Saturday, August 22, 2009

Chargers vs. Cardinals Post-Game Analysis

Answers to questions from last night's game:


Will Philip Rivers continue to look sharp like he has mastered Norv Turner's passing offense?

Philip looked good when he wasn't being sacked. He is still on track to have a Pro Bowl season.

Will the offensive line look crisp in the run game or sloppy and weak like the last preseason game? Did you realize the Chargers ranked 32nd in rushing after week one of the preseason?
Rookie, Louis Vasquez, out Texas Tech will start at guard. After playing in a mostly quick passing offense in college where you just have to get in the way of the defense for a few seconds, will he be able to run block effectively in the NFL?

The run game, once again, failed to consistently open holes. The Arizona Cardinal front seven frankly dominated them in the trenches. Even more discouraging, Jeromey Clary gave up two sacks right away. I'm not convinced this guy deserves to be a starting at tackle in the NFL. Louis Vasquez also gave up a sack, but that can be forgiven since it was the rookie's first NFL game. The line is still a major area of concern going into this season. Antonio Gates seemed to recognize this while being interviewed on the sideline. I hope Norv Turner does.

Will LaDanian Tomlinson look more like the 2006 version or the 2008 version?

LaDanian Tomlinson looked good in space when he caught some screen passes. The line did not give him a chance to show what he can do on basic run plays. LT is ready to go.

How well can Antonio Gates run after he catches the ball? Will the toe injury fully heal?

Antonio Gates made a huge 3rd down catch for a 1st down, showing again what a key weapon he is for the Chargers. It's still not clear if he's back to his old self in terms of running after the catch.

Can full back Jacob Hestor knock linebackers back at the point of attack?

Not yet! He made some nice blocks on DB's on the corners, but looks hesitant inside against the big guys. Is he big and powerful enough to be an effective NFL full back?

Rookie running back Gartrell Johnson did not show much burst in the first game. Was it just nerves and inexperience or were the concerns out of the combines about his lack of speed correct?

Gartrell looks like a tough guy. He took some huge hits and didn't fumble. He still doesn't show that special burst a good NFL running back needs. At this point, he seems like a journeyman or career backup at best.


As noted in the Union Tribune yesterday morning, this will be a strong test for the Charger corners and safeties, as the first string is expected to play the entire first half. Has Antonio Cromartie healed and is his head in the right place this season to return to 2007 form?

Antonio Cromartie looks ready to go. The break on the ball he made on his end zone interception of Kurt Warner was a thing of beauty that only a few athletes in the world could have accomplished. I did see him whiff on a tackle of the Cardinals tight end though. Tackling folks head-on seems to be his biggest weakness.

Who will emerge as the favorite at safety in the battle between Clinton Hart, Steve Gregory, and rookie Kevin Ellison? As of now, it appears Gregory has the advantage even though Hart was the starter last year.

Clinton Hart had some horrible mis-tackles and missed assignments early on, but seemed to redeem himself with some nice plays against the run and an interception later in the game. Can the Chargers become a top defense with his inconsistent play?

Steve Gregory had the flu and did not make the trip. Kevin Ellison made some good run stopping tackles, but his ball recognition on passing plays needs to develop. I don't think the Chargers would feel comfortable putting him in the starting lineup in the regular season. I would say the battle is down to Gregory and Hart.

Will Shawne Merriman look improved over his slow and gimpy performance last week? Hint: Watch him and don't be swayed by the overly hopeful analysis of Billy Ray and Ron Pitts, who were very excited by Merriman's phantom "burst" off the line last week that simply was not there.

Shawne Merriman did look powerful and made a crushing hit at the line on a run play where he shed an offensive lineman and popped the running back. It still doesn't look like the speed is quite back yet in the pass rushing phase.

Can Jamaican/Canadian rookie, Vaughn Martin, not only push his blocker into the backfield(as he did with regularity last week), but detach from him and make a play on the ball carrier or quarterback?

Martin did not get to play as much as last week, but he still seemed to get locked-up with blockers. Hopefully, the use of his hands will develop so he get off these blocks.

Can Kevin Burnett turn in another strong performance and win himself a permanent place at inside linebacker? Last week he was all over the field making tackles. I did not see him stick his nose in and make a play on a run up the middle though and I'll be looking for that this week.

Kevin Burnett was the highlight of the game for me. He did stick his nose in there and make plays at the point of attack. I think he's won the starting spot and will really help the Chargers both in run and pass defense this season. I predict that by mid-season, the fans and press will be proclaiming this pick-up another AJ Smith coup.

Overall: The defense looks much improved and will again have some swagger back in 2009. The offense may be held back from poor offensive line play. Kickoff coverage obviously has to improve, giving up an opening touchdown and another big run back.

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