San Diego Chargers State of the Union: Week 2 preseason
By Conor Denton
The Chargers couldn’t have had a better turn around game this past Friday. Who would’ve thought those eleven players out on defense had that in them? Where was that last year? Hopefully this is a great sign of things to come as I go into my preseason week 2 edition of; State of the Union: San Diego Chargers Edition.
Unfortunately, Jatavis Brown was held out of another preseason game this week. Hopefully, he will be able to return this coming week against the Minnesota Vikings. Once again, the team film flopped on whether or not they want Josh Lambo to pooch the kickoff into the coffin corner or boot it out of the back of the end zone for a touchback. On at least two occasions it was pooched. The rest of the attempts went for touchbacks. Continue to pay attention to this development as the last two games are played out. On a positive note, Lambo nailed an extra point and four field goals with relative ease.
Drew Kaser must have read what I said last week because he was electric, no pun intended. On at least two separate occasions he pinned the opponent within their own 10-yard line. All of his punts had magnificent hang time and were over fifty yards on average. It’s games like this that will make us forget about Mike Scifres soon. Tourek Williams also had himself a nice game recording at least one open-field tackle on punt coverage.
Keep close attention to kickoffs and their distances next game. I think the Chargers are still tinkering with the idea of pooching and personally, I hope they attempt to perfect the pooch to the coffin corner. It seems to give the defense better field position on a regular basis. Also look to see if Kaser can develop some consistency and build off of his fantastic performance this week. I assume Brown will be able to get on the field and make an impact against Minnesota as well.
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With Phillip Rivers getting the day off, it was up to Kellen Clemens to lead the starting offensive unit for the first half and boy did he do a terrible job at it. At this point, what you see is what you get from Mr. Clemens. Mediocrity. He was consistently missing receivers and when his throws were in the vicinity, half were suicide passes to the slot receiver on a quick slant or dig route. He got Dontrelle Inman killed this week after almost getting Isaiah Burse killed last week. Clemens will still make the team presumably as the back up, which is borderline criminal after Mike Bercovici’s performance this week. More on the latter in a little bit.
Melvin Gordon looked good once again this week. He didn’t jump out in the box score but he was aggressive and decisive, fighting for as many yards as he could behind some shady run blocking. He showed good patience on his first run, waiting for D.J. Fluker to pull downhill as King Dunlap washed out the defensive end upfield. Speaking of Fluker, it’s a shame to hear he was in a walking boot at practice today because he has looked much improved at the guard position so far this year.
Keenan Allen was Keenan Allen, burning Cardinals cornerbacks on multiple occasions. Travis Benjamin was rusty with a couple of drops but it was the first game of the year for him so he gets a preseason mulligan. Tyrell Williams looked fantastic. He displayed what all the hype in camp was about during this game. Williams made a handful of difficult catches and could’ve taken one to the house had a deep ball not been under thrown by who else, Clemens.
As far as fullbacks go, neither Derek Watt nor Chris Swain had a flashy game. To put it nicely, Hunter Henry looked like the best fullback on the team Friday and he was in for just one play. Much like Clemens, Watt seems to be a virtual lock to make the team even if Swain holds more potential at the position. Remember, Swain was a running back at Navy. This is his first year on the Job as a fullback.
As far as backups go, there are only two on offense who flashed last Friday, Bercovici and Dom Williams. Bercovici was astoundingly effective during his time on the field. On multiple occasions, he made pinpoint throws to Williams in which Williams was fully covered. Hats off to Williams for making some contested catches, however these “Shoe-box” throws were something to marvel at on replay and really show that Berco has added some accuracy to his game to go along with that cannon of an arm. Bercovici also showed improved pocket awareness and had total command of the huddle which is encouraging to see from a rookie, let alone an underrated one.
Once again, it seems a forgone conclusion that Clemens will remain the backup and Bercovici will remain on the practice squad. All we can do is hope that no other team sees the same potential that I saw in that game on Friday. Side note: Zach Mettenberger is getting cut, surprisingly, rolling your eyes at the offensive coordinator after a turnover isn’t a good idea.
Expect El Capitan to assume the helm of the offense again next game. It will certainly be interesting to see how backup QB minutes are distributed between Clemens and Bercovici. Kenny Wiggins will most likely replace Fluker at the guard position. Hopefully he can be a strong enough glue until Fluker returns. Minnesota, like Arizona, has a very good defense, so this will be a good test for the run game. Let’s see if Gordon can continue his good play so far in the preseason. Other than this, let’s most importantly pray for no significant injuries to occur.
You all know I had to save the best for last. The defense was borderline impeccable. The secondary has a chance to be special if Jahleel Addae can prove that this week was no anomaly and Dwight Lowery can become average. That’s because the duo of Jason Verrett and Casey Hayward will be a burden for every team’s passing attack. Brandon Flowers had a pick-six but got repeatedly burned the rest of the time he was on the field so I exclude him from said dynamic duo. Lowery only had a single tackle in a half of play. That isn’t going to fly.
BRANDON MEBANE. Holy hell is this guy strong or what? The first snap of the game he threw the center into Carson Palmer. They didn’t get the sack (sigh) but it was impressive nonetheless. Mebane could be the key unlocking the vast potential of this defense when the regular season comes, assuming Joey Bosa gets on the field. Corey Liguet looked quiet but he was being double-teamed most of the night and freeing up space for everyone else so I can’t harp on him. Darius Philon looked meh, much like last week.
Denzel Perryman is a bad man. He diagnoses plays incredibly fast and his closing speed is second to none. Again, Mebane will only make his job even easier than it already is for him this year. Manti Te’o had a good tackle for a loss. Nick Dzubnar looked bad. Very bad. On at least one occasion he was getting pancake blocked eight yards up the field by a tight end. Simply put, that’s not supposed to happen. Jerry Attaochu registered a sack and looked much better this week, yet still played in the second half.
When referencing the backups, I saw two players flashing repeatedly on defense, Damion Square and Adrian McDonald. Square was in the backfield all night. He seems to be carving himself a nice role as a back up two-tech NT. McDonald was beat in the third quarter as he was late on his assignment on a intermediate route. However, he recovered nicely, breaking up a pass with a big hit in the fourth quarter while playing great pass coverage the rest of the game.
No one knows when Bosa will sign, Assuming it’s not tonight, he won’t play against Minnesota. If he does sign, fingers crossed, that’s obviously something to pay attention to. If Mebane can continue manhandling centers, we are going to be a problem on defense. Melvin Ingram had a sub-par outing, look for him to bounce back against a weaker offensive line in Minnesota. Expect the secondary to put together another good outing against Teddy Bridgewater and his WR corps. Finally, look to see if McDonald can gain ground on the depth chart and cling onto one of the final 53 spots.
Friday’s game was encouraging for the organization. Like I previously said, I believe this offense will be pushing 25-30 points per game this year. I truly think it’s that good with Whiz back in charge. If this is the case, then the whole season comes down to how consistently San Diego can get stops on defense this year. I foresee the team having 3-5 Pro Bowlers on the roster. When comparing this roster to the roster that made the playoffs back in 2013, it’s easy to see which is more talent-laden. Now it’s just a matter of staying healthy and executing the correct game play week in and week out.