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Bolts & Dolts: Chargers vs Cardinals, Week 2 of Preseason



Wide Receivers - There's going to be more groups of players than individual players this time.  Not for any real reason except that I was left with the impression that all of the receivers played well, with the possible exception of Craig Davis (who dropped a catchable ball against a 3rd string CB).  Malcom Floyd looked fantastic, Chris Chambers made a great grab and Legedu Naanee probably solidified a starting WR spot in 2010 with his work against Arizona's first-string defense.

Quarterbacks - I know I mentioned this earlier, but it needs to be stressed again.  With a leaky offensive line, a lot of QBs will panic and start running or forcing the ball into double-coverage.  Not our QBs.  All three of them were very patient and took what the defense gave them.  I hate to say it, but (even though he didn't force anything or make any mistakes) Charlie Whitehurst is far too inaccurate to ever be anything more than third on an NFL depth chart.  I bet when his contract is up and he's owed a pay raise he ends up going to Canada.  If Kassim Osgood wants to blame anyone for his poor showing in two preseason games, he could probably get away with blaming Chuck.

Running Backs - LaDainian Tomlinson/Michael Bennett followed by Darren Sproles.  I can finally say that I'm....mostly comfortable with the idea of those three guys getting all of the Chargers carries in 2009.  LT looked fresh and made at least two cuts that he couldn't have made in 2008, Bennett is nothing if not solid and Sproles is an incredible weapon.  Darren will probably never be a starting RB in the league, but I'm quite happy to have him returning kicks, punts and occasionally blowing past defenders on a screen pass.

Nate Kaeding - A 56 yard field goal?  Are you kidding me?  It looked very easy for Nate too.  Is it possible the Chargers' kicker has turned into a weapon from that far away?  That kick gave me a lot of confidence in Nate.



Secondary - They looked fantastic against a very good passing offense.  Quentin Jammer wasn't an inch out of position all night and somehow looks even better than he did in 2008.  He wants that Pro Bowl.  Antonio Cromartie is taking heat for shying away from some big hits, but the guy does have to worry about his health and probably thought "This is the preseason" before trying to tackle.  With that being said, he looked like a playmaker and didn't look to be playing catch-up with the opposing WRs like he was last season.  I think Clinton Hart looked improved and his interception was gorgeous.  Antoine Cason cannot be kept as a nickel back forever, he's far too good.

Vaughn Martin - Didn't look out of place for a second.  His only problem was that he kept getting caught in traffic, which lead to a couple of easy runs to the outside for Hightower.  He did a good job of keeping Merriman, and eventually Tucker, clean.  After this game I think the coaches will be more comfortable with him being the backup DE, should Bingham's recovery be a slow one.

Kevin Burnett - What can I say that I didn't already say?  Although he blew a coverage assignment that led to Boldin being wide open, he is head and shoulders above Dobbins and lightyears ahead of Wilhelm.  I don't know anyone who would argue that he's not the starter and an every-down linebacker for the team now.

Pass-Rush - Only one sack, for Jyles Tucker, but consistent pressure that forced Arizona's QBs to step up and occasionally throw before they wanted to.  When Rivera lets the dogs run wild and has English on the field, I'm fairly confident we'll be seeing a lot of sack dances.

Health - This is for both Offense and Defense.  The Chargers are remarkably healthy.  All of the important players that missed last night's game (Forney, English, VJ, Cesaire) have only minor injuries and could possibly play next Saturday against the Falcons.  Health usually seems be the deciding factor on what kind of season it will be for the Chargers, and so far 2009 is looking good.



The Offensive Line (passing) - Am I worried?  No.  Am I concerned?  Eh, maybe.  If the line is just as bad in Atlanta next week, I'll definitely start worrying a little bit.  Vasquez looked like a project out there.  Out of the 4 sacks on Rivers, he was personally responsible for 2.  On another, Jeromey Clary was out of position and missed the blitzing LB because he was trying to help Vasquez.  On the fourth, Kris Dielman just got beat.  The Arizona defensive lineman jumped the snap and put an outstanding move on Dielman.  Hey, sometimes you just have to say the guy beat you and try to stop him next time.  Lucky for Kris, this was in the preseason.

The Offensive Line (running) - You can tell the person calling the plays has absolutely no faith in his offensive line to run-block when you're seeing lots of screen passes and WR end-arounds called.  If it weren't for a 22 yard run by Naanee and an 11 yard run by Davis, the stats for the running game would be pretty poor.  None of the HBs had a higher YPC than 3.2 (Bennett).  Sportscenter would be showing highlights of LT and talking about another big season from him if it weren't for him getting swallowed up by 6 defenders every time he got back to the line of scrimmage.


Defense/Special Teams

Mike Tolbert - Tolbert is pretty good as a blocking FB, although Jacob Hester is clearly better.  However, Tolbert's effort on Special Teams is pathetic.  He either knows he's not making the team or he's going to get himself cut by showing that he has no value besides being a backup FB.  His blocks on kick returns were atrocious.

Kick Coverage - Wedge or no wedge, that was a poor effort.  Too many guys giving up the play before it was over.  Give Cason credit for standing out as a ST star last night.  He seemed to be the only guy that cared.