Saturday night's game WILL be televised this time for local San Diego fans at 6:00. I'll be looking to see some improvement from players that showed weaknesses last week and some debut performances from others.
On defense, rookie safety Darrell Stucky is healed and ready to show what he is capable of this week. Despite being a rookie, the Chargers have pencilled him in as the starter opposite Eric Weddle. The team has raved about his field intelligence and work ethic in practice so far. It will be interesting to see if practice translates to a strong game performance. Tony Romo and the Cowboys will no doubt challenge the Chargers' young DB's. If Stuckey doesn't work out, they will have to revert to Plan B, which is the mediocre but hard working Steve Gregory.
Also on defense, hopefully we'll get to see the supposedly improved Larry English. Reports out of practice have lauded his speed, but I don't think speed was his problem last year. He was capable of getting around the edge quickly, but because that seemed to be ALL he could do, offensive tackles could just push him past the QB with a little nudge. Has he found other ways to get to the QB that will work in the NFL? We won't get to see Shawne Merriman who's out with a strained hamstring. This could be a bad sign for Merriman's health this season, as it is a chronic injury.
The defensive line did a decent job last week. I'd like to see rookie Cam Thomas get a shot at playing against the Cowboys' first string. While the other DT's in the rotation seem like just a bunch of journeymen sharing a position, Thomas showed some spark last week. Maybe he can step up and become "the guy" to replace Jamal Williams (he's already comandeered his jersey number). Another strong performance and they'll have to move him up the depth chart.
On offense, again, look to see if the O-line can actually push people off the ball and open up holes in the running game. They did not do this last week. In the passing game, this group should get more of a test from DeMarcus Ware and Cowboys creative blitzing 3-4 defense. Wade Phillips is the best coach in the game at running this thing. Will Dombrowski and Clary hold up? If not, the pressure will increase on AJ or Dean to concede and bring back McNeill. This is a test of wills yet to play itself out.
All San Diego fans should be extremely excited to get another glimpse of the electrifying Ryan Matthews at running back. I'm looking for him to show more patience this week in letting his blocks develop. Poor Kris Dielman had to put up with Mathews running up his back the whole first quarter last week. As a former high school offensive lineman, I know exactly how much it sucks when your own guy is smacking you in the back (one of the few places without much padding). If Mathews does show some patience and the O-line blocks just a little bit, he could bust a big run, increasing the buzz in SD and The League for the 2010 season.
I'm hoping the coaching staff will give rookie running backs Shawnbrey McNeal and Curtis Brinkley and longer look this week. If anything happens to Mathews during the season, McNeal, Brinkley or Marcus Mason (who looked unimpressive last week), will have to take on more of the load than most people realize.
Lastly, the receiving core minus Vincent Jackson will have to continue to show they can do it without him. I'd like to see some deep balls to Malcolm Floyd and Legedu Naanee. Can they run past people, or are they confined to leaping over them? Without a speedy deep threat, safeties will be able to converge more closely on San Diego's running game and blitz without fear.
The best news? We're one week closer to the regular season.