San Diego Chargers Preseason: 10 Observations vs. Chicago Bears
The San Diego Chargers are fresh off a season where they were supposed to have an easy ride to the Super Bowl. They were the odds on favorite. They had the players, they had the talent, yet it ended up like their previous trips to the playoffs, with disappointment.
With another season upon us, there is yet again promise of a new day in San Diego and new expectations. Not only that, but there was a changing of the guard this past off season.
Exiting was long time Charger running back LaDainian Tomlinson, signing with the New York Jets. Coming in was their first round draft pick, Ryan Mathews, a running back out of Fresno State.
Mathews has his critics, a lot of whom were skeptical of drafting him for no other reason than the school, and conference, in which he played. He showed what the Chargers saw in him a few times during the team's first pre-season game against the Bears on Saturday.
Here are 10 observations from their 25-10 win this past weekend.
Offense Looks Solid Even Without Vincent Jackson
The Chargers' offense, without wide receiver Vincent Jackson, seemed to do just fine on Saturday.
There's no indication whether he intends to end his holdout any time soon, but guys like Legedu Naanee among others give Philip Rivers other targets to go to if Jackson doesn't want to be on the field.
Quarterback Philip Rivers Efficient
Quarterback Philip Rivers played two series for San Diego on Saturday and looked efficient in his first pre-season game. Rivers completed four of six passes including a 28-yard touchdown pass to Legedu Naanee.
Though two series aren't enough to really be able to tell just how good Rivers will be this season, it's enough to know there's a lot of promise there.
No Marcus McNeill, No Problem
The San Diego Chargers went into their first pre-season game without their starting left tackle, Marcus McNeill, who is one of two holdouts with no end in sight.
So, head coach Norv Turner went with Brandyn Dombrowski and Tyronne Green in McNeill's absence. Both of whom played better than Turner expected. “I thought both our guys who we played at left tackle, against a real good football player earlier, played awfully well,” Turner told the media after the game.
“Brandyn is no different than anybody else," center Nick Hardwick told Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union Tribune. "When he’s in there, he’s expected to be at a high level. He knows exactly what he’s doing. He has great ability. He’s a big, strong, physical guy.”
The "good football player" Turner is referring to is Bears' defensive end Julius Peppers.
Big Day From Undrafted Rookie Brandon Lang
Undrafted rookie linebacker Brandon Lang had a big day for the San Diego Chargers on Saturday.
The 6'4" 256-pound Lang, from Troy University, made an argument for a roster spot by blocking a punt in the third quarter that rolled out of the end zone for a safety as well as hitting second-string quarterback Caleb Hanie to force a fumble.
Lang has a great story going from a high school standout to an undrafted rookie. He's going to be a player to watch this pre-season.
Fans Are Apparently Ready For Football
With the first place San Diego Padres playing the second of a three game set against the San Francisco Giants, the Charger fans showed that they're ready for football season to be back in San Diego.
The total attendance on Saturday afternoon was 55,837. Impressive for a pre-season game. If you didn't think football was popular, regardless of what city you were in, this should prove just how ready fans are for the game to be back.
Defense Swarms The Chicago Bears
The Chargers' defense looked solid on Saturday afternoon. Their defensive line held the Bears' running backs to just 1.9 yards per carry as well as coming up with six sacks, two of which came against starter Jay Cutler.
Chargers' safety Paul Oliver had an interception as well as a fumble recovery, undrafted rookie linebacker Brandon Lang had a blocked punt and a forced fumble, Donald Strickland had one sack, and Kevin Burnett was able to get to Cutler on a third down play to stop a drive.
Offensive Line Doesn't Give an Inch
The Chargers' offensive line didn't give an inch to Julius Peppers as well as the rest of the Chicago Bears' defense.
They kept Philip Rivers protected through two series and never gave the Bears a single opportunity at a sack through six pass attempts from Rivers.
The Bears only registered one sack of the day which came against Chargers' backup quarterback Billy Volek.
Too Many Penalties
The Chargers were whistled for nine, count 'em, nine penalties during Saturday's game against Chicago. Three of which were false start penalties against Jeromey Clary in the very first quarter including back-to-back jumps during the second drive of the game.
If this trend keeps up, it's going to kill offensive drives for a talented offensive team. They've got to limit those penalties if they don't want to screw themselves out of field position.
Jeromey, when the ball moves, you move. Got it?
Ryan Mathews Impresses Coaches and Teammates Alike
Rookie running back Ryan Mathews tweeted sometime last week that he was not going to "replace LaDainian Tomlinson." Could have fooled me, Ryan.
Before the game even started, Mathews had so much nervousness pent up inside him that he actually had to run back to the locker room to throw up.
Even after that, it seemed his adrenaline was getting the best of him through a few plays, hitting the holes even before his offensive lineman could get there. Mathews said Kris Dielman told him to slow down a little bit during the game. That was just the nerves,” Mathews said after the game. “I was just trying to get out there fast. That was me just overthinking it.”
Besides that, however, Mathews impressed not not only head coach Norv Turner who said, “you trust what you see and I’ve seen him now for three months. He’s got all the things you need to be an outstanding runner. It’s exciting to have him," but also quarterback Philip Rivers.
At one point in the game, Mathews took a handoff in the end zone and ran right over Bears' linebacker Lance Briggs. I'm not sure even Tomlinson could have done that in his prime.
Ah Yes, Football Is Back
Sure there was a game going on and sure the fans wanted to see newcomers like Ryan Mathews perform on a bigger stage than what he'd been used to in his college years. But come on, you can't tell me that football fans weren't looking forward to this as well?
With the NFL, and football in general, come the cheerleaders and with one of the best climates on earth come some of the most beautiful women on earth. Luckily for the Charger fans, a few of them are Charger cheearleaders.
Ah yes, football has returned.