Philip Rivers and the San Diego Chargers: Preseason 2011 Offensive Final Grades
The San Diego Chargers finished off the preseason winning two games on the road and losing both games at Qualcomm Stadium. There were some bright spots and some dark clouds that loomed over a team looking to rebound from last year’s disappointing season.
Just one week of preparation remains for the Chargers to finalize their roster and get everyone healthy and ready for the much-anticipated season opener against the Minnesota Vikings. With little time left, Norv Turner and the rest of the coaching staff need to address the areas of the game where the Chargers are the weakest.
Having watched the Bolts play four games, no one will be surprised at what areas are clicking and what areas are clunking. Here are the final grades for each offensive squad on the Chargers. I’ve tried to limit the grade to first-team play where applicable.
Be sure to check out the second part of this story by clicking here:
The Passing Game
Philip Rivers is undoubtedly the Chargers' strongest player on paper and on the field. His numbers matched that perception as he completed 31-of-45 passes for 377 yards, with four touchdowns and one interception over the three games he played.
The Chargers' top receivers caught 16 passes, the running backs caught five passes and Antonio Gates caught two at tight end. Those 23 completions to the starters also accounted for three of the four touchdown passes as well.
Since the Chargers’ passing game is arguably the best in the league, it’s a no-brainer to say that it’s the Chargers' best unit on the field as well. A slow start against the Dallas Cowboys and an interception against the Arizona Cardinals is all that kept the Chargers passing game from receiving the highest mark.
Final Preseason Grade: A-
The Running Game
Mike Tolbert was ineffectual at times and rather average otherwise. He ended the preseason with a mere 14 carries for 39 yards, but his best production came when he was bowling up the middle. His short-yardage gains weren’t as plentiful as they could have been, but everyone knows what Turner is going to call when Tolbert lines up in the backfield on 3rd-and-short. When the first-down yardage was a bit more or on second down, Tolbert had his best runs.
A little indecision by the defense goes a long way to making a productive play. The Chargers play-calling needs to reflect that more often.
Ryan Mathews had a better preseason than many expected—myself included. It was a pleasant surprise indeed and perhaps the most important for the Chargers as well. Mathews carried 24 times for 187 yards and two touchdowns. He averaged an outstanding 7.8 yards per carry and ripped off two long runs of 48 and 56 yards.
More importantly than the yards was Mathews’ ability to juke, jive and jolt past defenders. He broke tackles and showed his speed in the open field.
If he can avoid injury, there won’t be any need to split the running duties between him and Tolbert. Mathews should be the main running threat and Tolbert kept in reserve.
Final Preseason Grade: B
The Chargers pass blocking is a bit hard to grade as there is a big difference with Rivers in at quarterback compared with Billy Volek or Scott Tolzien.
Like the composed veteran he is, Rivers feels the pressure and knows when to get rid of the ball, the others, not so much.
The Chargers gave up 11 sacks in the preseason, but only one when Rivers was in the game. When Rivers wasn't in the game, there was little relief to the pressure opposition defenders were putting on Chargers quarterbacks.
The biggest problem in this area was the loss of Darren Sproles. He was quite adept at protecting the quarterback from his running back position, and the Chargers have no equal for him as a replacement.
Final Preseason Grade: C+
Run blocking goes hand in hand with the rushing game. The blockers need to create holes and the backs need to find and hit them with speed and agility.
The Bolts proved they could run the ball and the offensive line showed they could open up the occasional hole. The starters were able to get kick-out blocks, and even the receivers showed they could hold their blocks downfield, allowing the running backs to get several long runs.
Other times with reserves on the field, the run blocking was still successful, giving players like Jordan Todman a chance at some decent gains.
Consistency is the biggest problem here, as there were as many rushing plays where the offensive line had opened gaps for the backs as there were plays where those same gaps were stuffed with defenders.
Final Preseason Grade: C
The Kicking game was superlative in the preseason.
Nate Kaeding split the uprights with every kick he took. He booted six field goals, including two from over 50 yards, and made all 10 extra point attempts.
Mike Scifres kicked 10 punts and recorded only one touchback while putting seven inside the 20-yard line.
What more could you want from your kicking team than that?
These two guys are two of the best at their positions in the league, and it shows on the stat sheet.
Final Preseason Grade: A