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BLUES AND GOLDS - Preseason Week 1, Seahawks @ Chargers

Discussion in 'Latest Chargers News & Headlines' started by robdog, Aug 16, 2009.

  1. robdog

    robdog Code Monkey Staff Member Administrator

    Jun 29, 2009
    By BlueandGold
    <em>BoltTalk Contributor</em>

    <a href="http://d.yimg.com/a/p/ap/20090816/capt.23ff0fc320b44469b259414980f2b795.seahawks_chargers_football__cali108.jpg"><img class="alignright" title="San Diego Chargers running back Jacob Hester is collared around the neck and dragged out of bounds just short of the goal line by Seattle Seahawks linebacker Will Herring(notes) during a NFL preseason football game Saturday, Aug. 15, 2009, in San Diego." src="http://d.yimg.com/a/p/ap/20090816/capt.23ff0fc320b44469b259414980f2b795.seahawks_chargers_football__cali108.jpg" alt="" width="189" height="205" /></a>I'm excited.

    Did that catch you off guard?

    If so, then I recommend that those of you who were put off by yesterday's game watch some of the film. As far as the final score goes - meh, it's the first game of the preseason, and even then, we nearly overcame three bad turnovers by Charlie Whitehurst to win the game outright.

    But nevermind the final score - it doesn't matter anyway. What excited me is this - what is, to me, a vast difference in the quality and intensity of the play of the Chargers when compared to this time last year.

    But, as those of you who have read these little articles of mine before know, I have to start with the Blues.

    <strong><span style="font-size: medium;">BLUES</span></strong>

    <strong>1. PASS DEFENSE</strong>

    Take this with a grain of salt; of all phases of the game, pass defense is usually one of the last things to come together. Still, with the other parts of the defense working well or outstandingly, this stuck out like a sore thumb.

    To me, it looked as if Rivera is sticking with Teddy's "ambush predator" pass defense style - keep the plays in front of you, and rely on pressure from the front seven to force mistakes by the quarterback.

    My issue with this (that I'm sure I share with more than a few of you) is that a capable quarterback in a quick-strike spread offense can pick such a defensive passing scheme apart, especially if he's got decent protection. We saw it too many times last year to count - the first game against the Broncos and the London game vs. the Saints, to name the two that stick out in my mind.

    The big difference, of course, is that Rivera's front seven are exponentially more aggressive than Ted Cottrell's front seven, and that showed against the Seahawks. Combined, the Seahawk quarterbacks went 21/35 for 158 yards, 2 TDs, and 1 INT. Not world beating numbers, but 14 points is 14 points. I just hope we can get the secondary tightened up by the time we face someone like Roethlisberger on October 4th.

    <strong>2. THE RIGHT SIDE OF THE LINE</strong>

    One almost was able to discern glimpses of what this team will be capable of on the ground this year. Certain plays looked like they were going to go the distance but were stopped by the Seattle secondary short of breaking loose. Lo and behold, both of them were behind the left side.

    Two plays in particular come to mind - both of them going off-tackle to the weak side, one involving LT and the later one involving Sproles.

    In both cases, it was run out of the Weak I backfield, with Hester at FB. At the snap, McNeill shoots out and Dielman pulls behind him and outside to seal the outside linebacker off. The ball is handed off to LT/Sproles, who runs behind Hester off-tackle behind McNeill. Hester goes heads up on the ILB who has drifted into the hole, giving the RB a lane and one man to beat.

    Sounds good, right?

    Well, it was almost good, anyway. Both of those plays may have gone for much further than they did - particularly Sproles' run - if the right side of the line had held their blocks. I'm willing to give Forney a pass for this game, but Clary - I don't know. On Sproles' run, he fired out his block just fine, but then he was shed like Husky hair in summertime, and his man got half the tackle.

    On another play - the screen pass to LT in the first quarter - Forney left his feet to attempt a block on Lofa Tatupu. Tatupu simply jumped over a diving Forney and took LT down. If Forney stays on his feet and locks Lofa up, LT goes for a long, long way on that play.

    To top it off, Clary and Forney were getting pretty beat up out there in Pass Protect - but both Rivers and Volek were good enough to step up and make plays in the face of the rush.

    Now, I will say this: Seattle's front seven is fast, physical, and very, very smart. They were playing the run all night, and they always seemed to be in the right position, filling all the right gaps. This is evidenced by the meager (by our standards here in SD) ground numbers we put up: a combined 55 yards, on 21 carries. Seattle looked good, but they shouldn't be that good, especially against running backs like ours.

    <strong>3. CHARLIE WHITEHURST</strong>

    Oh, man... not a good day for our poor 3rd stringer.

    All in all, Charlie's stat line for the day: 15/29 for 193 yards, 1 TD, 2 INTs, and a fumble lost.


    Now, in Charlie's defense, he did get sacked 3 times, and was beat up horribly all night long behind a scrub line facing a blitzing Seattle defense. Still, nobody will argue that those turnovers were the margin between victory and defeat in this game - and even though this is preseason, and victory is secondary to progress here, a turnover is a turnover, and Charlie had 3.

    The day ends with Charlie Whitehurst leading a game-winning drive with Charly Martin as his engine... only, Charlie Whitehurst falls short. To me, the biggest indictment on Charlie (deserved or not) is me muttering to myself as regulation expired: "Philip Rivers would have won this game."

    <strong>GOAT OF THE GAME</strong>

    Charlie Whitehurst. All those yards go for naught when your mistakes go for 14 Seattle points. Honorable Mention: Nate Kaeding. Dammit, Nate.

    <strong><span style="font-size: medium;">GOLDS</span></strong>

    <strong>1. TACKLING AND PURSUIT ON DEFENSE</strong>

    Wow, what a difference an offseason and new coordinator makes.

    Were it not for the loosey-goosey pass coverage, the defense played by all strings of Rivera's boys was simply outstanding. It was a night-and-day difference from last years' "Wait for the Offense to Hit You" mentality. All night long, I would wince at a running back getting outside, or a WR catching a screen, expecting the shoddy tackling and poor positioning I saw so much last year at this time.

    What did I see instead?

    Solo open-field tackles made in perfect form and with authority. Linebackers reading screens and busting them up. Cornerbacks forcing runners inside, funneling them into the waiting arms of the linebackers and safeties. Safeties doing what safeties are supposed to do - closing quickly on a ball in the air, then putting doomsday on the poor intended reciever.

    It was lean, mean, agile, mostly hostile, and highly motivated.

    This fan, having seen his fill of the Matt Wilhelm "The Secondary Will Tackle 'Em" era, noted happily that 7 out of the top 10 tacklers were Defensive Linemen and Linebackers. Kevin Burnett led the team for the night with 5 solo / 1 assist. Jyles Tucker had a great night, with 4 solo / 1 assist, with three of those tackles going for loss.

    Rounding out the top ten were the rookie Brandon Hughes (5 solo), Paul Oliver (2 solo,2 assists), and last year's leading team leader in tackles, Eric Weddle (2 solo, 1 assist).

    So far, Rivera's Ravagers look fearsome indeed - and that was just in the first preseason game. They were smart, fast, physical, and almost never out of position. Of all the good things I saw last night, this is by FAR the thing that excites me the most.

    <strong>2. CHARLY MARTIN... WHO?</strong>

    Yep. We heard a bit about this kid earlier this week, a small-town Division II guy who - oh by they way - led the nation (at his level) in recieving yards, catches, touchdowns, and yards per game.

    I know, I know, it's West Texas A&amp;M, not exactly USC. Still, he was impressive in last night's action. He was the team's leading reciever, grabbing 5 receptions for 67 yards, a 13.4 yard average - and most of them were great catches on the sideline. In addition, he showed great hustle on Special Teams (where he will most likely play for a while), notching himself 1 solo tackle and 1 assist in that area.

    As a former WR myself, and a fan of the position, I always say that the top 3 qualities of a Wide Reciever at any level are 1. Hands, 2. Route Running, and 3. Courage. Charly Martin demonstrated all three of those last night. Hopefully we'll get to see more of him in the preseason games to come... and perhaps find another AJ gem.

    <strong>3. FIREPOWER ON OFFENSE</strong>

    There's an old adage that says the D is always ahead of the O at this stage of the game. And it showed last night, with a few long passes a little overthrown, and a little bit of "just off"-edness in the passing game and setting up blocks.

    Still, I am impressed at these completion numbers:

    C.Martin 6
    C.Davis 4
    K.Wilson 4
    G.Banks 4
    L.Naanee 7
    A.Gates 5
    G.Johnson 6
    M.Floyd 3
    C.Chambers 2
    K.Sperry 2

    This shows that the Chargers are not weapon-limited here. For the sake of finding the median, I didn't even list the single catches of LT, VJ, Hester, Sproles, and Bennett.

    What I mean is this - we've graduated from the LT/Gates show into something much more frightening. LT covered? Look for Gates. Gates covered? Look for VJ. Defense covering the usual suspects? Naanee will be open.

    There is potentially a four-reciever set we can run with VJ, Chambers, Gates, and Naanee or Floyd, with LT in the backfield. That is just ridiculous, and with Philip Rivers at the helm and ready to spread the ball around, the potential for offensive domination looms.

    Yesterday, our big stumbling block was third downs, which we converted at a 31 percent clip (5/16). This is largely due to those early-season jitters I mentioned - a bonehead 1-handed catch attempt by Gates, a couple of overthrows by Volek that PR would not have made, and an early drop by Floyd that would have converted for a first down. I could not shake the sense that, had PR played a little longer, we would have been blowing out the Seahawks by halftime, even with LT and Gates sitting out.

    For the first time in two years, I feel like the Norv offense is about to spread its wings - and considering how good we've been over the past two years, that's a pretty scary thought for defensive coordinators around the league.

    <strong>PLAYER OF THE GAME:</strong>

    Charly Martin. A better preseason game could not be had by a WR on the bubble. Honorable Mention: Mike Scifres. Is this guy a machine? Midseason form already.

    <strong>THE GAME IN ONE SENTENCE:</strong>

    The scoreboard belies a football team on the edge of greatness.

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