The Chargers had their first preseason game yesterday and there was a lot to take in. We didn’t get a long look at the starters, but that’s what week 3 of the preseason is for right? So how did the players actually fighting for a roster spot perform?
They weren’t out there long, but that first team offense looks good. They marched 75 yards down the field on 7 plays and ate up 4 minutes of clock. They did this without 2 of their 3 top WR’s, Travis Benjamin and Tyrell Williams, without Antonio Gates (who was active but did not play), and without their starting LG Orlando Franklin. It was fun to watch and was capped off with positive number 2.
Melvin Gordon’s 1st touchdown. This was a great play. Gordon was left wide open out on the edge and was able to turn a short pass into a 44 yard catch and run for the touchdown. He showed soft hands, turned upfield quickly, and showed good speed without over-running Dontrelle Inman who was blocking downfield. Gordon needed that.
McSafeties. Dexter McCoil and Adrian McDonald had good games. McCoil needs more snaps. He is all over the field and makes plays wherever he goes. He is a solid tackler and needs to be getting time over Darrel Stuckey and Adrian Phillips. McDonald also had a solid outing with a nice tackle that forced a fumble.
Chris Swain. You knew this was coming because I’m the one writing this article, but Swain looked good. He did blow one block that I saw, but he had multiple solid blocks for fellow rookie Kenneth Farrow. He also picked up 11 yards on 2 carries late in the game, which is where he can really separate himself from what Derek Watt offers. I hope he builds on this over the next 2 weeks.
Kenneth Farrow was also a positive. He had 85 yards from scrimmage on 18 touches, just under 5 yards per touch. He got a ton of snaps, and while I was surprised Dreamius Smith didn’t get any snaps after looking good in all 3 of the practices I attended last week, it is nice to see Farrow making the most of his chances with the ball.
The biggest negative by far is the run defense. It was awful. The Titans piled up 288 yards and 3 TDs on only 33 attempts. It was unacceptable. Between multiple failures at keeping containment on the edge, and the continued terrible tackling, it was no wonder the Titans were able to run at will. The tackling is especially concerning because it has been a problem for years and from what I have seen and heard of practice, there isn’t any extra effort to fix the issue with training.
Backup QBs. As we have been saying all camp, the backup QBs are not good. This showed up in the game. Lots of bad throws, multiple interceptions, and poor decisions. Mike Bercovici is the only one with the excuse of being a rookie. Kellen Clemens and Zach Mettenberger are both veterans with starting experience, and looked as bad if not worse than Bercovici. Never get hurt Phil.
Jeremiah Attaochu. JA playing almost the entire game was warning sign number 1. He was supposed to be the starting OLB opposite Melvin Ingram, but he has lost that job to Kyle Emanuel. Not only is he not starting, but the coaches felt he needed enough extra work that he got meaningful snaps through the entire 1st preseason game. What makes that even worst for JA, is even with playing the full game, going deep into the 4th quarter against the 2’s and 3’s on the Titan’s offense, he did not register a single tackle. Not one. He got a pressure with 2 minutes left in the game that helped Bruce Gaston secure a sack, but JA himself did not get one single tackle.
Areas of concern
These are things that I’m concerned about, but are not bad enough to be real negatives yet, but they still need to be addressed.
Drew Kaser. Overall Kaser had a pretty good game. He had 5 punts for a 41.4 yard average, including a 62 yarder. He had good hangtime. But none of his 5 punts were downed inside the 20 yardline and 2 made it into the endzone for touchbacks. He needs to try and clean that up a bit, but overall it was a good start for the rookie.
Derek Watt. I want to start this off by saying the fact that I’m even mentioning Watt is the Chargers’ fault. They have spent the last week hyping up Watt to any member of the press who will listen and raving about his performance in practice. Bullcrap. He has looked solid, but unimpressive. Now in the game yesterday he did have a couple solid blocks. He isn’t a wrecking ball who’s going to blow anyone up, but a couple times he was able to get on his guy and turn him out of the running lane. Mission accomplished. However Watt made some mistakes. His first block could have sprung Gordon for at least a 1st down run, but he couldn’t maintain the block and his man made the tackle. His second attempt was much better, then on his third attempt he drew a flag for holding. Then when Watt was given a chance to highlight the area where he DOES bring some added value, as a receiver out of the backfield, he went stone hands and failed to bring in a slightly high pass. Yes it was his first game. Yes he is still learning. But he needs to clean up his blocking and make the most of every pass in his direction if he is going to live up to the bar the Chargers, and now everyone else because of them, are going to set for him.
2 DL sets. They need to get this figured out if they are going to keep using these 2 DL sets when they run nickel or dime looks. Part of the reason Tennessee was able to run so well is because every time the Chargers went with only 2 defensive linemen it was game over at the line of scrimmage and the linebackers couldn’t pick up the slack. They’re going to have to figure something out if they want to keep doing that.
All in all it’s great to have football back. The team lost, but I think there was enough positives and things to learn from to move forward with hope. Also nice was the fact that the only injury scare during the game was Tourek Williams leaving with a hurt elbow, but was able to come back into the game later. Here’s looking forward to next week.