Cardinals at Chargers: Game preview & prediction

Aug 13, 2016; Nashville, TN, USA; San Diego Chargers running back Melvin Gordon (28) celebrates scoring a touchdown against the Tennessee Titans with teammate San Diego Chargers running back Danny Woodhead (39) during the first half at Nissan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 13, 2016; Nashville, TN, USA; San Diego Chargers running back Melvin Gordon (28) celebrates scoring a touchdown against the Tennessee Titans with teammate San Diego Chargers running back Danny Woodhead (39) during the first half at Nissan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports /

The San Diego Chargers will play their first game at home when they take on the Arizona Cardinals in Week 2 of the preseason.

The Bolts are back home, baby! Can I get an Amen!? It was a rough outing on the road against the Tennessee Titans in Week 1 of the preseason, but, I mean, it is just the preseason.

With that being said, let’s take a look at what’s in store between the Chargers and Cardinals.

Can the Chargers stop the run?

The Chargers allowed 288 total rushing yards against the Titans last week. Veteran DeMarco Murray pulled off a 71-yard touchdown run, and rookie Derrick Henry bulldozed his way for 74 yards and a touchdown on 10 attempts. Even Bishop Sankey (who?) carried the ball three times for 52 yards and a touchdown.

Like I mentioned before, it’s just the preseason, and we tend to over-analyze plays–right Phil Rivers? But it is a bit worrisome to see the defense get trampled over, especially when a point of emphasis in the offseason was to fix the run defense (hey, maybe signing your first-round pick in Joey Bosa could help fix that issue, but what do I know?). Aside from giving up two big plays to start the game, the starters played well in the two series they played in, but the second- and third-stringers played bad (granted the Titans had their starting offensive line out there for a while).

Cardinals RB David Johnson is next in line. Johnson, who came onto the scene late last season and finished with 581 rushing yards, 457 receiving yards and 12 total touchdowns in five starts, is one dangerous player. Depending on how many snaps Johnson plays, it will be another good test for the Chargers’ revamped front seven. It’ll be interesting to see if head coach Mike McCoy leaves the starters in a little longer. If they can hold Johnson, Andre Ellington and Chris Johnson (damn, that trio could be almost as good as Nirvana) to minimal yardage, it’ll be a big boost in confidence.

Will the first-team offense continue to dominate?

Philip Rivers threw the ball just three times (two completions) for 64 yards and a touchdown against the Titans. A healthy Keenan Allen caught one of those balls for a 20-yard completion on a key third down. Melvin Gordon caught the other one and took it all the way to the end zone for his first NFL touchdown.

That was one series. The Chargers were on top 7-3 when the starters left the game. The offensive line looked vastly improved, keeping the pocket clean for Rivers and creating space for Melvin Gordon and Co. to run. Even the backups played their role, allowing Branden Oliver and Kenneth Farrow to rack up some nice yards on the ground. Only two sacks were allowed last week.

And don’t forget about second-rounder Hunter Henry, who made some great catches and finished with 43 yards. What you will need to forget about is the terrible quarterback play from Kellen Clemens, Zach Mettenberger and Mike Bercovici (he’s the one who should be given the chance as the primary backup in this next game).

But this is about the starters. The Chargers and the Cardinals participated in joint practices this past week, and the Chargers’ offense looked smooth. Allen, who was lined up against star cornerback Patrick Peterson majority of the time, looked dominant.

Keenan The Slayer at work. Joint practice with the Arizona Cardinals @EVT_News @SD_SportingNews @Keenan13Allen

— Riquested (@riquested) August 17, 2016

It’s only the second preseason game, so we aren’t going to see a ton of snaps from the starters. That said, Tyrell Williams, who was taking snaps with the first-team offense in place of Stevie Johnson, sat out Saturday’s preseason game due to a minor injury. He was back at practice and will likely play (and start) on Friday. A matchup between Allen, Williams, Travis Benjamin (who’s looking to play his first game as a Charger on Friday) and the Cardinals’ tough secondary is going to be exciting to watch, even if it doesn’t last long. Let’s see if the Chargers’ first-team offense can consistently play at a high level, something they haven’t been able to do over the last few years.

High-powered Cardinal offense

The Cardinals finished first in the NFC West last season for the first time since 2009. They also set franchise records for wins (13) and points (489), per ESPN. Carson Palmer, who missed 10 games in 2014, came back with a vengeance in 2015. Larry Fitzgerald, John Brown and Michael Floyd all finished with at least 800 receiving yards, and we already mentioned before what Johnson did. That group is more intimidating than Michael Phelps’ angry game face–and that’s hard to top.

This offense is stacked. And it helps when your offensive line can keep your quarterback upright. Palmer was sacked 25 times last season, while Rivers was sacked 40 times (eighth-worst in the NFL). Outside linebackers Melvin Ingram, Kyle Emanuel (who is listed as a starter on the depth chart) and Jerry Attaochu need to get pressure on Palmer immediately, so let’s see what type of blitzes defensive coordinator John Pagano dials up.

Like the Chargers’ wideouts, it’s going to be interesting to see how the Cardinals “Big 3” perform against star cornerback Jason Verrett and Co. Safeties Dwight Lowery, Jahleel Addae, Dexter McCoil, Adrian Phillips and Adrian McDonald better bring their ‘A’ game.

Building off a positive running performance

The Chargers ran the ball well against the Titans. The offensive line played well, too, which will be the key to success. If they can stay healthy, which is something to look for in every single one of these games, then the sky is the limit for this offense.

In Week 2 of the preseason, the Chargers do have a tough battle against the Cardinals’ front seven, a front seven that features Calais Campbell and former Patriot Chandler Jones. Their first-round pick, Robert Nkemdiche, is also a force up front, but he has been sidelined due to a high ankle sprain.

Gordon needs to continue to do what he did last week vs. Tennessee: Run with confidence. He didn’t hesitate, and he showed off that burst of his. Let’s see if he can get going early again as well as get his first rushing TD. Continuing to run hard and pull off big gains goes for all of these backs.


The Chargers are back at the ‘Q’ and have looked well in joint practices against the Cardinals. I see them carrying over that performance into this game.

FINAL: Chargers – 21, Cardinals – 17