The preseason is over and I don't think it's far-fetched to call it a success for the Chargers. The only true weakness that anybody saw was with the offensive line and, as expected, they got better each week.
Last night, with a handful of spots open to 10-15 players, guys were fighting to have a job today. After the jump, find out who played well and who played poorly in this week's Bolts & Dolts feature.
Billy Volek - 8/13, 103 yards, 1 TD. I don't think there has ever been a time where Chargers were more confident in their backup QB, even when Rivers was the backup, than right now. Billy really seems to have hit his stride as a QB. Not only does this make all of us rest easy if something were to happen to Rivers, Volek could be used as trade bait during the season or in the offseason if the Chargers need to fill a hole. Preseason Stats - 29/41, 393 yards, 3 TDs, 0 INT.
Gartrell Johnson - 20 carries, 85 yards. A solid 4.3 rushing average on the night. Gartrell calmed a lot of people who were terrified of the idea of the team keeping him while getting rid of Michael Bennett. Not only did he show good power-running by breaking a lot of tackles, he has shown improvement throughout the preseason and will hopefully continue to get better. Preseason Stats - 48 carries, 184 yards rushing, 7 catches, 57 yards rec.
Michael Bennett - 8 carries, 30 yards. Well he certainly sold the 49ers announcers, didn't he? Here's what Bennett has going against him. One, he's old. 31 in running back years is like 40 in quarterback years. You have to be very special to be a starting RB at 30+ years of age, due to effectiveness and health. Bennett has always had health issues, even when he was the starting RB for Minnesota, so there's no saying that he could step in for an injured LT and stay healthy himself. Two, he's expensive. That's not really his fault, but veteran players cost more than rookies (Gartrell) and players in their first few years in the league (Mike Tolbert). Three, if you keep him instead of Gartrell you're left with a RB rotation of LaDainian Tomlinson (30 years old), Darren Sproles (5'6"), Bennett (31 years old) and Jacob Hester (a FB). Would you like one young, exciting guy in there to be the one to take some of the pounding and be a project for the future? The team would. Four, if the team keeps Bennett instead of Tolbert they're sacrificing a good special teams player. With kickoff coverage being a weakness for the Bolts, this is an area they should be wary of taking good players away from. Preseason Stats - 26 carries, 89 yards rushing, 2 rushing TDs, 5 catches, 112 yards rec, 1 receiving TD.
Kassim Osgood - 1 catch, 39 yards, 1 TD. Osgood presented match-up problems for the 49ers secondary when he was in there. The TD catch was not an easy one and he caused at least one defensive pass interference penalty down the field as well. Good game by KO. Preseason Stats - 1 catch, 39 yards, 1 TD.
Kory Sperry - 2 catches, 29 yards, 1 TD. I was raving about this kid after my day at Chargers training camp a month ago. When he wasn't trying to block he really stood out. He's tall with long arms, has soft hands and has good speed for a TE. Unfortunately, his good game last night may have caught somebody's attention which might keep him off the Chargers practice squad. Preseason Stats - 2 catches, 29 yards, 1 TD.
Nate Kaeding - 4/4 FGs, 2/2 PATs. Last night Nate made it all seem too easy. He lined up and made kicks of 28, 36, 47 and 51 yards without breaking much of a sweat. Considering he did it in the stadium he's planning to play at least 8 games in this season, it was an excellent sign. If he can continue to knock them down from 50 yards, I think he's got a chance at making the Pro Bowl in 2009. Preseason Stats - 6/8 FGs (2/2 from 50+ yards), 9/9 PATs, 57.7 kickoff average yards, 1 perfect onside kick.
Antwan Applewhite - 4 tackles, 1 sack. Antwan was everywhere last night. Rushing the passer, stopping the run and even playing some coverage. It seemed like he was out there as part of the "second team" defense, ahead of Jyles Tucker. So if anyone is going to be cut, it may be Tucker. Applewhite has played his heart out in the preseason and given the coaches every reason to keep him. Just look at this stat-line... Preseason Stats - 12 tackles, 1 sack, 3 passes defended, 1 interception, 1 forced fumble.
Larry English - 2 tackles, 1 pass defended. I'm convinced, this kid is awesome. Part of me has always been secretly worrying that he wasn't worth than #16 pick, but he puts pressure on the quarterback with amazing consistency. I can't wait to see what he can do when Merriman and/or Phillips are on the field with him. Preseason Stats - 2 tackles, 1 pass defended.
Brandon Siler - 5 tackles. Siler played a good chunk of the game last night and performed as you'd image. He was strong against the run and shaky in coverage. I don't know if that will ever get any better, but he doesn't make for a terrible 4th ILB and special teamer. Preseason Stats - 11 tackles.
Jacob Hester - 1 carry, 2 yards, 3 catches, 15 receiving yards. I hope the coaching staff is as sick as seeing him run the ball as I am. He has no speed, he has no moves and his power is just average. I like him as a blocker and a receiver, but I do not want to see him getting more than 1 carry a game in the regular season. Preseason Stats - 8 carries, 25 rushing yards, 6 catches, 26 receiving yards.
Malcom Floyd - 1 catch, 9 yards. I counted at least two balls that should've been caught and weren't by Malcom last night. Not a huge deal, but even in the preseason he has to know that a dropped ball will make the team's QBs less eager to throw a ball his way. Preseason Stats - 8 catches, 127 yards, 1 TD.
Craig "Buster" Davis - DNP. Injured? Again? Buster is making it harder and harder to defend him. If he hadn't already had a good preseason I'd be worried about him getting cut today. Preseason Stats - 5 catches, 102 yards.
Charly Martin - 1 catch, 5 yards. For those of you hoping that Charly would have a bad performance that would help him to make it to the Chargers practice squad, you're in luck! Not only did Charly show no sign of creating separation against a poor SF secondary, but he went "alligator arms" on a pass over the middle. Preseason Stats - 7 catches, 88 yards.
Kevin Burnett - STAY HEALTHY. That was your one job and you couldn't even do that. For those of you interested in what a stringer is, here's the Wikipedia page for it. It is essentially a pinched nerve that can cause either weakness or pain, but will typically go away if the player is relaxed and treated with heat and ice. Considering Kevin Acee reported on his twitter that Burnett was walking around the locker room smiling after the game, we can assume his stinger was gone by the end of the game. Preseason Stats - 17 tackles.
Kevin Ellison - 2 tackles. Siler Jr. This kid could be a tackling machine, but his poor job at coverage and reading the play will keep him off the field until he gets better. Preseason Stats - 10 tackles, 1 forced fumble.
Do you have any thoughts about Bolts From The Blue? Any tips you want to send our way? Whenever you have something to say, don't hesitate to e-mail me directly.