San Diego Chargers: 25 Things We've Learned Through Preseason Game 2
The San Diego Chargers have played two preseason games with two more to go, and a great deal of information about the team has been revealed.
However, with two games still ahead, some changes can be made.
Here are 25 things we've learned about the Chargers following the first half of their preseason schedule.
Ryan Mathews Is Still Injury Prone
On his first carry of the preseason, Mathews suffered a broken clavicle.
The injury can essentially be characterized as a fluke injury. However, the injury is just the latest in a long history of issues for Mathews.
Hopefully, this is Mathews' last significant injury for a long time. The Chargers need a healthy Mathews moving forward in order to remain a playoff contender.
Jared Gaither Is Still Injury Prone as Well
Jared Gaither was a very good offensive lineman with the Baltimore Ravens, but he was ultimately let go due to his injury problems.
Following a fantastic finish to the 2011 season, the Chargers gave Gaither a big contract to keep Philip Rivers from getting sacked.
What did Gaither do after receiving that contract?
Gaither needs to somehow stay healthy this year if the team wants Rivers to have time to stay in the pocket and deliver precise throws.
Nate Kaeding Will Get His Old Job Back
Coming into training camp, there was a legitimate shot for Nick Novak to beat out a recovering Nate Kaeding for the kicker job.
However, Novak's chance flew out of the window when he botched a 35-yard field-goal attempt in the Chargers' first preseason game.
Kaeding will get his old job back, and Novak's agent will have to start scouting other teams to see who could use a new kicker.
Kendall Reyes Will Be an Impact Player
It might be a bit much to ask a second-round pick to be a difference maker right off the bat, but Kendall Reyes has the ability to have a huge impact on the Chargers defense.
Matt Williamson and Steve Muench of Scout Inc. both told Bill Williamson of ESPN that Reyes looks to be a good player.
Reyes has the ability to rush the passer and contain the run, which will make him a very fun player to watch this season.
Philip Rivers Must Feel Uneasy
In addition to Jared Gaither's injury, the offensive line has to deal with the retirement of Kris Dielman and a concussion to Nick Hardwick.
If Gaither and Hardwick are ready to go by the start of the season, Rivers should feel a little bit better about standing in the pocket.
On the other hand, if Gaither and Hardwick aren't in the starting lineup to begin the season, the offense could be in a lot of trouble.
Mike Harris Will Extend the Chargers' Streak of Undrafted Players on the Roster
Rookie free agent Mike Harris out of UCLA has been very impressive during training camp, and he has seemingly forced his way onto the roster.
Due to Jared Gaither's injury, Harris has gotten the majority of the snaps at left tackle. Harris has been able to hold his own, which is extremely impressive for an undrafted free agent.
According to Dan McLellan of CBS Sports, Harris has steadily improved every day.
Harris will face a big test on Friday when he will block Jared Allen of the Minnesota Vikings.
Harris will make the 53-man roster, and it will be the 16th straight season that an undrafted rookie has made the opening day roster for the Chargers.
Antonio Gates' New Offseason Plan Is Effective
Following the 2011 season, Antonio Gates vowed to change his offseason plan.
He began to eat healthier and work out more so that he could stay healthy as he gets older.
It appears that his plan has worked so far.
According to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network, "He’s in shape. He looks skinny. He was burning cornerbacks left and right in practice...He is feeling healthier now than he’s been in a couple of years."
Following the loss of Vincent Brown, Gates' production becomes even more important.
If Gates can stay healthy all year, he could potentially be among the league leaders in receiving yards.
The Connection Between Philip Rivers and Robert Meachem Is Still Developing
As expected, the working relationship between Philip Rivers and Robert Meachem is taking significant time to develop.
After two preseason games, Rivers is 1-of-3 for seven yards when throwing the ball to Meachem. The two incompletions have resulted in interceptions.
On the bright side, Michael Gehlken of The U-T San Diego reports that Rivers and Meachem connected on a number of plays during their Monday practice against the Dallas Cowboys.
Once the two start to know each other's tendencies, Meachem should begin to put up big numbers.
Their development together will be interesting to watch as the season progresses.
Melvin Ingram Could Be a Defensive Rookie of the Year Candidate
The Chargers needed a pass-rusher, and they got lucky when Melvin Ingram fell to them at the No. 18 pick in this year's draft.
Ingram has been everything the Chargers desired and more.
He has provided a consistent pass rush and has five tackles and one sack through limited time in two preseason games.
Seeing Ingram in opposing backfields has been a welcomed sight for Chargers fans.
Dan McLellan of CBS Sports graded the Chargers' 2012 draft after their first two preseason games, giving their draft selection of Ingram an A+.
Ingram will be an absolute joy for the fans to watch for many years.
Edwin Baker Was Not Worth a Seventh-Round Pick
Edwin Baker's selection by the Chargers was an intriguing one, and it seemed like he would get a legitimate chance to contribute to the team.
However, Baker has been a huge disappointment. Undrafted free agent Michael Hayes has looked much better than Baker during training camp.
There's absolutely no way Baker will make the roster.
Ladarius Green Is a Work in Progress
As expected, rookie tight end Ladarius Green appears to be a work in progress.
Coming out of Louisiana-Lafayette, Green was known as a pass-catching tight end who was a poor blocker.
However, Green struggled in all facets of the game during training camp.
There were even rumblings on local radio stations that Green could be a casualty when the Chargers cut down their roster to 53 players.
Fortunately, the 6'6" Green has begun to show the natural receiving talent that he possesses.
His confidence has skyrocketed, and he has improved immensely as a result.
In a U-T San Diego article written by Michael Gehlken, Antonio Gates said, "He's going to be one of the better guys in this league if he continues to work and continue to prepare like he has these last couple weeks."
Jarrett Lee Is an NFL-Level Quarterback
Coming off a disappointing college career at LSU, Jarrett Lee's NFL prospects were not encouraging.
However, after being forced into duty as the second-string quarterback, Lee has shown himself to be more than capable enough of holding a clipboard in the NFL.
Lee impressed during the first part of training camp, and his great training camp play translated to his first preseason game.
Against the Green Bay Packers, Lee completed 15-of-22 passes for 235 yards, one touchdown and one interception.
If Lee doesn't make the roster, expect the Chargers to try and sneak him onto their practice squad.
Shareece Wright Is Ready for Significant Playing Time
Shareece Wright is making a very strong case to be the starting nickelback.
After two preseason games, he's racked up one interception, two forced fumbles and one sack.
Marcus Gilchrist played more than Wright during their rookie year last season, but Wright has shown that he might have the talent necessary to supplant Gilchrist on the depth chart.
Jeromey Clary Has Not Improved at All
It is amazing that the Chargers have yet to improve their personnel at right tackle.
Jeromey Clary is one of the worst tackles in the NFL, and there's no debating it.
RotoWorld states that Pro Football Focus graded Jeromey Clary as the 74th best tackle in the league out of 76 eligible tackles.
That means that there are backups in the league that performed better than Clary last season.
Clary started off the preseason by allowing a sack to rookie Nick Perry and also holding him on another play.
It was disappointing to see Clary manhandled by a rookie playing in their first ever NFL game.
It is clear that Clary didn't improve during the offseason, and there's no way he will improve moving forward.
Losing Vincent Brown to Injury Is Huge
In two preseason games, Vincent Brown tallied six catches for 112 yards and two touchdowns. He showed great ability on a great number of those catches—especially his impressive catch and run for a touchdown against the Green Bay Packers.
Unfortunately, the second-year receiver's ankle was broken in last Saturday's game against the Dallas Cowboys.
Losing Brown is a huge hit to the Chargers' receiving corps. Prior to his injury, the Chargers appeared to have a deep group of receivers.
The team will rely heavily on Eddie Royal to step up and fill Brown's production. If Royal can play similar to his rookie season, the Chargers offense should be quite productive.
It is disappointing to see Brown lose half of the season to an injury—especially since he was improving at a quick rate.
However, it's nice to hear that he will be back in eight weeks. He could potentially be the catalyst that leads the Chargers to the playoffs during the second half of the season.
It's Do-or-Die for Norv Turner This Year
OK, the validity of this statement can be questioned.
Last year was supposed to be Norv Turner's last chance, but he was somehow retained.
This season has to be his last chance.
If the Chargers don't make the playoffs, he has to be put out of his misery and relieved of his duties as head coach.
Or is that just wishful thinking?
Tyronne Green Has the Ability to Start in the NFL
The Chargers brought in competition for Tyronne Green during the offseason, but Green was able to fend off newcomer Rex Hadnot and claim the starting left guard spot.
Hadnot has previous starting experience in the NFL, so it's not like Green beat out a slouch.
Green has big shoes to fill, and it will be interesting to see how well he performs this season.
Le'Ron McClain Adds Toughness to the Running Game
The addition of Le'Ron McClain adds an element of toughness to the Chargers' running game.
Jacob Hester isn't a bad fullback, but McClain is simply bigger and more physical at the point of attack.
The offense needed an infusion of toughness, and that's exactly what McClain provides.
Johnnie Troutman Was a Reach
The Chargers' selection of Johnnie Troutman in the fifth round was puzzling. The team needed linemen during the draft, but Troutman was a reach following his indistinguishable career at Penn State.
To top it off, A.J. Smith knew about a pectoral injury to Troutman.
It turns out that the pectoral injury will likely force Troutman on the injured reserve, which means that he won't contribute this year.
This pick was essentially a waste for the Chargers as far as the 2012 season is concerned.
Antoine Cason Wants to Have a Big Year
Antoine Cason is in his contract year, and he wants to ensure that he will receive a hefty contract following the 2012 season.
Kevin Acee of The U-T San Diego reported that Cason hired a nutritionist during the offseason to help him perform to the best of his ability.
Cason's focus on producing a big season coupled with the help of an improved pass rush should help the cornerback receive the big contract he wants after this season.
Ronnie Brown Has a Bit More Fuel in His Tank
During Ronnie Brown's short stint with the Philadelphia Eagles, he looked like he no longer belonged in the NFL.
After signing with the Chargers, he has shown that he still possesses the ability to be a contributor in the NFL.
Although Brown has done little in the Chargers' two preseason games thus far, he has been impressive during training camp.
If Ryan Mathews isn't back for the start of the regular season, Brown will likely be the primary ball-carrier.
If Brown ends up being the starter for the season opener, his performance as a starter will be a very intriguing story to follow.
Mike Scifres Is Still a Top Punter
After two preseason games and four total punts, Mike Scifres is averaging 53.75 yards per punt.
Two of his punts have been inside the opponent's 20-yard line.
Scifres also has one touchback, but he's allowed to have a little rust during the preseason.
The Chargers Have Some Fight in Them
During the Chargers' joint practice with the Dallas Cowboys, Melvin Ingram and Andrew Szczerba got into a scrum.
According to Michael Gehlken of The U-T San Diego, Ingram got under Szczerba's skin, which led to Szczerba ripping off Ingram's helmet and swinging it at him.
Todd Archer of ESPN states that Atari Bigby came in and shoved DeMarco Murray in the back after Murray tried to come to Szczerba's aid.
A few plays after the small fight, Quentin Jammer decleated Cowboys wide receiver Dwayne Harris, further sending a message to the Cowboys.
It's nice to see the Chargers play with some attitude.
Norv Turner Might Make a Very Smart Decision Tonight
Around midnight, it was revealed that Norv Turner might sit Philip Rivers in tonight's preseason game against the Minnesota Vikings.
While some fans think it might be beneficial for Rivers to receive some playing time, it seems like sitting Rivers would be the smarter decision.
The entire left side of the offensive line in addition to the starting center will miss tonight's game.
Jared Gaither, Tyronne Green and Nick Hardwick will be sitting on the sideline due to injury, which will leave subpar Jeromey Clary as one of the two remaining starters on the offensive line.
If the Chargers want Rivers to healthy to start off the season, leaving him on the bench during tonight's game looks like it might be their best option.
The Chargers Finally Have Some Talent at Strong Safety
In the past, the Chargers have had some trouble filling the strong safety position.
This year, it seems like they might have two starting-caliber strong safeties.
Atari Bigby will start off the year as the starting strong safety, but third-round pick Brandon Taylor will be pushing Bigby for playing time all year.
The competition should bring the best out of both players.
Additionally, they will have the best free safety in the NFL in Eric Weddle lining up alongside them.
Taylor might take the job eventually, but if Bigby plays like he did when he was a healthy Green Bay Packer, the Chargers will receive some fantastic play from the strong safety position.
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