Dec 16, 2012; San Diego, CA, USA; San Diego Chargers tight end Antonio Gates (85) catches a touchdown pass during the fourth quarter against the Carolina Panthers at Qualcomm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports
It’s finally Thursday, and the Seattle Seahawks will be coming to Qualcom Stadium, to take on the San Diego Chargers. This will be the first time we see the new product, after a series of major offseason changes, and hires. There are so many things to watch for in this game, ranging from brand new additions, to somewhat shuffled player positions. Here is my take on what I will be watching for. I know Ernie just posted something similar, but I already wrote this, so what the heck.
How will the offensive line hold up?
I will get the obvious out of the way first. The biggest questions are directly linked to how well this offensive line will play. Will they give Philip enough time to set his feet, and get comfortable in the pocket? Will they open enough holes, so that the running backs can break free? Have they had enough time together to gel, and adjust to audibles? Can they keep the holding and false start penalties to a minimum? Almost all of the players are new, or playing a new position (Clary), so it will be important for Nick Hardwick to keep this group focused. It’s been a mixed bag of reports throughout the offseason about how well they are doing. There have been some eyebrows raised in Fluker’s direction, about his pass blocking. There have also been accounts of the defense going back & forth with the offense at practices. So, it hasn’t been easy to figure out what is actually going on. I am going to side on what the eye witness accounts have told me, that they look better than last season (which is good). It will be interesting to see who starts at left tackle, and how this unit reacts to a top-notch Seattle defense.
How will Antonio Gates factor into this game?
Gates looks healthy, fast, and at the top of his game in camp! Last season was kind of a wash for Gates, despite him having the most TD’s on the team (tied with Alexander). He was constantly asked to block, and there was little threat of any other receiver on the squad taking the pressure off of him. Things changed a little bit after Danario Alexander got to town, but injuries to the receiving corps stifled his ability to make a serious impact. We are heading into this season with a crew of new receivers (minus Danario, unfortunately). The addition of Keenan Allen, the return of Vincent Brown, and reports of a healthy Eddie Royal tearing it up in camp should give Gates some breathing room. He can focus on shredding the opponent’s coverage, and be that red-zone threat we all know, and love. I hope we get a nice look at that tonight.
What will our new running game look like?
We will finally get our first look at our new backfield! I was very excited to see Danny Woodhead in action, but he will be sitting. We CAN look forward to seeing how this new rotation of backs might look, other than Woodhead. Ryan Mathews will be running behind a new offensive line, with more beef up front. I’m certain that he will have more success this season, now that “run it up the gut” Norv is gone. As long as he stays healthy, works on improving his vision, and has good blocking.. we may see a better performance from RM24 this season. Furthermore, we will see what kind of scheme will be used, after much debate in the offseason. They will probably use a mixture of power, and zone blocking. But, maybe we will see which way they are leaning toward more. If this goes well, it will take TONS of pressure off of Philip Rivers. He hasn’t had a decent running game in quite a while.
How will the wide receivers play?
I am not particularly more excited to see any one of our receivers shine tonight, than the other. If I had to pick two that I will be watching, it will be Keenoan Allen, and Robert Meachem. In light of Danario’s torn ACL, one of these guys MUST step up. Royal is a close third, but rumor is that he is doing great, so that is what I expect to see on the field. After that, I don’t have a favorite. They all have an opportunity to land a roster spot, and it will be interesting to see which one. Other than that, I expect to see Floyd be.. well … play like Floyd. He’s usually pretty consistent.
How will the secondary perform?
Much like the o-line, the secondary got a complete makeover this season. Whenever a unit gets shaken up THIS much, you can expect it to take time to get up to speed. Cornerback Derek Cox should be more at home than the rest of the group, simply based on the fact that he started for another team. But, he is still new, so I will be watching him closely. On the flipside of that coin, Shareece Wright will be the #2 starter for the first time in his career. He seems to be embracing his new role, so let’s see what the kid has got! Behind him, Johnny Patrick, and rookie Steve Williams will be holding down the fort. I will certainly be taking notes for all of these guys, just because they are all new to their roles.
How will the Strong Safeties play?
We have so many people in competition for the safety position you’ll go cross-eyed looking at it. Behind Eric Weddle, Marcus Gilchrist, and Brandon Taylor, you have an array of players trying to make the scene. However, my eyes are going to be locked on Marcus Gilchrist, as he is playing a new position, and (presumably) keeping Brandon Taylor’s seat warm. Brandon Taylor has been activated from the PUP list, so it’s clear to me that he wants to get healthy really quickly, so that seat doesn’t get TOO warm. Gilly needs to step up in a big way, and hold things together until he either beats Taylor out, or passes the torch later this season.
What is this pass rush going to look like?
It will look like Dwight Freeney. He is a man among boys out there at that position. Behind him, you have Larry English as the most senior pass rusher on the squad. Double J is a vet, but can’t be counted on to get after the quarterback. After that you have 6th round draft pick Tourek Williams, and Thomas Keiser. We will need these boys to get pressure on the QB! Larry English is who I will be watching the closest, though.
How will the Middle Linebackers play?
More importantly, how will Manti Te’O and Bront Bird play. Not too much to say there, as I think it has all been said before. Donald Butler will impress, I’m certain of it.
How will the defensive line perform?
I am really excited to see Cam Thomas take over his new role as the starting DT. But, finally seeing that monster of a man, Geathers, (probably for most of the night) will be amazing! Then Jerideau will follow it up with showing us his stuff. This will be very fun to watch, I believe. Watching Liuget, and Reyes will also be a pleasure. The depth behind them is thin, but we will get to see what we have to back up the Big Boys!
How will the new coaching staff perform?
This will be a great opportunity to see what these new Chargers are made of, and how Mike McCoy and Ken Whisenhunt will run this team. Maybe we can see some no huddle, two minute clock management, and a few gadget plays. Now would be the time to work out those bugs.
So, that is my take on the game tonight. These are the areas I will zero in on, while watching the game. It will be fun to see the comments on the live thread tonight, as it develops. I can’t wait for kick off!
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