The San Diego Chargers proved a lot of things in their preseason opener last week against the Chicago Bears. They showed San Diego fans that they can survive without Marcus McNeill. Philip Rivers doesn't need Vincent Jackson to run a high powered passing offense. Ryan Mathews can revive the running game, and that the San Diego Chargers can stop the run.
As the San Diego Chargers move closer and closer to the regular season, though, games become less about understanding what players can and cannot do, and more about how the team functions as a unit. Preseason games stop becoming a means of talent evaluation; they become tone-setters for the beginning of the regular season.
While there will be plenty of scrutiny on the actions of individual players today, especially those fighting to secure a spot on the final 53 man roster, do not be confused: This game is about the team.
The Dallas Cowboys are expected to make a run for the Super Bowl, and anyone can see why. With a high-powered offense, and a defense that scares most teams, the Dallas Cowboys will compete with anyone. They will especially test the Chargers.
The Cowboys will test every facet of the Chargers' offense. Dallas boasts some of the best pass rushers and rush blockers in the league in Jay Ratliff, DeMarcus Ware, Marcus Spears, and Igor Olshansky. They couple this with a backfield specializing in taking advantage of off-mark passing.
These players will test every part of the San Diego Chargers' offense. Ultimately, they will reveal how the offense stands up to Super Bowl caliber competition, and the stress that that puts on the unit as a whole.
The outlook on the other side of the ball is just as good for the Dallas Cowboys. Despite the fact that starting offensive linemen Kyle Kosier and Marc Columbo will be held out of Saturday's game, Tony Romo has been cleared, and the Dallas coaching staff seems confident in replacements Montrae Holland and Robert Brewster.
Romo doesn't need much of an offensive line, though, as he does a good job of escaping pressure. He also has an excellent group of receivers to work with. Romo's targets include Miles Austin, Jason Witten, Dez Bryant, Roy Williams, and Patrick Clayton, a group considered to be one of the best, if not the best, in the National Football League.
They also have a potent running game, employing the tandem of Felix Jones and Marion Barber in a wide variety of styles, including their trademark draw plays.
This offense will push the San Diego Chargers to or beyond their breaking point. Defensive question marks will, once again, have to prove themselves against speed and size alike. The Dallas Cowboys will make big plays, and they will score. It is up to this defense to show that, when the pressure is on, they can put past mistakes behind them and play level-headed football.
The San Diego Chargers come into Preseason Game Two with a lot to prove. While individual players may have shown their fans and their team that they can contribute effectively, the Chargers have yet to make an emphatic statement to the League that they have left their past problems behind.
Facing a Super Bowl contending team like the Dallas Cowboys is a whole different ball game than playing the Chicago Bears. The San Diego Chargers have to hit the field today with the kind of intensity that the coaches, the staff, and, most importantly, the fans expect from them.
If the Chargers pour blood, sweat, and tears out onto the grass at Qualcomm Stadium for 60 minutes this afternoon, win or lose, the San Diego Chargers are making a statement to the rest of the NFL: forget the Jets, forget the Saints, and forget the Vikings. Forget the Colts, the Cowboys, and the Ravens.
When the San Diego Chargers step on to the field, be afraid, because there is nothing that can keep them from walking out of Dallas in February with the Lombardi Trophy held high.