Following the Chargers embarrassing loss to Seattle last week, it was clear that if the team intends to be competing in the playoffs again in January, some corrections need to be made. Here are the key factors to watch for this Sunday against The 49ers:
Stop the bleeding: Two games into the preseason the biggest issue for The Chargers has been the play of its defensive line. Injuries and poor play have taken its toll on the defensive front as Veterans Corey Liguet (Ankle), Lawrence Guy (Shoulder) and Sean Lissemore (Ankle) have all been affected by injuries. This has forced undrafted free agent DE Tenny Palepoi and 5th round rookie NT Ryan Carrethers to see additional snaps. In the last two weeks, The Chargers defense has given up 335 rushing yards and an average of 5.56 yards per carry. San Diego’s defensive play needs to improve and plug the holes in the running game in order to avoid bad performances moving forward.
San Francisco runs a very similar offense to the one that decimated The Chargers last Friday. The 49ers rushing attack was one of the best units in the NFL last season, expect the young defensive line to be tested again with a heavy dose of Frank Gore and Carlos Hyde on Sunday afternoon.
Improve containment, don’t overcommit: Historically, The Chargers have always had issues with mobile quarterbacks. Rewind twenty-five years ago…It was Elway, Young, Cunnigham and Moon. Today… names like Newton, Vick, Rodgers, Rothlisberger, Pryor, Wilson and Kaepernick are atop that list. After two weeks of the preseason, The Chargers defense has given up 4 rushing touchdowns by opposing quarterbacks, proving that this unfortunate trend against mobile signal callers is still a problem.
After the defense fared poorly against a Seattle team that managed 99 yards rushing from their three QB’s last week, The Chargers will now have to turn their attention to quarterback Colin Kaepernick. As one of the best at “extending the play” Kaepernick can cause problems for opposing defenses in more ways than one as he rushed for 524 yards in 2013. The Chargers defensive lineman will need to collapse the pocket on Kaepernick while simultaneously keeping him contained. The linebacking core must stay patient and avoid overcommitting or else Kaepernick will break free and extend drives down the field.
Oct 14, 2013; San Diego, CA, USA; San Diego Chargers defensive coordinator John Pagano reacts during the game against the Indianapolis Colts at Qualcomm Stadium. The Chargers defeated the Colts 19-9. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Verrett’s first contact: 2014 1st round draft pick, CB Jason Verrett shed his red non-contact jersey earlier this week and will see his first action of the preseason this Sunday. There is no telling how many reps Verrett will actually receive in the game, but his on-field debut is one that players/coaches and fans alike have been waiting for. As a standout 3 year starter at TCU, the young cornerback was an aggressive ball magnet and shutdown some of the conference’s best receivers in 2013. The criticism on Verrett has been his height, at 5’9 many believe that his NFL ceiling is strictly as a slot defender. Without a doubt Verrett intends to make an impact on the field Sunday afternoon and the expectations for his play are in high demand. Verrett will attempt to help better a pass defense that ranked 29th in the league last season.
When Verrett is on the field Sunday, expect him to be targeted and challenged. The young rookie will rotate in and out of the slot and charged with the duty of covering WR Anquan Boldin.
Te’out: Last week, middle linebacker Manti Te’o left the game against Seattle with an ankle sprain. He was later seen sporting a walking boot throughout the week in practice. Te’o will not play on Saturday, but a rotation of players will be used to fill the void left by the former second round pick. 6th year veteran Reggie Walker and Free-agent linebacker Kavell Conner should see plenty of snaps with the first team defense. Walker’s versatility is his best asset, as he can play all four linebacker positions. In 2013, he finished with 42 tackles and 3 sacks. Conner, a free agent signee this past offseason, has had a familiarity with GM Tom Telseco since he was drafted by Indianapolis in 2010. Just like Walker, Conner is multi-talented as well, playing linebacker and contributing on special teams.
Having that kind of veteran presence is crucial for a team that is focused on establishing depth. Both players are a convenient asset to have when The Chargers take on San Francisco this weekend. Alongside LB Donald Butler, the middle linebackers will be busy on Sunday. TE Vernon Davis will try to exploit the middle of the field as The Chargers will look to contain and lock down the Pro-Bowl Tight End. No matter the outcome of the game,
The Chargers and 49ers were both embarrassed last week in their respective games against The Seahawks and Broncos. So expect each team to be playing with something to prove. Win or lose, There’s one thing that must be seen from The Chargers on Sunday…