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Los Angeles Chargers at Los Angeles Rams: What I am Watching For in the #FightForLA

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The Chargers third preseason game approaches. Here’s what I’ll be watching for.

NFL: New Orleans Saints at Los Angeles Chargers Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The third game of the preseason approaches!

Traditionally, this is the week when we get the best guess at how the teams will fare, as starters stay in a little longer, and coaches work out the kinks before the season starts in a fortnight. With Rivers and some of the more important contributors taking time off in a 13-7 dud against the Saints last week, this game will hopefully prove to be more watchable in evaluating the talent on the roster.

Here are several things I’ll be watching for as the Chargers travel across town to take on the Rams at The Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum:

The Fight For Los Angeles, Of Course!

When the Chargers first landed in LA, one of their first moves was to come up with this (interesting?) advertising campaign, supposedly to start a turf war with the already-established Rams franchise.

Unless you’re talking to the Spanos family, of course, the team behind the slogan. According to A.G. Spanos, son of Deano and president of the club's business operations, the point of their marketing approach is their fight for their slice of L.A.'s entertainment market pie. Via NFL.com:

"L.A. is a crowded market, and we have to fight for our niche," Spanos said. "It was totally misconstrued if it was taken [as a challenge to the Rams]. The fight for L.A. is all about the hearts and minds of the L.A. sports fan, regardless of other teams and organizations."

Silly us, says A.G.! I guess you can forgive the players on the team for making the same mistake as the fans. And they, you know, took it a little more literally a few weeks back:

I’m not sure who the Spanos clan think they’re fooling, but a huge storyline behind this game is all about who can claim the spot as top dog in Los Angeles. Of course, it’s preseason, so the end result doesn’t really matter. Therefore, I’m not just watching this game to see who will win, I’m watching to see if anything will get chippy again once both sides are out on the field!

Besides, the Rams had old fans and new in Los Angeles before the Bolts even shipped up north. You can be sure that the Rams’ faithful aren’t taking kindly to the Chargers’ war-call. According to Derek Togerson of NBC San Diego, the Rams have a surprise in store for the ownership:

The specifics will have to wait for Saturday but it’s going to be large and colorful and passed all throughout the stands during the exhibition game. The statement they want to send to the ownership group is simple: This is Rams territory and you are not welcome.

When you add all of this up, you get a slightly more exciting atmosphere than your average preseason game.

Can The Chargers Offense Function Against A Strong Rams Unit?

As Kyle Posey stressed earlier, one thing that really needs to start improving fast is the piss-poor offensive line, something that’s been an obvious problem ever since the 2006 team.

I’m not too worried about the first team offense. Yeah, it’s concerning if Melvin Gordon can’t get any room to run or if Rivers is getting hit. But I trust 17 and the slew of talented receivers to move the chains in a preseason game. It’s the depth that’s extremely concerning.

The backup quarterbacks haven’t inspired much confidence; in other words, they’re garbage. I won’t pretend like they’re marching the O up and down the field. But the line sure hasn’t been doing them any favors.

The interior offensive line was the main focus this offseason when remaking the line, but in truth, should Okung or Barksdale go down (not that either was so great last year, either, but that’s a different story entirely), the options behind them are downright scary. Should Tyreek Burwell, Chris Hairston, or Sam Tevi see meaningful minutes come Autumn, buckle up, ‘cause we’re gonna be in for a long season.

NFL: Los Angeles Rams Training Camp Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Anthony Lynn came in with the promise of an improved run game and offensive line play, a reputation he’s built throughout his years in the league. He’s had two weeks thus far, and there’s nothing so far to show he can translate that reputation into powder-blue-and-gold success. This is his best opportunity to showcase improvements from more and more practice, as the Rams bring one of the feistiest defenses to the table. Not only are they talented, their biggest offseason acquisition might not have been Sean McVay but The Son of Bum himself, Wade Philips.

The test will be an upwards battle, but I need to see the backup offenses move the chains. Most important will be some sign of life from a line lacking clear talent.

The Balance of Power May Should Have Officially Shifted

Coming into this season, the majority of the offseason focus has centered around fixing an offense that wasn’t the traditional high-flying, efficient unit we’ve grown accustomed to in the Rivers-Gates Era. The first three picks in the draft were spent on offensive talent, and a whole lot of capital was thrown at Russell Okung in order to woo him to The Golden State.

Under Phil, the logic was always that give him a football in his hand and he can bang out a respectable record. Well, after a considerable chunk of time spent slinging the rock, Rivers, while still very talented, is no longer the quarterback he was circa 2008. The team has gone 4-12 and 5-11 the last two season riding the right arm of #17, and something needed to change.

That’s exactly what Tom Telesco has done. He’s built up a previously-weak defense that is exactly the thing Philip Rivers needs to ride off into the sunset with a ring on his finger. There is talent and depth all over that side of the ball, and all the pieces necessary to run Gus Bradley’s 4-3 scheme. Right?

NFL: San Diego Chargers at Denver Broncos Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

The first unit obviously doesn’t play the whole game, but I haven’t seen anything yet to support all of the hype created throughout the offseason. Every article I read pronounced Bradley’s system as an instant winner, even if it takes time to adjust from running a 3-4 for as long as the Bolts have been doing it. Also, pundits can talk all they want about how Bosa and Ingram are one of the scariest pass-rushing duo’s in the league; the same can be said about how the team has a pair of lockdown cornerbacks in Jason Verrett and Casey Hayward.

There’s something to be said for looking good on paper. For me, I need to start seeing results in front of my eyes before pronouncing the defense on the same level as the teams in Minnesota or Denver or Seattle. Do I believe in the team wearing lightning bolts? Sure. That’s why they call me a fan. But I would love to see some bone-crushing hits by 99 or a pick from 26 tonight to help alleviate some of the concern and validate the hype train as it keeps on chugging.