San Diego Chargers vs. Kansas City Chiefs: 10 Players To Watch on Monday Night
The NFL season is upon us and that means the San Diego Chargers will kick off their 2010 season on Monday night in Kansas City against the Chiefs.
While Kansas City isn't expected to do much better than their four wins last season, the Chargers know that taking them lightly could mean a season-opening loss which is something this team can't afford.
There will be players making their debuts or veterans starting yet another season in their professional careers.
Here are 10 players to keep your eye on on Monday night.
Before we get to those 10 players there's an interesting fact about this game. The last time the Chargers won a season opening game in Kansas City was a 24-23 win in 1988.
LB Mike Vrabel (Kansas City Chiefs)
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After spending eight seasons as a staple at linebacker for the New England Patriots, Mike Vrabel will begin his second season with the Kansas City Chiefs and his 14th season in the NFL.
Vrabel will be a guy to watch against the Chargers' running game. He finished the 2009 season with 53 total tackles, 44 of which were solo, his lowest total since the 2003-2004 season.
WR Patrick Crayton (San Diego Chargers)
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Patrick Crayton will be making his debut with the San Diego Chargers after being traded from the Dallas Cowboys.
Quarterback Philip Rivers says he's already established quite a rapport with Crayton so watch for the former Cowboy wide receiver to be a target early in this game.
S Eric Berry (Kansas City Chiefs)
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Rookie safety Eric Berry will make his 2010 NFL regular season debut as a starting safety for the Chiefs. Berry was the fifth-overall selection in the 2010 NFL draft from the University of Tennessee.
Berry will take over for former Chiefs' safety Mike Brown who had 103 tackles last season, 79 solo, as well as three interceptions. The rookie will need to keep Chargers' quarterback Philip Rivers from passing all over the Chiefs' defense as he did last year with five combined touchdown passes in two meetings between these two teams.
LT Brandyn Dombrowski (San Diego Chargers)
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If there's a lot of pressure on anyone in the first regular season game for the San Diego Chargers, it's left tackle Brandyn Dombrowski.
Dombrowski will be the starter over Marcus McNeill who continues to hold out. He will be challenged with blocking Tamba Hali who registered eight and a half sacks last season on top of 63 total tackles (47 solo).
QB Matt Cassell (Kansas City Chiefs)
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Matt Cassell slipped in every offensive category in his first season as the quarterback of the Kansas City Chiefs. Not what the Chiefs, or their fans, expected from a guy that came out of nowhere to lead the New England Patriots in 2008.
Through 15 games, Cassell threw for 2,924 yards and 16 touchdowns but was also intercepted 16 times. His completion percentage (63.4) and quarterback rating (89.4) both slipped from 2008 to 55.0 and 69.9 respectively.
The Chiefs will need a much better Matt Cassell this season if they are going to improve upon their four wins from last season.
TE Antonio Gates (San Diego Chargers)
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Arguably the best tight end in football plays with a lightning bolt on his helmet and is a literal lightning bolt for the San Diego Chargers' offense.
Antonio Gates has been a solid target for Philip Rivers and can provide both a pass catcher at tight end as well as a solid blocker on a run play.
He's always a guy that teams scheme for and provide extra film about. They want to know where he is at all times and make sure that he doesn't become a huge factor.
Gates is coming off his first 1,000 yard season (1,157) since the 2005 season to go along with eight touchdown catches and his highest yards per catch average (14.6) since his rookie season in 2003 (16.2).
LB Tamba Hali (Kansas City Chiefs)
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I've talked about Tamba Hali already when I referenced him with Chargers' left tackle Brandyn Dombrowski. Hali is someone that Dombrowski is going to have his hands full with.
He's listed as a linebacker but can line up as a defensive lineman as he did several times last season, leading to eight and a half sacks on top of 63 total tackles (47 solo).
This should be a good matchup on Monday night.
QB Philip Rivers (San Diego Chargers)
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San Diego Chargers' quarterback Philip Rivers has one more year of experience going into the 2010 NFL season, his seventh in the league and fifth as the team's starter.
While he set a career high in passing yards (4,254) in 2009, his touchdowns (28) were down from his previous season (34) but did cut his interceptions from 11 to nine last season.
He has a talented corp of receivers to throw to with guys like Antonio Gates, Patrick Crayton, Legedu Naanee, and Malcom Floyd just to name a few.
Not to mention a new running back beginning his first season in the NFL.
RB Jamaal Charles (Kansas City Chiefs)
Jamaal Charles, according to Kent Babb of the Kansas City Star, will be the starter for the Kansas City Chiefs and it will be his first season as the team's starter.
He sat behind both Larry Johnson and Kolby Smith last season but this will be his time to shine and his turn to show the NFL what he can do.
It's not that Charles has gone untested, even by his own coaches. He rushed for 968 yards through his final eight games including a 259-yard performance against the Broncos in the final game of the year. Prior to that game, head coach Todd Haley challenged Charles to rush for at least 200 yards even though his previous game high was 154.
After that kind of performance, you can't exactly ignore him. Chargers' linebackers may have their hands full with him on Monday.
RB Ryan Mathews (San Diego Chargers)
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Ryan Mathews has more pressure on him than arguably any other running back in the NFL. He comes in after the departure of the most popular running back in team history, LaDainian Tomlinson.
While Mathews has done and said all the right things about replacing Tomlinson, the Chargers and their fans have a lot of expectations in this young running back.
The rookie out of Fresno State has gotten a lot of compliments not only from his teammates but also from his coaches. One of them saying he's a more physical back than Tomlinson was in his days.
He will make his NFL regular season debut on Monday night and all eyes will be on him to see how he performs.