5 Things to Look for from the San Diego Chargers in Week 3
The Bolts have started 2-0, but the competition spikes up in a big way on Sunday against the Falcons. The game will be blacked out in San Diego, but you can’t fault local fans for taking a “show me something” approach with this year’s Chargers. There have been too many letdowns and heartbreaks to count at this point.
Nonetheless, the team could take a big step towards making believers out of Boltheads with a win on Sunday. It won’t be easy, as Atlanta has thus far been as impressive as anyone outside of the 49ers.
But nothing worthwhile ever is.
Here are this week’s “Fast Five” for the huge tilt against Atlanta. They will all seem obvious, but think about how often the Chargers haven’t done the obvious things that could have made all the difference.
1. What will Ryan Mathews look like?
I’m assuming at this point that he will truly be playing.
Mathews needs to give the Chargers a legitimately threat in the running game. Jackie Battle should still be worked in, but Atlanta can’t be pinning their ears back and smothering Philip Rivers as they did Peyton Manning on Monday.
Besides staying healthy, I could harp on Mathews’ need to hold onto the ball, but that goes without saying at this point. He needs to provide the burst that has been so sorely lacking with Ronnie Brown and Curtis Brinkley. There have been some holes, but they’ve closed up as the Chargers' backs seemingly take an eternity to hit them.
2. Can Mike Harris and the Rest of the Offensive Line Hold Up?
Kamerion Wimbley drew a 15-yarder for one of his quarterback hits. It’s ridiculous to expect anything from Jared Gaither this year no matter how much money he’s owed. These are the Chargers' blockers for the foreseeable future.
It will be crucial to not only keep Rivers upright but to give him some room in the pocket. He has used his feet to buy a little extra time on two of his four TD passes thus far, but he’s as immobile as they come.
3. Can Rivers stay patient?
Rivers threw his first pick of the season last week.
In his defense, he was getting no help from the running backs at the time. I’m sure the frustration was palpable. Nonetheless, he cannot force throws like he did last season.
With Eddie Royal and Robert Meachem only catching a couple of balls in each of the first two games, Rivers has relied heavily on Malcom Floyd. To his credit, Floyd could be bringing his game to a new level. His sideline grab against Oakland was a thing of beauty.
But Mike Nolan’s team will undoubtedly be keying on Floyd until the receivers make themselves known. This is where Ryan Mathews can really make a difference. Norv Turner’s offense is all about exploiting matchups and there won’t be too many favorable ones for the Chargers if Rivers is constantly faced with third and longs.
4. Can the improved defense slow down Atlanta?
The Falcons won’t be able to run the no-huddle as smoothly as they did on Monday.
Matt Ryan looks better than he ever has in his career right now, and Roddy White was catching balls left and right even though Denver knew Ryan was looking for him.
The improved pass rush needs to keep improving in order give the cornerbacks some help. Charger fans already have nightmares of Julio Jones streaking by Antoine Cason or Quentin Jammer.
Michael Turner will return for his second trip to San Diego as a member of the opposition. Even with his DWI, he should be in the lineup against the Bolts. But he’s had games where gets bottled up. The Chargers have kept McFadden and Johnson relatively in check. They need to very careful “The Burner” doesn’t break off one of those long runs he’s known for.
5. Can the Chargers “Bolt Up” in September?
Early “statement games” have brought out the worst in the Bolts in recent seasons.
In 2009, the Chargers were torn apart at Pittsburgh. NBC cameras captured Ron Rivera at his most frustrated, but it was for naught. Last year, the Bolts seemed to be going score for score with New England until interceptions, soft zones and fumbles sent them home with a loss.
While it’s only Week Three, Charger fans have been waiting far longer for the team to answer this sort of call. I hope the Bolts’ best football is months ahead, but there needs to be some evidence that this year will truly be different. That can begin this Sunday.