San Diego vs. Seattle: Chargers Preseason Week 2 Game Preview
The San Diego Chargers are off to a 1-0 start in the preseason and headed to the Pacific Northwest for a date with the defending Super Bowl champions on Friday night.
The Chargers will be entering a hostile environment at CenturyLink Field as fans will be gearing up for Seattle's first home game in 2014. Friday will also be the first of two meetings between the Chargers and Seahawks before a Week 2 matchup in San Diego during the regular season.
That being said, neither team is expected to show its hand in this first meeting, and a point of emphasis will be on the depth of both squads as the first wave of roster cuts approaches on Aug. 26.
For San Diego, depth played a key factor in last week's big win over the Dallas Cowboys and will be something to keep a close eye on in Friday's game. One such area that has become particularly deep for the Chargers is the running back position, where there could be as many as five players vying for a spot on the 53-man roster.
Friday's game will also benefit as a learning experience for Mike McCoy's club as his players prepare for their first taste of playing on the road. Communication will play a huge role in managing the flow of this uptempo offense, and Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers will have an opportunity to test out that ability in what may be the loudest stadium in the NFL.
San Diego's next three preseason games will feature opponents scheduled for regular-season play, so every bit of information the Chargers can gather in these initial encounters will be crucial.
San Diego Preseason Week 1 Recap
A sellout crowd at Qualcomm Stadium made for an exciting atmosphere in San Diego's preseason opener, and the players responded with a 27-7 victory over a depleted Dallas Cowboys team.
Tony Romo, Dez Bryant, Jason Witten and a handful of Dallas starters did not take the field last Thursday, and the result was a lopsided win for the home team. Still, the Chargers played a highly competitive game, and a handful of players made the most of their on-field appearances.
Two obvious standouts were former CFL receiver Dontrelle Inman and undrafted rookie running back Branden Oliver.
Inman, who snared three balls for 107 yards on the night, had the highlight play of the game with a 70-yard score in the third quarter that came on a deep throw from backup quarterback Kellen Clemens. Oliver, who finished with seven carries for 64 yards, had a couple of big runs in the second quarter, including a 16-yard score for San Diego's first points of the game.
No doubt both will be players to watch in exhibition game No. 2.
Among the starters, everything went off without a hitch for the most part until Ryan Mathews coughed up the ball near the goal line after what had been a solid first series for the Chargers. Mathews, who has struggled with fumbling issues in the past, was attempting to leap over the pile in an effort to cross the plane, but a defender's helmet knocked the ball free.
For Mathews, an early fumble isn't the way he'd like to start off 2014, but there's no reason to hit the panic button just yet. He made a mistake, and he'll correct it in practice.
Overall, it was a strong showing from the Chargers and sets them up well for Friday's game in Seattle. With how well the reserves handled themselves last week, I'm looking forward to seeing how they hold up against an equally deep roster on the road.
News and Notes
Te'o looking for a better result against Seahawks
Manti Te'o's first preseason game was probably one he'd like to forget, but as fate would have it, he'll get an opportunity to avenge his first run-in with the Seahawks.
On Aug. 8 of last year, Te'o injured his foot late in the first quarter of San Diego's preseason opener against Seattle and was forced to miss the rest of the preseason and three regular-season games. That same injury wound up hindering his rookie year and required surgery in the offseason.
Bigger and better things are expected from a now healthy Te'o, and as Eric D. Williams of ESPN.com noted following last week's showing, the middle linebacker looked solid against Dallas. Te'o's next step will be building off that progress and coming out of Friday's game unscathed.
Flowers a maybe for Chargers debut on Friday
Pro Bowl corner Brandon Flowers was forced to sit out last Thursday's exhibition game after missing a week's worth of practices with an undisclosed leg injury. However, Flowers returned to practice on Monday and is working toward making his Chargers debut on Friday in Seattle.
The former Kansas City Chief was let go in the offseason and scooped up by the rival Chargers with the hope that he'd bring some new life into one of the worst secondaries in 2013. On a new team with a new system to learn, the more Flowers can do to get up to speed, the better.
Oliver and Inman Making case for final roster spot
After last week's impressive debut for both Oliver and Inman, the Chargers may have a situation on their hands at running back and wide receiver. Inman and Oliver were long shots to make the final roster before the start of the preseason, but the tides have a changed in a matter of days.
Inman and Oliver are now strongly in the mix for a roster spot and may be pushing 2014 draftees Tevin Reese and Marion Grice. Another strong outing from both could have a major impact on their respective position battles.
*Official injuries will be updated when released*
Corey Liuget has been bothered by a nagging ankle injury the past week and was held out of practice a second straight day on Wednesday, per Eric D. Williams of ESPN.com. His typical replacement, Lawrence Guy, was injured in last week's preseason win with a shoulder injury, which should allow more playing time for San Diego's slew of undrafted rookies on the defensive line.
Vincent Brown's calf continues to be a concern, as he's missed the majority of training camp and doesn't appear to coming back anytime soon, but receiver play has been anything but lacking in his absence.
Jeromey Clary continues to reside on the physically unable to perform list following offseason hip and shoulder surgeries, and Jason Verrett, the Chargers' first-round pick, is still wearing the red jersey in practice following his own shoulder surgery.
X-Factors and Matchups to Watch
Chargers run defense vs. Seahawks rushing attack
Seattle's run game averaged nearly 137 yards last season thanks in part to the aggressive running style of Marshawn "Beast Mode" Lynch and an effective offensive line. San Diego's biggest challenge on Friday will be slowing down the dominant ground game of the Seahawks, which wasn't a strong point of the defense during the 2013 campaign.
Chargers receivers vs. the Legion of Boom
San Diego's receiving corps will get a sneak peek at one of the league's top secondaries on Friday, and it's imperative the Chargers don't allow the Legion of Boom to push them around early. One particular matchup to focus on will be that of star receiver Keenan Allen going up against arguably the best corner in football in Richard Sherman.
Chargers front seven vs. Seahawks offensive line
Despite limiting the Cowboys to just seven points last Thursday, the Chargers front seven looked overmatched at times against a formidable Dallas offensive line. If the Chargers are to disrupt the ground-oriented offense of the Seahawks, they'll need to get a bigger push up front and stop getting driven back in the trenches.
Chargers' X-factor of the Week: Dontrelle Inman
Inman's big night didn't go unnoticed last week, but the pressure is now on to have a similar impact in Week 2 of the preseason and show consistency. Things didn't pan out for Inman with the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2011, but his chances of making an NFL roster are becoming very real with the Chargers.
Inman found open space against a bad Cowboys secondary, but can he do the same against the Seahawks?
In last year's preseason matchup with Seattle, the Chargers were subjected to a 31-10 thumping in front of their home fans, but this year's team has the depth to make Friday's game a lot more competitive.
Starting with the quarterback position, Kellen Clemens has looked the part of a reliable backup and seemed more than comfortable in Frank Reich's offense. The vast group of weapons at his disposal also contributed to a perfect night under center (5-for-5, 134 yards, 1 TD).
The ground game garnered 152 yards in Thursday's win, and San Diego got another 243 yards through the air. Granted, it all came against a struggling Cowboys team, but the Chargers proved they finally have the depth to win in the preseason.
I expect Clemens along with the rising play of Dontrelle Inman to make for a tight contest in Seattle, but the Seahawks will come out a stronger team at home following last week's loss. The energy they get at CenturyLink Field will be tough to overcome, and San Diego's defensive stand will be the deciding factor in this one.
Prediction: Seahawks 21, Chargers 14