Finally after six long months of waiting, the Chargers will suit up to play their first preseason game against the Tennessee Titans. Although we may not see more than one drive from the starting offense and defense, there is still plenty to look out for in this game.
The original excitement of this game generated around Joey Bosa getting his first live NFL reps, but as the contract stalemate continues, it looks like we may have to wait even longer to see the rookie in action. After Bosa though, there are still plenty of rookies to watch for and be excited about.
On the first drive of the game for both sides of the ball, we will likely see the starters. Two things come to mind immediately: Can the defense stop the big plays, and can the O-line open up better holes for Melvin Gordon than they did last year?
On defense, the Bosa-less defensive line must be able to apply pressure on the QB and stuff the run if they want to see any success against a very talented young quarterback and an established veteran running back in DeMarco Murray. With pressure, they should be able to prevent Marcus Mariota from finding open guys down the field with his feet. It’s a good opportunity to see how our defensive backs play after having a very strong offseason. Can they maintain momentum in actual live play?
On the offensive side, we will get to see a very dangerous looking offense play a team other than its own. It will be crucial to see how the new Chargers wide receivers coach has done this year, as the Chargers wideouts struggled to get open in time consistently last year aside from Keenan Allen and Stevie Johnson. Ken Whisenhunt’s deceptive play-calling may be exactly what the Chargers needed to really take advantage of the many receiving threats they have on the field at once. Utilizing different crossing routes and vertical routes to open up space has been a thing the Chargers do well, so expect to see plenty of that come Saturday.
The running game was disastrous for San Diego last year, ranking at the bottom of the pack in that category across the league. The Chargers signed veteran Matt Slauson to anchor the line at center, but other than that, we’re looking at the same group from last year. Them taking a huge step and gelling together will be the single most important thing for this offense. Whenever the Chargers can run and pass efficiently, we usually give the opposing team fits, and that’s what Whiz hopes to get back to starting this Saturday. If Gordon can find lanes behind this line and his former college FB Derek Watt. we may be looking at a bright 2016.
Nov 7, 2015; Oxford, MS, USA; Arkansas Razorbacks tight end Hunter Henry (84) laterals the ball as he is tackled by Mississippi Rebels defensive back Tony Bridges (1) during overtime at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. Arkansas won 53-52. Mandatory Credit: Matt Bush-USA TODAY Sports
Once the starters come off for the day, there is still plenty to look out for. The O-line depth is shaky. It will be important to see how Chris Hairston does as he is our swing tackle, and it will be interesting to see how rookies Max Tuerk and Donavon Clark do in the first game as they were the only linemen the Chargers drafted this year.
Rookie Jatavis Brown has been turning heads in training camp, similar to what Denzel Perryman was doing at this point last year. He will be one of the first players up when the starters are pulled and has a chance to make a huge impression. Look for Brown to be going sideline to sideline to chase tailbacks and trying to make big plays in coverage as well.
When Gates and Allen come off the field, rookie Hunter Henry and second-year wideout Tyrell Williams will come out, each poised to make big strides this year and be important parts of the offense come September. Williams caught a 80-yard touchdown against Denver, and so far the deep ball has become routine for Williams in camp. Can he strike again against Tennessee’s secondary? We all hope the answer is yes. Henry has been making spectacular catches since he arrived and is widely known for his sure hands after not dropping a single ball in college last season. This game is a chance for Henry to make his first NFL catch, and I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if he reeled in his first touchdown in this game as well.
Remember, keep your eye out for these things when you’re watching the Chargers suit up for the first time this Saturday.