San Diego Chargers Winners and Losers Through Week 2
The revolution may not be televised, but the firstChargers preseason game was.
Not every fan is able to attend training camp practices, but everyone was able to watch the exhibition against the Seattle Seahawks. While a 31-10 beat down in front of a home crowd is not a positive start to the season, good things (and players) did emerge from the night.
Negatives were brought to light, or reinforced.
The winners and losers from the previous week are not just based on the preseason game (even though most of the players are from the game), but also from previous practice performances as well as this week’s practices.
Loser: Manti Te’o, LB
The second-round draft pick is not a loser because of his performance in the game, even though zero statistics is not great.
The inside linebacker bit hard on a run fake on the first play of the game against Seattle, but he was only OK in the nine defensive snaps he played on the field.
He flowed to the ball and took on blockers, but he was substituted out on third down, countering head coach Mike McCoy’s previous statements regarding Te’o being a three-down linebacker.
Te’o is on the “Loser” list because he is out this entire week with a foot sprain. He will not play against the Chicago Bears and he has not participated in practices as he has been wearing a protective walking boot.
While Te’o performed OK against the Seahawks and has been impressive during training camp, any rookie missing any time whatsoever—regardless of draft status—is a bad thing. Rookies need to adjust to the speed of the professional game, even a rookie as highly decorated in college as Te’o was.
Winner: Bront Bird, LB
With Te’o out, Bront Bird is getting reps with the first team defense.
Bird was one of the final cuts from the 2012 training camp, but was re-signed in the middle of the year after injuries depleted the team’s roster. The former Texas Tech defender played in San Diego’s final five games of 2012 and now has a great opportunity to earn more playing time in 2013.
Bird is expected to be the starting weak inside linebacker against the Bears Thursday night. And if Te’o’s foot sprain takes longer to heal than expected, Bird could be the starter come Week 1 of the regular season.
Loser: Robert Meachem, WR
Without even getting into the UT San Diego article where Kevin Acee says Robert Meachem’s body is “broken down” and that the Chargers must cut him “no matter the cost,” the wide receiver had a bad week.
It may seem like a good public relations move to admit you did not live up to expectations and will strive to improve, but to tell a radio show you “sucked last year” is not a smart idea. And Meachem did that last week.
The only way to let that statement not stick around would be to go out and play hard in the first preseason game. Meachem, however, failed to catch either ball thrown his direction against Seattle.
One pass intended for Meachem was picked off. The interception, which set up Seattle’s first touchdown late in the second quarter, occurred because Meachem did not come back to the ball on a hitch route. The defender was able to run in front of a statue-esque Meachem and pick off the ball and return it up the sidelines 28 yards.
Meachem and the other receivers have had an opportunity to earn playing time because Danario Alexander tore his knee, but the former New Orleans Saint wideout failed to capitalize on the moment.
Winner: Vincent Brown, WR
It will be three days shy of exactly one year since Vincent Brown last played a football game, but Brown’s wait will be over Thursday in Chicago.
It was August 18, 2012 when the former San Diego State star broke his ankle in Week 2 of the preseason against Dallas.
It will be August 15, 2013 when Brown takes the field in this year's Week 2 preseason game against the Bears.
Once considered a great option behind starters Danario Alexander and Malcom Floyd, Brown must now step up and take on a starter’s mentality.
A starting spot in the NFL rarely falls into a player’s lap as it has for Brown, but it is up to him to prove he should keep it but playing well in the preseason.
Loser: Max Starks, LT
The coaches said the starting left tackle spot was an open competition between King Dunlap and Max Starks. Dunlap took the majority of first-team snaps in practice, but Starks vowed the eventual starter would be crowned due to play in games and not practice performance.
In the first preseason game, Starks looked slow, out of shape and confused.
On Starks’ first play of the game—San Diego’s second offensive series—Seattle’s defensive end made the tackle behind the line of scrimmage without Starks laying a hand on him. Two plays later, the quarterback was pressured from the defender Starks was supposed to block.
One play after that, Starks looked too slow when he was chasing linebackers. Two plays after that, Starks hesitated on which linebacker to attack and ended up blocking no one. The very next play, a trio of Seahawks—including the one Starks was attempting to block—were in the quarterback’s face.
It is impossible to know what his assignments were and which player Starks was responsible for, but the former Steeler did not look good.
If he is right and the starter is whoever plays the best in game situations, Starks should get ready for the bench.
Winner: Brad Sorensen, QB
He completed seven passes for 84 yards, but the seventh-round pick out of Southern Utah looked smooth in his first NFL action.
Brad Sorensen seemed calm and in control. He did not panic when his first snap was a ground ball at his ankles. He did not seemed rush when he faced pressure. Sorensen looked calm and gathered.
Granted, he was going up against Seattle’s third and fourth-string defenders, but Sorensen still looked like he could give Charlie Whitehurst a run for his money as the primary backup to Philip Rivers.
Loser: Josh Johnson, CB
It is not good when the two main highlights for the opposing team are made against you.
Such was the case for undrafted free agent Josh Johnson out of Purdue.
Johnson, 5’10” and 199 pounds, was tasked with guarding Stephen Williams, 6’5” 208 pounds.
Williams only caught two balls, but one was for 41 yards and the others was a 42-yard touchdown. Those were the two longest offensive plays by either team in the game.
Johnson was also on special teams, but the former Boilermaker needs to rebound against the Bears if he hopes to make it past the first round of cuts.
Winner: Fozzy Whittaker, RB
He only averaged 2.7 yards per carry, but Fozzy Whittaker ran hard and looked good when he had the ball. The former Texas Longhorn is trying to make the squad despite sitting behind Ryan Mathews, Ronnie Brown and Danny Woodhead on the depth chart and the Chargers are not expected to keep more than three running backs.
Whittaker ran behind a backup offensive line unit that was getting pushed around. If the runs for negative yards were taken out of the equation, Whittaker would have averaged 3.5 yards per attempt. It is hard to get a positive run when a defender is in your face the moment you receive the hand off, but that is what happened to Whittaker a few times against the Seahawks.
It is uncertain if he has a chance of making the final 53, but Whittaker made the most of his chance against Seattle under hostile situations.
Loser: Wide Receiver Knees
Danario Alexander was lost for the year when he blew out his knee last week, and the Chargers received another scare when Malcom Floyd went down during Monday’s practice.
Thankfully tests show it is just a strain, but he is expected to be out until the start of the regular season, according to UT San Diego’s Michael Gehlken.
Tuesday, Tom Krasovic reported third-round draft pick Keenan Allen left practice and did not return because of knee issues. Allen did not play in his final three games with the Cal Bears due to a knee injury, an injury that limited him during predraft workouts.
For those keeping tabs, that’s the first two receivers on the depth chart injured within six days of each other and three receivers in seven days total, all with knee issues. Alexander is the only one lost for the season, but it is still not reassuring to hear of wideouts getting injured in practice before the second preseason game kicks off.
Winner: D.J. Fluker, RT
The University of Alabama offensive lineman started the game and was in on the 12-play drive that ended with a 28-yard field goal. The offense evenly distributed six run plays and six pass plays during that drive.
Five of the run plays were either behind the right guard and center or behind the right guard and Fluker’s right tackle spot. The single run not on Fluker’s side was Eddie Royal’s 2-yard reverse to the left side.
The five runs behind Fluker netted 27 yards (5.4 yards per rush attempt.)
Fluker was aggressive as a run blocker and created great push with right guard Jeromey Clary on double teams.
But Fluker was supposed to do well in the run game.
People had questions if he could perform well in pass protection against NFL speed rushers.
In the six pass plays, Fluker got beat once. But quarterback Philip Rivers still completed the pass. It looked like head coach Mike McCoy and offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt used running backs to help chip defenders on Fluker’s side on at least two plays.
But the Chargers left the entire offensive line to fend for itself when the team lined up with an empty backfield and five wide receivers. Fluker was able to handle his defender well.
Again, it is early and he is far from a finished product, but Fluker looked like he could be a valuable asset after his first preseason game.