This Friday we get the third and most important Charger preseason game. The first team will get the most playing time of the preseason (into the 3rd quarter) and those on the bubble will have their last chance to make an impression before the upcoming cuts.
I'll be looking to see if Darrell Stuckey has made any progress at safety or if he still looks a bit lost out there. Stuckey, and the rest of the secondary, including first year starter Antoine Cason should get their best test of the season against a "motivated" Drew Brees, who relishes in making the Chargers (and AJ) regret their decision to let him go. The Saints have averaged 32 points in their first two games, so we'll get a good look at how the Charger defense handles the pressure of a superior QB and offense.
Shawne Merriman is still injured (quite the comeback so far!) so we'll get to see if Larry English can actually make a difference in a game. He still looks like a raw rookie out there in his second year. Without Merriman or English stepping up, this defense will be in for another mediocre year.
On offense, it's all about #24: "Mathews! Mathews! Mathews!" This may not be as fun to chant as "LT," but Charger fans (and the rest of The League) are beginning to realize how special this guy is. He should get an extended opportunity to showcase his skills. Again, look for a developing patience to let his blockers get out in front and do their jobs, pass catching and pass blocking abilities. If he can learn his responsibilities and become the complete back soon, San Diego may really have a chance to control the ball this season.
The big "if" in this equation is, of course, the offensive line. The idiotic (on both sides) hold out of Marcus McNeill is forcing the Chargers to start green, below average tackles. Look to see if Norv REALLY trusts these tackles or he and Rivers continue to opt for quick routes and passes. I'd love to see them show some confidence in Dombrowski and Clary and throw some deep bombs to Floyd and Naanee. If the Chargers are really okay without Jackson and McNeill, this shouldn't be a problem. If the blocking is a problem , it will force the offense to become more conservative, like in the playoff game against the Jets last season, putting downward pressure on the team's ability to score.
If the first team has a good showing this week, the Chargers will have proved they are ready for sharp start to their season. If they don't do well, fans who think this team won't be the same without Jackson and McNeill will have more ammunition to pillory AJ.