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BLUE AND GOLDS - Preseason Week 2, Chargers @ Cardinals

Discussion in 'American Football' started by BlueandGold, Aug 26, 2009.

  1. BlueandGold

    BlueandGold The Oracle

    May 22, 2006
    Preseason Week 2 - Chargers @ Cardinals

    As I spoke to a few friends of mine Monday morning, I got an overwhelming sense of disappointment about last night's game from them. The reaction ranged from a reasonable "That offensive line didn't look too good", to a more chicken-litte-esque "Well, looks like they're going to suck."


    Sure, there were moments that certain units were, shall we say, disappointing. The starting o-line, for example, did not look very good at first. There were some missed tackles, sure. The running game never really got on the kind of tracked we're used to here in LT-ville.

    And with those negatives from last night's game versus Arizona, two words come to mind.

    "That's football".

    The great German Field Marshall, Moltke, once said, "No plan survives contact with the enemy." So it is with football. The other team has a good idea what your strengths are, and where your weakness are as well. Sometimes, they make it impossible to do what you want to do. The test of a good team, therefore, becomes how you overcome the chinks in the armor.

    A good example of this can be found back in the '08 AFC Championship, when we faced the 17-0 Patriots. That team was known for its domination in the passing game. Brady to Moss. Brady to Welker. All kinds of records broken. The Patriots averaged - AVERAGED - nearly 300 yards per game through the air. So, it would follow that the Patriots would beat the crap out of us via the long bomb, right?

    Well, guess what - they didn't. We held the "invincible" Patriot passing game to 198 yards. How the Patriots actually beat us that day involved not the pass, but the run - specifically, a 9 minute 13 second beast of a drive starring Lawrence Maroney that ended the game. A painful memory for us, sure - but an example of a good football team finding a way to overcome the stifling of its greatest strength.

    That's football... you're not going to do things well all the time, because the other guy's dead set on keeping you from doing it. So you adjust, and overcome. Sometimes, the other team just gets the best of you; and sometimes, you have to accept the fact that ball ain't round, and sometimes it just bounces the other way. All you can do is keep playing.

    Now, this may seem rather over the top for a few folks' impression of a meaningless preseason game; and, perhaps it is. Still, I bring it up because of these strange expectations that people are always have loaded up during this part of the year, and the subsequent crash in morale when the first things go wrong. In my opinion, this roller-coaster of emotion is overdone, and more or less unnecessary.

    The summary of this writer's opinion is this: folks who could not see past the things that went wrong Saturday are denying themselves a look at some very good football played by our very own San Diego Chargers.

    Now, of course, we did have problems yesterday. Otherwise, I wouldn't have BLUES, would I?



    All in all, the Chargers allowed 4 sacks. Many of the folks I spoke to mentioned Clary specifically, as if he were the source of all our protection woes yesterday. News flash - while he was directly responsible for one sack, he definitely wasn't the sole problem.

    Sack number 1 was on Clary, no doubt about it. He was simply beaten to the inside.

    Sack number 2 was just a great blitz scheme by the Cardinals. They blitzed both middle linebackers on that play, and faked the blitz with the outside linebacker on the weak side (which happened to be Clary's as well). The "Will" 'Backer peeled off to cover LT on the short "in" pattern. The "Moe" 'Backer went in and was picked up by Vasquez and Clary. The "Mike" 'Backer (Karlos Dansby) came in a second later, overloading the side. Clary did see him at tried to step out, but Dansby was just too fast. It also didn't help that Philip tried to run outside on an unblocked LB. If he had stepped up, into the pocket, Clary might have been able to run Dansby out of the play... but it would have been close nonetheless. Either way, it was more of a case of the Cards overloading the weak side with a great blitz package, and it would have taken an All-Pro play by Clary to beat that blitz.

    Sack number 3 was tbe fault of the guy who is, likely, our best and most consistent lineman, Kris Dielman; beaten to the inside by Calais Campbell.

    Sack number 4 was the rookie Luis Vasquez, beaten by the swim move of Bryan Robinson.

    So, it was more than just Jeromey Clary. Obviously, this doesn't make me feel any better.

    The good thing is that these guys will get a good look at some pretty sophisticated blitz schemes in the preseason, and get to see just how they were beaten. Both Vasquez and Dielman will be watching for a swim move for a while, I'll guarantee that, and Clary might pick up on an overload blitz a little quicker next time.


    Two touchdowns. That was the difference in between victory and defeat in this football game. It also happens to be the number of touchdowns nearly scored by LaRod Stephens-Howling of the Cardinals on two kickoff returns in this game.

    The only thing that saved us from defeat is a lot of great hustle by one Antoine Cason, who I had a lot of trouble NOT nominating as my Player of the Game.

    On the first long return, Cletus Gordon had a great shot at Howling and simply whiffed - not good. On the second one, Howling just found a good seam and broke it.

    Either way, both returns should provide some good film study for Steve Crosby and his Special Teams unit. A lot of credit must go to Stephens-Howling, who opened himself a place on the bench on that Cardinal squad, I think.

    3. BEND...

    One of the interesting stats resulting from Saturday's game is the fact that out of the Cardinals' 9 offensive drives, 5 of them ended within the San Diego 30 yard line. 4 of those 5 ended within the San Diego 15!

    This is due, in large part, to the same issue I harped about last week - our method of defending against the pass. We seem, at least at this point in the year, to be very conservative as far as coverage between the 20s. We give recievers large cushions, we let them catch the ball, and then we make the safe tackle.

    This led to a few big completions on the part of the Cardinals. Wide Recievers Anquan Boldin and Lance Long, for instance, had 3 catches apiece, for averages of 17 and 13.7 yards, respectively! Cardinal Tight End Leonard Pope had two catches for a 26.5 yard average. In contrast, no Charger caught more than 2 passes (Naanee, Floyd, Gartrell, and LT shared that stat), and of the four that did, only two had an average catch of greater than 10 yards.

    Frankly, this makes me nervous. Of the teams that we may see in the playoffs, two of them - Indianapolis and New England - share a love for the spread offense and have quarterbacks that are more than able to pick apart a conservative zone defense.

    I'm not saying the coverage unit performed badly... quite the opposite. The Cardinal QBs combined for a horrible 45.2 passer rating. What I'm saying is that the AZ QB's DID manage to complete were the important ones; the ones that went down the field and into San Diego territory. We allowed this because we play a soft zone between the 20s, and this is what concerns me as we move on into the regular season.

    GOAT OF THE GAME: The Offensive Line as a unit... an embarassing first quarter for the boys up front.


    1. ...BUT DON'T BREAK.

    Remember how I said that 5 of the 9 Cardinal drives ended deep in our territory?

    Well, those 5 drives ended thusly:

    INT (Cromartie)
    INT (Hart)

    That, my friends, is clutch defense. Adding to this tremendous Defensive Red Zone performance is the matter of where Arizona started those drives. On the first field goal, they started the drive on the San Diego 7. On the drive that resulted in the second interception, Arizona started on the San Diego 32.

    I can't say enough about this. In my opinion, Red Zone Effectiveness is one of those "telltale" stats as far as success in this league; to put it simply, touchdowns win games. Well, Arizona had 62 offensive plays on the night, and they came away with 2 field goals for all their efforts.

    Last week, Seattle got within the SD 20 four times, and converted two for touchdowns.

    That means, for the preseason played thus far, Ron Rivera's defense is allowing a defensive RZE of 22.2 percent! That is a ridiculous number for that stat, and a very, very good trend. We'll see how things look as we continue to go forward, but my excitement continues to mount as I watch this defense play.

    I am beginning to believe that this Charger team, despite all the firepower on offense, is going to be a DEFENSIVE football team - and, honestly guys, if that winds up being the case, there literally isn't a single game on our schedule that we don't have a legitimate shot at winning. Not a one.


    AJ Smith has a habit of grabbing a relatively unheralded Free Agent and turning him into gold for us. Roman Oben, Steve Foley, Mike Goff, Keenan McCardell, Chris Chambers - these guys were all cut loose from their former teams, picked up by the Front Office, and turned into vital cogs in the Charger machine.

    Kevin Burnett, at this early stage, is looking like he's going to be very near the top of that list.

    This is the second week in a row that Burnett has led the team in tackles (tied this week with Ellison with 5 tackles). But more than than, he has epitomized what the Charger defenders meant earlier in camp when they said that they wanted to play in the offensive backfield. He was a terror for the Cardinal QBs and RBs this game. He filled and/or shot the gaps he was assigned masterfully, and made every tackle I saw him in position for. He is frighteningly fast, tracking down a few outside runs from behind and locked down the short middle of the field in pass coverage. He's in all the right places, and makes the stop if he's in range.

    If you want to see how a 3-4 middle linebacker should be played, you only have to look at Kevin Burnett over the past two games. He has just been dominant for us, and his presence changes the entire complexion of this defense. It's early, but if he continues to play the way he has, he will become one of the last missing pieces of the Lombardi puzzle.


    Remember how you felt when you first saw what Antonio Gates was capable of in a football game?

    I had that feeling again, watching Legedu on Saturday.

    The kid is 6'2", 225ish, with great hands, speed and moves. Against the Cardinals, he was second on the team in rushing with 22 yards. He led all recievers with 2 receptions for 52 yards and a touchdown, including a 49 yard deep bomb from Philip Rivers that opened the day offensively. He's shown the ability to make the touch possession catches, and also shown the ability to stretch and beat a defense deep. He's a mismatch nightmare for linebackers in the slot or at TE, and is big and fast enough to beat CB or SS coverage.

    Norv has spoken glowing of Naanee this offseason, and after seeing him play a number of roles over the preseason, I think Legedu is going to play the "mismatch" role in an already tough offense to match up with. Perhaps most ominously for defensive coordinators around the league is the fact that the former college QB still has a lot of room to grow.

    If former 1st round pick Buster Davis continues to underwhelm, I can at least be satisfied that former 5th round pick Legedu Naanee is picking up the slack.

    PLAYER OF THE GAME: Kevin Burnett. We needed a MLB in a bad way, and it looks like we've got one.


    In spite of some o-line miscues early, a dominating defensive performance gives fans a glimpse of what is to come.
    • Like Like x 1
  2. BlueandGold

    BlueandGold The Oracle

    May 22, 2006
    P.S. Sorry for getting this out late. Busy week...
  3. Retired Catholic

    Retired Catholic BoltTalker

    Aug 3, 2006
    Sorry, that was a mistake on my part. Just got back from a long road trip, but saw the game on NFL Network. The announcers were lousy and the Chargers O line didn't look much better, so I agree with Boltz.
  4. Buck Melanoma

    Buck Melanoma Guest

    Good write-up. Vasquez was a problem at RG in the game, but I expected that to some degree. These are his 1st NFL reps, preseason or no.

    Clary is hard-worker with a great attitude, but his foot speed is lacking & it will continue to be an issue against speed rushers & well-designed schemes such as the one you mentioned. I've watched that particular play several times. Vasquez's man, although due in small part to his block, was down & virtually out of the play. Clary should have recognized this quicker & picked up the stunt. Tough block? Sure - but it's the type that starting tackles must make. He can't manufacture more foot speed, so footwork & recognition will be the places for him to concentrate. With stronger play at RG, this will hopefully make his life a little easier. And PR's a lot safer. :unsure:
  5. Enormo

    Enormo BoltTalker

    Jul 22, 2007
    Nice write up as usual!

    I would add the right side of the D line as one of the blues. Martin was manhandled on run plays to his side. He was either on his *** or blown off the line. I'm not sure how the D is supposed to gel as a unit with a project anchoring the right side if the field.

    I know we have injuries at DE but it seems like a waste giving a project like him this many reps with the first team.
  6. cranberry

    cranberry BoltTalker

    Oct 3, 2006
    .. but great and mindreflected words. Love to read it.

    Legedu has stepped up rapidly and makes a good look and talk in TV interviews, too. Kevin Burnett was called a new
    Donnie Edwards, we missed some years. He will be more
    than that.
  7. Zeus

    Zeus BoltTalker

    Nov 21, 2006
    A couple of comments.

    Chambers wasn't cut loose, the Charger gave up something for him in a trade. A great investment the veteran leadership and improvement in our passing game is due in part to him. Go ahead look at the stats before he joined and after. He is a very good 2nd go to guy.

    As for Martin he is getting snaps to get better. He isn't the starter yet on the D-line. There are two guys ahead of him. However, I liked what I saw. He has massive potential and for a guy out of Canada never playing American football I am flat out amazed. I saw him get huge penetration against 2nd and 3rd string players driving guys back far. One other player I saw do that, Raj. Martin isn't as good, but I think he could be as good with more practice and time.

    II were the Chargers I would be getting Martin snaps every preseason game almost every single snap (enough to get the starters some warm-up), and I would give him time during regular season when the game is wrapped up. Hell maybe even cycle him when Castillo or others get tired.

    As for the defense let me say this. It was Vanilla. Not only that, but we seemed to do a lot of 4-3 schemes with Merriman out in coverage. We Blitzd a couple of times, almost all the QB had pressure and made a bad throw. Not as good as a sack, but almost as good. Frankly a QB making a bad throw increases interceptions, pressure was one reason we got them as the QB's didn't feel comfortable.

    Another thing I saw was on those runs Applewhite. He was the player who held the wedge, by himself, on the first run delaying the return. Other players stood around. On the other one he assisted the tackle with Cason. This kid is our 3rd best, maybe better, special teamer.

    Our special team's is disappointing. Other than a few standouts its sparse. This is especially true on the kick and punt return. Guys standing around, not making space. Allowing guys to just run past them. Horrible. I think we could find a replacement for Osgood, but watching this terrible special team's play I wonder if it is a good idea. Until our special teams can get better getting rid of Osgood might not be a great idea.

    In the long run Cardinals were playing a lot of blitz and man in the box. Not sure if they watched film or decided to practice this. The Chargers had very few defensive plays in there just repeating a few very very vanilla ones.

    I am hoping we practice a few more non-vanilla plays in preseason. Our defense did well when relying only on ability for our guys.
  8. Buck Melanoma

    Buck Melanoma Guest

    I didn't see Osgood do anything in the AZ game that would lead me to believe that he can't be replaced.
  9. coachmarkos

    coachmarkos BoltTalker

    Jul 12, 2009
    Blue and Gold summed up about what I saw.

    I also agree that Applewhite looked good.

    Vaughn Martin and Nwagbuo are going to be good defensive linemen. I'm excited by what I've seen out of them. Martin in particular, I thought showed much improvement in one week. Nwagbuo has possibly been the best D-Lineman on the field the first two pre-season games.
  10. Zeus

    Zeus BoltTalker

    Nov 21, 2006
    I look at past history where he does well.

    Not so much as Osgood showing something, as the rest of the special teams looking terrible. Gordon is a fast guy and could of been a gunner. He was cut. Now Osgood has even more value until we found someone to replace him.
  11. RaiderRay

    RaiderRay RIP SD Chargers...Go Padres, Gulls, Ducks, Raiders Staff Member Administrator Podcaster

    Jun 20, 2005
    Thanks BlueandGold!
  12. Sydalish

    Sydalish Addicted to Sports

    Nov 11, 2007
    no apologies necessary man - we all know how life can be.

    thanks for another great read - my football IQ goes up everytime I read one of your articles, I love me some free football edumacashun~ :yes:
  13. pure-sol

    pure-sol Well-Known Member

    May 3, 2008
    These are one of the highlights for me after a game. Thanks B&G!
  14. TheLash

    TheLash Well-Known Member

    Aug 8, 2006
    awesome read this week man!

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