The preseason is a series of four games for the players vying for a roster spot.
It's a chance for those guys to prove themselves to coaches and show what they can do. For the other players, it's a time for them to create chemistry and momentum heading into the regular season. At the halfway mark, the San Diego Chargers are wounded, discombobulated and on track for a disastrous year.
Two areas, not players, have stood out in my mind as disappointments through the first two exhibition games.
Sadly, each area has also been the downfall of the Chargers over the last few seasons.
Is it 2010 again?
In the Chargers second preseason game against the Bears, the special teams unit looked worse than a high school teams'. Let's start off by looking at Chicago's kickoff returns.
|D. Hester||45 yards||45 yards|
|M. Ford||53 yards||100 yards|
|B. Golden||22 yards||22 yards|
On five kickoff returns, the Bears netted 227 yards. That means, on average, Chicago started with the ball at the 45 yard line. To put into context, the Chargers netted 111 yards on six returns. On average, they started their possessions at the 19 yard line.
Richard Goodman (WR) has been with the Chargers for the last three years as the kick returner. In three years, Goody has returned a kickoff for a touchdown just once. He has a career return average of 27.6, which is very good compared to Devin Hester's 23.9 and Darren Sproles' 25.4.
Regardless of what his stats display, there is still a possibility that Goodman is cut. His muffed return against Chicago didn't help either.
On to the punt returning situation.
With Eddie Royal sidelined, the Chargers must figure out who will return punts. It is not Keenan Allen. San Diego gave him an opportunity in the game against the Bears. The ball hit him directly in the chest and he fumbled, with Chicago recovering.
Allen has experience returning punts, but his knee injury history should keep him sidelined when the special teams unit is on the field.Luke Tasker also returned two punts for an average of six yards.
In the next two games, San Diego must find a legitimate returner if Eddie Royal is not ready for the regular season.
The Chargers physically could not stop the Bears' kickoff returns, allowing one to go all the way down to their own four yard line. They also could not return anything themselves, fumbling once on a kickoff and once on a punt. To top it all off, the Chargers also allowed a blocked punt.
Fixing the special teams should be very high on San Diego's priority list.
The Chargers offensive line has done very well in the running game. Ryan Mathews has looked great in the first two games, averaging 5.3 yards per carry. Edwin Baker is averaging over seven yards per carry as well. D.J. Fluker is the real deal in run blocking, especially around the goal line.
When it comes to pass protection, the entire offensive line is a different story.
In the first preseason game, the Chargers allowed four sacks, none of which were on Philip Rivers. Against the Bears, San Diego allowed four sacks, three of which were on Philip Rivers. One resulted in a fumble after Max Starks was beat.
The starting offensive line should look like this:
King Dunlap (LT), Chad Rinehart (LG), Nick Hardwick (C), Jeromey Clary (RG), D.J. Fluker (RT).
There's definitely an improvement over last year, outside of the left guard position.
D.J. Fluker is much better than Jeromey Clary at right tackle and King Dunlap is far superior than Jared Gaither and Michael Harris. Mike McCoy is still calling the left tackle position a "competition." For what reason? I'm not too sure.
King Dunlap has thoroughly outplayed Max Starks this preseason. Dunlap has yet to allow a sack, while Starks is struggling to block someone.The starter is clearly Dunlap and—for Philip Rivers' sake, McCoy—don't let Starks be his blindside blocker any more this preseason.
Jeromey Clary was moved to right guard this year because of the addition of D.J. Fluker. Both have been struggling immensely in pass protection. Their footwork is slow and they can't seem to hold their blocks.
The scariest thing is that the Chargers' offensive line has been dismantled in two straight games against teams with their second units in or missing their top pass rusher (Julius Peppers). San Diego has two weeks to prepare for the best pass rusher in the league, JJ Watt.
Other Notable Disappointments
Three injuries, one player making his way back from injury and one player taking it easy because of injuries, yet Robert Meachem cannot produce in this wide receiver corps. One catch, even though it was 40 yards, just does not cut it. The Chargers can either pay him $5 million to sit and not produce or $5 million and free up a roster spot.
English has only one tackle in the first two games. When has this guy not been a disappointment?