When I was in the Army, after every exercise/training event/movement we would conduct an After Action Review (or AAR). We would give three things that went well and three things that needed improvement. I'm going to start using the same approach for looking at San Diego Chargers games to give a quick review.
I didn't get to watch the game live, because I am a big nerd and I as at Star Wars night at Coors Field. However, as I understand it, this saved me the frustration of having to yell at my TV (and NFL Network) for not showing the first part of the game for the 2nd week in a row.
Well, yesterday I did get to sit down and watch the game, and like every preseason game, there was a lot to like and a lot to be concerned with. Let's start with what concerned me.
What needs improvement?
Rushing is still a concern. The Chargers managed only 46 yards rushing on 23 carries...that is 2 yards per carry. I know Melvin Gordon wasn't in the game but this is worrying, especially with how much beef the team has up front on the line. I want to be clear though, that it's the rushers themselves that have me concerned. The blocking was actually pretty good in this game, with multiple large holes being opened up. However, these holes were not open long and slight hesitations by the backs caused for some negative plays on the ground.
Depth in the secondary. For the second week in a row, the backups in the defensive backfield looked bad. Richard Crawford got burned and could have drawn three penalties for holding or pass interference. Arizona Cardinals coach Bruce Arians had every right to be screaming obscenities on the sideline. Jimmy Wilson had a very up and down game. Shockingly, one of the larger bright spots was rookie Craig Mager, who was not terrible in this game.
Coaching decisions. I won't list injuries themselves as a concern as I understand some injuries can't be avoided. This is a violent sport, and these are powerful men, I get that. What I don't get is sending Super-punter Mike Scifres out to punt again AFTER he was grabbing his groin and limping around in obvious pain. Why risk that? Especially in the preseason.
Honorable Mention: Keenan Allen's drops. Yes, it wasn't Rivers throwing to him, but he had two pretty bad drops. After all the talk about how he is more focused and more mature this year, seeing him drop those two easy passes made me slightly concerned.
What went well?
Enough of the bad stuff, what went well?
Linebackers. The LB group as a whole had a good night. The pass rush was on fire Saturday night and my initial concerns about the front seven are slowly being chipped away.
Signing Mike Nolan to coach the LB's is paying off already as a group that initially appeared to be one of the thinnest on the team has been showing talent across all levels of the depth chart so far. As for the starters, Donald Butler looks rejuvenated, Manti Te'o is looking better, and Jerry Attaochu is looking like much more than a pass rush specialist. As for the backups, Kavell Conner, Colton Underwood and Corderro Law have picked up right where they left off last season and continue to improve, while rookies Kyle Emanuel and Nick Dzubnar (more so Emanuel) looked solid vs the Cardinals.
D.J. Fluker and Joseph Barksdale. Both continued improving this week. Fluker looked much more comfortable, keeping his head on a swivel, passing off blocks and engaging stunting players and delayed rushers. He also looked more comfortable with his assignments in the run game, effectively chipping and moving to the second level to take out LBs multiple times. Fluker does still need work when pulling, but that will come.
Joe Barksdale looked very solid in pass protection and held the edge quite well. He didn't dominate in the run game, but neither Barksdale or Fluker were the weak points in the run game Saturday night. They still have a bit to go, but the amount they improved in just one week was very encouraging.
Josh Lambo. I hate to add to this fire, but I'm going to. Josh Lambo looked good Saturday night. He did have one kickoff that barely made the endzone but all the rest were either out the back of the endzone or so deep the returner had to think twice about attempting to take it out. Then he went 3 for 3 on field goals including a 53 yarder, which he made look easy, and a 47 yarder to win the game with no time left, which for a rookie trying to make a team with a fairly strongly established kicker is not a small amount of pressure and he looked extremely calm and composed. For as impressive as a kicker in preseason can be, he was impressive.
All in all I thought this game showed some nice positives. The detailed injury report hasn't come out yet but the team got through mostly unscathed *knocks on wood* Hopefully next week rookies Gordon and Denzel Perryman will be healthy enough to get some playing time again.