San Diego vs. San Francisco: Chargers Preseason Week 3 Game Preview

Marcelo Villa@@_marcelovillaFeatured Columnist IIIAugust 23, 2014

San Diego vs. San Francisco: Chargers Preseason Week 3 Game Preview

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    Steve Dykes/Getty Images

    After last week's pummeling at the hands of the reigning Super Bowl champs, the San Diego Chargers are back in action this Sunday against a struggling San Francisco 49ers team.

    Through two preseason games, the 49ers have been outscored 57-3, with a most recent outing against the Denver Broncos ending in a 34-0 drubbing at the new stomping grounds of Colin Kaepernick and Co.

    Speaking of Levi's Stadium, Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee reported on Wednesday that field conditions at the $1.3 billion stadium had become hazardous to players, forcing head coach Jim Harbaugh to move the session east of the stadium to the team's practice field.

    The grounds crew has been hard at work laying new sod at the stadium, and Chargers head coach Mike McCoy was assured by 49ers team officials that the field would be ready for Sunday's game. 

    According to Eric D. Williams of ESPN, San Diego is expected to play its starters into the third quarter on Sunday. With this being the third week of preseason games, teams across the league are expected to get more out of their first-team units as the start of the regular season approaches.

    Sunday's batch of games will also be the last before the first wave of roster cuts. On Aug. 26, all rosters are mandated to cut down from 90 to 75. For a number of players striving to make the final cut, Sunday's game will play a vital part in the trimming process.

San Diego Preseason Week 2 Recap

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    Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    The Chargers were well aware of the atmosphere they would be entering at CenturyLink Field last Friday, but they clearly weren't prepared for the offensive explosion by Seattle.

    Led by a phenomenal first half from Russell Wilson, the Seahawks rolled out 403 yards on offense with 243 coming in the ground game. Seattle's trio of quarterbacks rushed for four touchdowns en route to the 41-14 finish, and the Chargers' rushing attack was held to just 78 yards.

    Defensively, the Chargers looked overmatched in stopping the run, and poor tackling was a big issue. There were a number of times when linebackers would make their way into the backfield only to bounce off Seattle's running backs.

    Containing Russell Wilson and the rest of Seahawks quarterbacks appeared to be San Diego's biggest struggle, however.

    On offense, the Chargers run game was stifled by a disciplined front seven. The passing game seemed to click with Kellen Clemens under center as he led two scoring drives, but the offensive line surrendered five sacks and Clemens was often hurried.

    It was a bad performance all around from the Bolts, but they have an opportunity to rebound in Week 3 of preseason action.

News and Notes

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    Lenny Ignelzi/Associated Press

    First-round pick expected to make his debut

    Jason Verrett, the 25th-overall pick in this year's draft, is expected to make his Chargers debut on Sunday just five months removed from surgery to repair a torn labrum. The TCU product spent most, if not all of training camp in a red, non-contact jersey but was a full participant this past week at practice. 

    It's time. First-round pick Jason Verrett (shoulder) expected to make NFL debut Sunday vs. 49ers. Comes near home for Fairfield native.

    — Michael Gehlken (@UTgehlken) August 21, 2014

    Replacing Te'o

    Manti Te'o's recent foot injury in Seattle is a dwelling thought for this Chargers defense, but unlike last year, GM Tom Telesco took the necessary precautions to add depth in the offseason to counter such a scenario.

    He added former Indianapolis Colts linebacker Kavell Conner in free agency and re-signed sixth-year man Reggie Walker. According to Eric D. Williams, both are expected take snaps in Te'o's place and compete for his spot should his injury be a serious one.

    Freeney back on the prowl for San Diego

    Dwight Freeney is also expected to make his preseason debut for the Chargers after suffering a quad tear early in 2013.

    The veteran pass-rusher took a pay cut in the offseason to remain in San Diego and will play a vital role in adding more pressure to John Pagano's defense. Freeney's presence was so brief last season it was impossible to judge whether he could return to form after his exit from Indianapolis.

Injury Report

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    Stephen Brashear/Associated Press
    Jahleel Addae DBAnkleOut
    Manti Te'o LBFootOut
    Sean Lissemore DLAnkleOut
    Vincent BrownWRCalfOut
    Jeromey ClaryOLShoulder, HipOut
    Corey Liuget DLAnkleQuestionable

    ** Courtesy of CBS Sports **

    The Chargers will be missing three starters on defense. With Addae out, Darrell Stuckey should pick up the slack in the secondary. Te'o, as I mentioned before, will be replaced with the combination of Kavell Conner and Reggie Walker. As for Lissemore, it's possible we see more of Kwame Geathers and fifth-round draft choice Ryan Carrethers. Undrafted free agent Tenny Palepoi is also in line for playing time, especially if Liuget's ankle isn't ready for Sunday.

    Clary, who still remains on the PUP list, will be replaced at right guard with Johnnie Troutman and third-round pick Chris Watt, both of whom are competing for a possible starting gig on the offensive line. Brown, who hasn't practice since late July, continues to nurse a calf injury and hasn't shown any sign of returning soon. 

X-Factors and Matchups to Watch

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    Stephen Brashear/Associated Press

    Chargers defense versus the mobility of Kaepernick

    San Diego's defense allowed four rushing touchdowns to quarterbacks last week, all of which looked effortless on tape.

    When the Chargers defense takes the field on Sunday, they'll be facing yet another nimble quarterback in Colin Kaepernick, who some may consider an even bigger threat in the run game than Russell Wilson. The last thing San Diego wants to do is allow Kaepernick to find running lanes and suffer another lopsided defeat.

    Chargers starters versus field conditions at Levi's Stadium

    No preseason game is worth getting hurt in, especially if unstable turf is to blame. When the players and coaching staff get on the field for warmups, they'll need to take a long look at the repaired field and determine whether its safe to play on. If I'm Mike McCoy, I think twice about letting Corey Liuget and Dwight Freeney see action if the field isn't right. 

    Chargers front seven versus 49ers rushing attack

    Seattle pounded away at San Diego's weak front seven with a ground game that was missing two starters on the offensive line and featured just a brief glimpse of Marshawn Lynch. A similar display could be in store for Sunday's game as Anthony Davis and Alex Boone will likely be missing from the right side of San Francisco's offensive line. Frank Gore, the team's leading back, had just two carries last week and could be limited as well.

    Poor tackling and a lackluster effort up front allowed Seattle's run game to go off for 200-plus yards last Friday, and if the Chargers intend on preventing another outing like that one, the front seven will need to step it up on Sunday.

    X-Factor: Philip Rivers

    Rivers exited last week's game after just one series with the offense. With Sunday's game being considered by many as a dress rehearsal, I expect to see a lot more of No. 17 on the field in order to get a rhythm down with his receivers.

    San Francisco isn't at full strength defensively, which should allow Rivers to finally put some points on the board this preseason.


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    Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

    San Francisco's luck has to change at some point, and for Harbaugh, I have to imagine that Sunday's game has some importance to it considering the beatings his team has taken the last couple weeks. Health will be a problem, however, as several starters on defense continue to rehab injuries.

    The 49ers do have one of the deeper rosters in the NFL, but it will be tough to compete against this Chargers offense that will extend the play of its starters.

    I don't expect San Diego to produce a one-sided result like the teams before them, but a close win seems possible even on the road.

    The 49ers will be dangerous with Kaepernick and most of his weapons intact, but that signature defense can't be effective without the likes of NaVorro Bowman and possibly Patrick Willis, who is questionable for Sunday's game.

    Prediction: Chargers 20, 49ers 14