The San Diego Chargers won their first preseason game of the 2014 NFL season last week in a blowout victory over the Dallas Cowboys. With practices in full swing, there's a lot of buzz surrounding the team.
The victory over Dallas gave fans a glimpse of the team's potential heading into the regular season. Quarterback Philip Rivers was brilliant, completing all four of his attempts for 61 yards. He led the team all the way down to the goal line before running back Ryan Mathews fumbled the ball and turned it over to the Cowboys.
The defense was without a few starters, but the unit still performed fairly well against backup quarterback Brandon Weeden, who was starting in place of the injured Tony Romo.
Here are a few takes from the first week of the preseason.
Defensive Line Depth
Defensive linemen Corey Liuget and Lawrence Guy were sidelined on Tuesday.
Corey Liuget isn't practicing today. Is wearing a protective boot on his right foot. Fellow DE Lawrence Guy (shoulder) sidelined. #Chargers— Tom Krasovic (@UTkrasovic) August 12, 2014
Liuget has been fighting a foot injury for a large part of training camp. It sounds as though the fourth-year defensive end will not be able to participate in the next preseason game on Friday against the reigning champion Seattle Seahawks.
Guy had to leave the team's preseason game with a shoulder injury. But not before blasting Weeden on this touchdown pass in the second quarter. The injury is believed to have happened on the same play, at the 1:54 mark in the video.
The Chargers are extremely thin on the defensive front. The interior linemen in a 3-4 scheme dictate how the rest of the unit will play. Losing two starting linemen would put the defense in a troublesome position.
If the Chargers defense cannot win at the line of scrimmage, they will likely be in for another mediocre year.
Two undrafted free-agent rookies stood out during the preseason game against the Cowboys. One was running back Brandon Oliver, who reminded folks in San Diego of another miniature speedster that donned the No. 43 jersey for San Diego a few years ago.
The other was wide receiver Dontrelle Inman.
The Chargers are deep at the running back position, so Oliver must continue to shine if he is to make the final 53-man roster.
Inman, however, provides talent at a position where the Chargers are fairly thin. With Malcom Floyd returning from a serious neck injury and Vincent Brown unable to contribute due to injuries, Inman has a great opportunity to play alongside Keenan Allen and Eddie Royal when the season begins.
Speaking of Allen, after his impressive rookie season in which he almost (and probably should have) won NFL Rookie of the Year honors, the young wide receiver is working hard to improve on his performance from last year. Word out of training camp is that Allen has come into camp even better—a frightening claim for opposing secondaries.
Keenan Allen putting on a show today. Getting open. Catching everything. Not a surprise at this point, but still remarkable.— UTKevinAcee (@UTKevinAcee) August 11, 2014
If Allen can put up better numbers than he did last season, the Chargers will be nearly unstoppable on offense alongside their three-horse running back stable of Mathews, Danny Woodhead and Donald Brown.
Look for San Diego to finish the preseason in strong fashion, as it must jump off to a fast start with its difficult regular-season schedule. On top of having to play a loaded Denver Broncos team (twice!), the Bolts must also face the best division in football: the NFC West.
Their upcoming game against the Seahawks will be one of two games they will play in a one-month span against the champs. If the Chargers can compete with the likes of Seattle, the AFC could be theirs for the taking.