We can't draw a whole lot of firm conclusions from the first preseason game since it is merely the first impressions from the 2010 Chargers roster. However, we can begin to notice some trends in player performance that may sway an increase of decrease in playing time for the rest of the preseason that could ultimately influence a player receiving a roster spot...or not getting one.
I was very pumped on the performance of several players last night, and only down on a few. But I slept on it overnight to get a more level-headed analysis of the game and I'm watching it again today. My observations after the jump.
No surprises here, Philip looked great, Volek looked solid, and Crompton looked like a rookie at times. However, he also looked like he had the pocket awareness of a veteran at times, and showed some great accuracy on several throws when he was able to set his feet, make the read, and not rush the play. WOuld have had a TD throw to Williams if someone hadn't choked.
Mathews looked good...he had flashes of greatness at times, but also was a bit too rushed and didn't always show the patience to let his blocks develop. He knocked a pulling Dielman to the ground (a feat in and of itself) on the play that should have been a 2 yard loss, then absorbed a hit, maintained his balance, and turned it into an 18 yard gain. He definitely has the knack to turn nothing into something as evidenced by the 7 yard reception that should have been for no gain.
Mike "Mini-fridge" Tolbert has the lead for the RB 3 position. He looked like a wrecking ball out there, exhibiting strength, explosiveness, and shiftiness. My next jersey will be a #35...and I'm highly considering getting a custom jersey to replace "Tolbert" with "Mini-fridge." (John, next time you get to interview Tolbert and his teammates please try to get that nickname to stick) I'm no longer worried about the power running game if #24 happened to need some time off at some point or another during the season.
McNeal and Mason were unimpressive, at best. McNeal will not be Sproles' replacement...he just didn't show the explosiveness last night. Maybe he was thinking too much and that slowed him down, but not likely.
Curtis Brinkley looked great to close out the 4th quarter. I wish there were about another 45 seconds in the game and he would have had a TD. I think Brinkley jumped McNeal and Mason in the RB depth chart last night, and hope this guys gets a closer look in the next few games.
Hester didn't blow me (or any defenders) away with his blocking, but we all know that's not his strength. Tolbert definitely looks to be the more versatile of the two, but Hester's place is on ST's.
Latsko had a nice catch and run, and is probably a better lead blocker than Hester or Tolbert, but just doesn't have the versatility to crack the roster.
Floyd appeared to be absent (not at all worried about that), Naanee showed great speed and hands as the Z receiver (WR#2), and CBD showed his ability to get open is still there (before leaving with a hip pointer). I wanted to see more of CBD, so hopefully we will get that next game. As shown in his rep at punt return, the team isn't being bashful in it's use with CBD, nor should they be. He needs to get as many reps this preseason as possible to see if he will be able to hold up this season.
Josh Reed looked like the wily veteran receiver out there that we signed him to be. He's not as explosive as some of our younger guys, but he's consistent and reliable, which cannot be overlooked.
The door is still open in the UDFA battle: Williams made sure of that when he dropped the TD pass. Granted, over the shoulder in the end-zone under the lights isn't exactly the easiest catch to make, but come on man! In camp he has been the UDFA that was so reliable all along, but Tutu seemed to be the more reliable of the two last night. Goodman had a good kick return but it looked more like good blocking that caused that and he couldn't make the kicker miss him? Come on, man, Sproles breaks that for a TD IMO. (On that same play, Nwagbuo was the guy that broke it open when he swallowed one of Chicago's coverage players)
Banks did not impress, either. He needs to shine on special teams to get a spot on the roster and I haven't seen that.
Gates did his part and came off healthy, I'm happy. Battle with McMichael and WIlson will be interesting...they looked fairly interchangeable to me last night, which is a great sign for the depth at the TE position. Do I even need to mention Brockel?
Quick passing game when Rivers was in kept the pressure off our QB. There is a definitely drop off at LT when McNeill is out, but the quick passing game and improved running game could easily negate any advantage of a defense with a good pass rush. Also notice that the majority of the screens were run to the left side to slow down Peppers on the pass rush. That being said, Dombrowski actually looked pretty good IMO. I'll be watching to see if the team tries to test him out more next game.
Enough has been said about Clary and his penalties. Hardwick has definitely put on some weight, should help when facing 3-4 defenses. Vasquez had some good blocks, especially when he neutralized the DT's spin move on the long bomb to Naanee. Dielman can still pull...I would hate to be a LB and see #68 charging through the hole on the G-power run. I didn't see the tripping call on him either, looked like a good cut block to me. Tyronne Green was surprisingly good at LT, too. He definitely has requirement #1 for that position: freakishly long arms.
The second string O-Line was about what you expect from a line that hasn't had a chance to work together for a good period of time. They weren't very coordinated and were easily disrupted by the D-Line. Again, that's what you should expect from a patchwork O-Line.
These guys are ALL monsters. The difference from last year to this year truly is amazing. I'm watching the film again right now, and on every running play, the line of scrimmage moved 1-2 yards into the Chicago backfield. Love it! I attribute the majority of the improvement to the experience gained last season when there were 9 different starters in across the D-Line. There are going to be some good players cut from this line...and I can see Bingham among that group. After watching Thomas and Garay I don't think Bingham retains the "strongest Charger" title, either.
Boone showed great awareness and athleticism on breaking up the screen pass, and Castillo was the most disruptive D-Lineman out there. And he was facing double teams nearly every time. Great sign! Garay also was a force to be reckoned with, which will force teams to double-team him. We look to finally have a viable 3-4 front with our NT and DE's (or at least one DE) demanding double teams which will free up the LB's. The D-Line was also causing pressure up the middle on passing plays which is great for the OLB speed rush when we get English and Merriman back.
If this game was any indication, stopping the run won't be a problem this year. They controlled and dominated the line of scrimmage. Then again, Martz isn't exactly the best test for a run defense...Cowboys should be a better indicator. Also, as stated above, D-Line looked really good when Chicago brought in their 2nd and 3rd string O-Line, but that's to be expected.
Starters looked good, Burnett made me VERY happy with his big hit on the Cutler at the sideline. The first string LB's didn't really get tested by any TE's which is one of my biggest questions about them, but Martz doesn't really utilize that position anyways. First string pass rush was lacking with Merriman and English sitting out.
Tucker was lackluster...Applewhite showed promise. I would have really liked to see Applewhite get a chance with the first team with English and Merriman out, but I guess I'll have to wait on that one.
OLB Brandon Lang is making a name for himself and just might force the team to clear out a spot for him. I can easily see the team jettisoning the RB3 position to make a spot for Lang as ST dynamo.
Did NOT look good when it was first team on first team. Knox just demolished our secondary when Cutler had time. Then again, with English or Merriman there is no guarantee that Cutler has as much time as he did. Any secondary will be exposed when the QB has enough time. Cason had a chance at a fairly easy pick and couldn't come up with it. Strickland looked like a seasoned pass-rusher with his swim move on the RB on his sack.
Oliver was making plays all night out there. Spillman is a heat-seeking missile. I would really like to see Spillman tried out as gunner on ST's...he's fast and he can lay the big hit on a punt returner. I could easily see him filling Kassim Osgood's spot on punt coverage.
Looking forward to seeing Stuckey in there with the 1st team. I think he is going to impress with his speed. Let's hope he gets healthy very soon.
I was a big fan of the carries that Mathews got. It would have been very easy for Norv to protect him once he took Rivers out but getting Mathews several carries and into a rhythm will help him get accustomed to taking the feature back role here. Can I say that as good as the play action pass was last season, it is going to be ridiculous this year with the added threat of Mathews? That, plus the added threat of Rivers and his pump fake...Norv is going to be cooking up some delicious gameplans this season.
Loved the blitzes from Rivera...Strickland and Vasher are going to be fantastic in the blind-side corner blitz. Also saw some stunts on the D-Line with LB's shooting through the vacated gap and some fire-zone blitzes thrown in there.
Well, that's about all I have for now. I'm sure I'll notice more the 3rd, 4th, and 5th times that I watch the game. It's a sickness, I can't help it.