in every game, or just plain turned the ball over. In the Seattle matchup, our current unit gave up big returns, failed to make any returns of our own, and let Seattle get back in the game by giving them spectacular field position. That simply can’t happen this week. After Rich Bisaccia left for Dallas, we knew we were losing a good coach. We replaced him with ex-Cardinals special teams coach, Kevin Spencer. Spencer has been coaching for 23 years, so he is not new to the game. Him, and special teams Captain Darrell Stuckey MUST find a way to make this unit play better than it did last year. Also, somebody needs to step up, and break off a good return. Kicks were returned by just about every capable player on the team last week, and nobody really got the job done. We can’t afford another lack luster performance from this unit, even if it is only the second preseason game.
#2 Charlie Whitehurst:
It was painful to watch Charlie Whitehurst last Thursday. He has been in the game far too long to be giving up two interceptions on opening day. One could argue that he was running for his life behind an offensive line that played poorly, and his receivers (cough cough Meachem) were hanging him out to dry. Regardless, Whitehurst has to make better decisions with the ball. Throw it away, and don’t try to make too much happen, if the play isn’t there. He did have a couple of decent plays. But, at one point I saw him try to throw it away, and he bounced it off of his own player’s helmet, where it flew straight up into the air. The play wasn’t picked off, but that very well could have made it a 3 INT game for him. I will give him a mulligan, but you can only attribute so much to the poor play in front of him. He needs to have an amazing game this week, or Brad Sorensen will be put in sooner.. rather than later. Some fans are already calling for Sorensen to replace Clipboard, after only one successful drive. That is not good news for Whitehurst.
#3 Dumb Penalties:
Ed Hochuli was the official last week at Qualcom. Personally, I feel that he should never be allowed to ocall a Chargers game again. Clearly, the NFL does not share my sentiment. Every time Hochuli referees one of our games, I feel like we are fighting an uphill battle. He is the kind of guy that screws you with a HUGE call, and then tries to make up for it by calling two or three questionable penalties against the other team to make up for it, and try to make it look like he is calling a fair game… even though it will never be enough to fix the damage he has already done. Thursday night’s game had a lot of laundry on the field. I’m sure most of them were correct, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that he likes to hear himself over the loud speaker. Or, that he was trying to prove a point, as last year’s referee lockout led to some of the worst officiating ever seen. It’s TOTALLY a conspiracy theory, but I like to talk trash on Ed, because he deserves it.
As for our players, Johnny Troutman got dinged twice for penalties, and only had an average (at best) game. We are all looking to see this young man step up, and be the backup guard on this roster. Stupid penalties are something he has to get under control. I’ll give him a pass, because it’s the first NFL game he has played in forever. But, he has to clean his game up asap. Dombrowski also had a ridiculous personal foul penalty in the game. What makes it worse is that the penalty was tacked onto the end of a Whitehurst interception deep in our own territory. I don’t think he will make the roster, but putting our defense immediately on their heels, doesn’t give them much opportunity to show how good they can play, when they are scored upon so quickly. It would nice to be able to see what they can do, given good field position.
Those are a few areas I think we need to improve in. Please fill up the comments section with your own thoughts about how this team needs to get better. I am hoping that our 2nd and 3rd teams have a much better showing in Chicago, and we can stop worrying about the depth on this roster.
Keep Bolting Toward Excellence!