Cleat Geeks

CHARGED UP! Preseason Week 1 Review

Very few teams have had the same success as the Chargers in unearthing talent through their undrafted free agents. In fact, the team has the longest active streak of undrafted rookies making the final 53-man roster, with 21 years and counting. For this reason, watching Chargers football during the preseason is always interesting, and with the Chargers affinity to injuries, it can be just as nerve-wracking. With that being said, before I get to a recap and review of the Week 1 game against the Arizona Cardinals, there are no serious injuries to report, so 1 week down, 3 to go, my nails certainly will be much shorter come the start of the regular season.

But now for the game itself, a 24-17 loss to the Cardinals, where the Chargers had 4 turnovers and 15 penalties, in a somewhat sloppy performance, but there were some bright spots. The score DOES NOT matter, it is the players that stood out that is important. I will breakdown both offence and defense, and maybe discuss a little special teams, because as you know the Chargers kicking situation is abhorrent at best.

With Philip Rivers, Keenan Allen, Joey Bosa, Trevor Williams and Casey Hayward not dressing for this game, it was a real chance for the second strings guys to really push for playing time, especially along the defensive line.


On the offensive side of the ball, there is not many unknowns and we can deduce the starters with 99% certainty. However, Cardale Jones trotted out as the ‘starter’ for this game and he looked athletic but there are serious questions still left unanswered and I would feel almost nauseas at the prospect of Cardale being the backup quarterback. He missed high often, was erratic with his accuracy and was almost picked off by ex-Charger Tre Boston on his second pass. Geno Smith played much better than Cardale and is my choice as the backup, despite his one interception he looked adequate and moved the offence enough. Along the offensive line the off-season acquisition of Mike Pouncey looks a good one, evident especially on one of MGIII longest runs where he pulled and was the lead blocker. Still waiting for the return of Forrest Lamp, who could still make a massive difference to this below average line.

Image result for cardale jones chargers

Photo by; KABC

For the receivers, we know that Keenan Allen is one of the best receivers in the league, but it is the number 2 and 3 receivers that’s up for grabs. At this present moment, number 2 receiver is Mike Williams, the 7th overall pick in the 2017 NFL draft. Missing most of his rookies year with injuries, amassing only 11 catches he has a lot to prove. Mike Williams is gaining a lot of buzz in fantasy and NFL circles, he’s looking like the real red-zone threat with Hunter Henry out for the year. He did okay, made a couple of catches for first downs, but did not see a lot of him in the red-zone and his route running still needs some fine tuning. What was evident was his strength and power, at one point bouncing off 4 Cardinal tacklers for a nice gain. For me though, it was a different Clemson receiver that stood out, Artavis Scott. Scott (5 catches for 44 yards) made some really nice grabs on 3rd down and was often wide open after sharp, clean routes. I don’t know how productive he can be in the regular season, but is great depth and for what it’s worth I would take him over Travis Benjamin as the 4th wide receiver. Of course, I would be amiss to not talk about the incredible grab by Geremy Davis (4 catches, 88 yards and 1TD) for a long 47-yd TD, a guy also making waves in camp, but I still take the consistency that Scott seems to possess.

At the running back position Melvin Gordon is one of the true 3-down bell cow running backs in the league, but his back up is still important. Undrafted rookie free agent Austin Ekeler was the guy last year, and on the few snaps he had last night, he looks like the guy again, small shifty with great burst and speed. Useful in both the passing and running game, I’m excited to see more of Austin and he could be one of the surprise fantasy sleepers. We did not get to see 7th round rookie Justin Jackson out of Northwestern, but Russell Hansborough, who has been on the Tampa Bay practice sqaud most recently, did a really nice job, making tacklers miss and getting what was there. If he can keep up the success, he may well push for the 3rd running back in the rotation.

I don’t want to dwell on the tight-end position too much, but it is certainly weird seeing an inept tight-end room. We have had the luxury of a future Hall-of-Famer in Antonio Gates and an up-and-coming superstar in Hunter Henry. Neither of those are playing this year, as of right now, and it’s looking bad guys. Sean Culkin had a couple of nice, chain-moving, in-traffic grabs, but overall, there was 7 targets and 5 drops to the tight-ends. Uh-oh. Someone needs to step up, or Antonio needs to come back, stat.


On the defensive side of the ball, its all about the rooks! In the 2018 Draft the Chargers went defence with the first 4 selections, Derwin James, Uchenna Nwosu, Justin Jones and Kyzir White. For me Nwosu was the most impressive of the guys last night, had a number of pressures on Josh Rosen including a sack. He was flying around the ball and with his versatility could really take the already impressive Chargers defence to the next level. Another pass rusher who shone as well was Chris Landrum, the Chargers REALLY liked him last year as another undrafted guy, but he tore is Pectoral muscle. Last night again, he was giving Rosen constant pressure and despite a facemask penalty, looks like he could be an excellent rotation guy, to add to the already elite pass rush. A little disclaimer should be added here…the starting Cardinals offensive line is one of the worst in the league, so the 2nd string line is a little….porous. It will be interesting to see if the success can continue against better opposition. Derwin James looked every bit as advertised, one specific plays springs to mind, where he covered the running back toe-to-toe on a wheel route and if he can be every bit the player we all want him to be this Chargers secondary can be very scary. Kyzir White, played safety at college but the Chargers want him to be a line-backer at the next level and he looked okay, made some good plays but also made some rookie mistakes. Whilst I have been very positive, I will say that the first team run defence looked weak again and was gashed a few times by David Johnson, so I hope that is not a theme that will permeate to the regular season. On the defensive line, there is still a lot to play for and I think this could be the weakness of the Chargers defence, Damion Square and Corey Liuget made some nice plays against the run last night, but are too inconsistent. Whereas Darius Philon looked to improve towards the end of last year and during camp this year, so hopefully he can continue that growth and add some much needed talent to the defensive interior.

Image result for uchenna nwosu chargers

Photo by; Conquest Chronicles

Oh and also normality is resumed, Caleb Sturgis, shanked a very make-able 42-yd FG. Yay.

All in all, whilst it was a sloppy, mistake filled game, there was some positives to be taken away from the first week of preseason. If these mistakes can be cleaned up and we can stay healthy I will be relatively optimistic about the chances of this Chargers team, once the regular season hits.

Follow me on Twitter @edmardon23, I would love to hear what you think, I will be bringing you all of your Chargers needs throughout the season.


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