Nobody has any idea what to expect from this offense. Is it Ken Whisenhunt's offense from Arizona (or Pittsburgh)? Is it Mike McCoy's offense from Denver (or Peyton Manning's offense from last year)? Is it a hurry-up offense or not? Will it focus on the running game or the passing game? With so little tape of the first-stringers in the preseason, it's almost impossible for the Houston Texans defense to gameplan against the San Diego Chargers offense this week.
When you know what the defense is doing (and trust me, the Chargers know what Wade Phillips is going to try and do, his defense isn't that complicated) and they don't know what to expect from you, the only thing that is stopping you is execution. Good execution by the Chargers' offense could definitely be the key to San Diego winning this game.
(Random added bonus: Mike McCoy's offense in Denver always seemed to play well against the Texans, even when they lost to them early last season. He knows how to attack them.)
Want to know what's been holding back the Chargers since they lost LaDainian Tomlinson? It's not the porous offensive line, or the turnovers by Philip Rivers, or the defense that gives up big plays. The biggest thing holding back this team is that they haven't had a decent running game, which has put far too much pressure on the quarterback and the defense.
This year, it looks like that may change. Joe D'alessandris seems to have done a number on the offensive line, and RB Ryan Mathews looks more comfortable than he ever has running behind these zone-blocking schemes.
Fans have known since he was drafted that Mathews has star potential, he just needs to iron out some of the wrinkles in his game and stay healthy. We know he's healthy for tonight's matchup, and if he's ready to take "the leap" to stardom he'll want to do it in front of a national audience against a Super Bowl contender tonight.
Win one for the new guy
There seems to be three categories of "teams with new Head Coaches" this season.
There are some teams that seem to have a good roster but needed to get rid of the guy that couldn't get the team into the playoffs (Chiefs, Bears, Chargers, Eagles). There are other teams that are trying for a complete rebuild (Bills, Jaguars, Browns, Cardinals). Finally, there are the two oddball scenarios of "new" coaches that are returning to their teams (Saints, Colts).
So, how did each group do yesterday? Well, the rebuilding teams are still rebuilding (0-4) after one week. Chuck Pagano and Sean Payton each kicked things off with a win. The teams that are trying to win right away with the new guy went 2-0 yesterday, with the other two playing tonight.
There's something to be said for a new Head Coach. He has new speeches that these players have never heard before, and he also hasn't done anything to earn their ire. He believes that his team is good, and he's made them believe that they could be a playoff contender this year. They going to want to bring home this win for Mike McCoy much more than they probably would've wanted to for Norv Turner. That's a small, but important, thing to keep in mind when the Chargers take the field against the Texans tonight.