Friday, August 13, 2010

Chargers vs. Bears

The long teasing preseason arrives in San Diego this Saturday night, and while we can't wait for the actual season to start, there are some important position battles and strategy cues to look for in the next four games.

Rookie strong safety, Darrell Stuckey is looking to prove the Chargers can trust him as a starter. The knock on him out of the draft was that he didn't have optimal speed for the position, but he's probably faster than anyone the Chargers have been playing back there (Clinton Hart, Steve Gregory, Kevin Ellison). Look to see if he seems to be in the right place on passing downs and how aggressive he can be in run support. One could argue that this position has been the greatest weakness of the Chargers' defense for years. Finding a real player here could make a huge difference.

At corner, Antione Cason has to prove he can replace, and improve upon, the job Antonio Cromartie did last year. After be demoted out of the nickle back position in 2009, he has a lot to prove. One time Pro Bowler Nathan Vasher is hot on Cason's heals, trying to prove he can still be relevant, if not great, in this league after injuries struck him down in his prime.

At the linebacker position, I'll be looking to see if OLB Larry English is actually improved over last year. Reports out of camp laud his increased speed and technique. If true, this could make Merriman irrelevant (and trade bait?) if not, some might begin rumbling about AJ Smith's new "bust," as English went at #16 in the draft last year. The most cheering and applause of the night will come if English can get his hands on the hated whiner, Jay Cutler.

On offense, everyone will be looking to see if Ryan Mathews has the burst, cutting ability and vision to merit shipping LT off to New York. Look to see if he can burst through the line and make people miss while not fumbling. This could be the start of a new era in San Diego. However, will the starting line be able to run block even a little bit? We will find whose fault last year's horrible running game was.

Will the rest of the guys on the receiver corps be able to do much without Vincent Jackson? A poor performance could increase the calls for AJ to make a deal and get Jackson in sooner than later.

On the strategy front, we won't get to see much creative blitzing with the defense, but the offense may want to practice an intriguing formation they've reportedly been working on: the three tight end set. Lining up with tight ends Antonio Gates, the talented and experienced Randy McMichael, and Kris Wilson, this formation challenges defenses to prepare for the run with all the "bigs" in there, but all three of these tight ends are fast and great pass catchers. Those of you who play Madden might know this formation works incredibly well in the game...will it translate to reality? If it doesn't happen Saturday night, look for it later in the regular season.

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