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Looking Ahead To The Chargers

In the preseason, looking at the next opponent is a bit futile, since the game will involve mostly backups trying to make the team.  But, hey, it's preseason for writers, too, and I am getting ready for looking ahead to the opposition when the real games roll around.

I'm not trying to dissect the offensive sets or what kind of schemes the defense is running.  My interest is to get a feel for where the team is, how things are going for them, and compare a little to what is going on with the Cowboys

San Diego is a good team playing in a division that, to be charitable, is not the strongest.  The biggest difference between the AFC West and the NFC West is that there is one good team in the AFC West.  Although the Broncos and Chiefs seem to be making some moves towards becoming better teams, at the moment, I would say the Bolts are the clear favorite going into the season.

More after the jump

The Chargers seem to have a lot fewer questions to answer than the Cowboys, which should come as no surprise. Taking a look at what might become the final 53 for them, there looks to mostly be competition for who the backups will be.  

Obviously the team has its starting quarterback, barring injury.  Philip Rivers is an interesting QB to compare to Tony Romo.  I think if you were to ask random fans to list the top five quarterbacks in the NFL, there would likely be a general agreement on the first four.  In no particular order, I think the list would start with Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Peyton Manning, and Aaron Rodgers, all of whom have that bling on their finger.  The real discussion starts with the fifth man in, and there are arguments to be made for both Rivers and Romo.  Both are statistically very good, and both have had a lack of success in the preseason.  Sadly, both will get very little playing time this week.  However many snaps Rivers takes in this game, it will likely be the best test the Rob Ryan defense will see before the start of the regular season.

The rest of the team seems pretty good, just a few injury questions and decisions to make about where to carry the most depth.  Running back is pure committee with Ryan Matthews coming off a 678-yard season and Mike Tolbert putting up 735 in 2010.  They also seem to like their rookie, 6th rounder Jordan Todman.  Jacob Hester should be the fullback.  The writer who projected the 53 I am taking this from seemed concerned about only going into the season with 4 total backs for the two positions.  I suspect he would be really concerned if he was looking at the Cowboys current situation with a healthy starter, a draft choice trying to get healthy enough to get on the field, and question marks at the other running back and fullback.

At receiver they are looking for Vincent Jackson to come back after his holdout last year, with Malcolm Floyd behind him.  One note of interest is that Patrick Crayton seems locked in at the 3rd receiver slot.  I wonder if he had stayed in Dallas, if he would have been happy with the same role, which the release of Roy Williams would likely have opened up for him.  The rest of the receivers will be fighting for touches.

Antonio Gates will be the starting tight end and pulling in most of the balls there.  

The offensive line is a mix of experienced starters and some young backups.  The only concern seems to be some injury problems guard Scott Mruczdowski that may keep him off the field.  But with Brandyn Dombrowksi, he does give them the most awesome old school name combo in the NFL.

Defensively, the teams seem to be in good shape.  The Cowboys will face a 3-4, which is certainly familiar.  The big news on this side of the ball seems to be the two free agent pickups I mention below.

If there is any angst for the San Diego fan base, it is not about the team personnel.  It is about whether their team might pack up and make a short trip into Los Angeles.  The NFL really wants to get back into that huge market, and the city is already working on building a stadium.  San Diego is one of the franchises that keeps getting tossed around as a possibility.  As you might expect, this is creating tons of concern for the fans of the Chargers.  That, at least, is one worry that I don't think we will have for a long, long time.

With one preseason game under their belt, the Chargers commentators are as much into parsing what they can learn from the game as we are.  Looking at the recap posted on Bolts From The Blue, the Chargers SBN blog, I did notice some interesting tidbits:

- Philip Rivers doesn't seem to have faced much pass rush.  Hopefully Rob Ryan has plans to change that.

- Doesn't sound like they have much rushing.  Rob, you listening?

- Bob Sanders, who came to the Bolts from the Colts (sorry, couldn't resist), seems to be making a difference in the defense.  Along with Takeo Spikes, who traveled down the coast from San Francisco, the team has picked up two veterans it is banking on to improve things on that side of the line.  It will be interesting to see how that plays out for them and compare it with the approach the Cowboys are taking under the salary cap limitations they face.

- Given that there might be more aggression defensively from the Chargers, this will give us a chance to see how the new offensive line holds up.  The tape review should be very interesting after this one.

Finally, one other thing that comes to mind is the head coach in San Diego, Norv Turner.  His connections to the two Super Bowl wins under Jimmy Johnson makes for an interesting thought, if not having much bearing on what plays out on the field.  And he is one of the big influences on Jason Garrett's career.  I always wonder if the protege tries a little harder when he faces the old mentor.

Those are some things I found to wonder about.  Yes, we won't see very much of most of the players I discussed above, but like I said, I need the practice, too.  What's on your mind concerning the Chargers, or are you just focused on how the Cowboys do?

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