Chargers vs. Cardinals: Pros and Cons

The Cardinals and the Chargers faced off in the second preseason tune up for each squad. Both teams are trying to develop young talent in time to contribute during the regular season. The Cardinals came out flat, while the Chargers jumped to an early lead. Tyson Qualls reviews the encouraging aspects of the matchup and points out concerns for each franchise.

The Chargers are ready to roll because:

Philip Rivers played like he was already in mid-season form, in spite of being sacked four times. Rivers finished the game 5/7 with 116 yards and led the team to the first touchdown of the game. Rivers was sharp and seemed to pass with ease against the Cardinals revamped secondary. If he can carry the preseason momentum into the 2009 campaign, the Chargers may be firing on all cylinders immediately.

The Chargers' cornerbacks made a statement early in the game. Quentin Jammer prevented Anquan Boldin from catching a touchdown and Antonio Cromartie immediately followed with an interception of Kurt Warner's pass to Larry Fitzgerald. They set out to prove that they had been working diligently throughout the offseason and they did just that.

The Cardinals are ready to roll because:

The Cardinals' special teams group looked sharp in their second contest. Rookie LaRod Stephens-Howling put his speed on display by cranking out 89 and 63- yard kick returns. With the rising importance of special teams, the Cardinals dedication paid off in this match up. Unfortunately, the offense could only cash in a field goal. Rest assured, however, the Cardinals red zone offense is too good to be stopped for long.

The biggest bright spot of the Cardinals evening was the running game. Tim Hightower sprinted to 42 yards on 9 carries and the Achilles heal of the league's best passing team looked stronger than ever. As Kurt Warner ages, the running game must rise up to take the pressure off the quarterback. Beanie Wells suited up, but did not enter the game, likely sealing Hightower's position as the starter entering the season.

The Chargers will stumble out of the gate because:

The running game seemed to be a bit shaky throughout the contest. Outside of a 22-yard run by Naanee, the Chargers yard-per-carry average was unimpressive. LaDainian Tomlinson is clearly the focus of the offense, but at 30 years old, he will have to show that the running back "wall" does not apply to him. Darren Sproles appeared, but carried just two times for 5 yards.

Rivers managed to pass consistently, even with shoddy protection from his front line. Sacked four times in only a one and a half quarters, Rivers tasted more dirt then he would have liked. The Cardinals finished with five sacks and held the Chargers scoreless in the final quarter.

The Cardinals will stumble out of the gate because:

The passing game struggled to score in the red zone and Larry Fitzgerald went the entire contest without a single catch. Warner and Brian St. Pierre completed passes to the wrong team. The Cardinals ability to pass is their bread and butter. When that does not work appropriately, they do not have the capacity to turn to other options. Hopefully, with the development of Hightower and Wells, that will change. As it stands now, the passing game is the sole proprietor of their success. If they are going to start the season strong, Fitzgerald and company must be at the top of their game.

Getting healthy before the start of the season should be high on the Cardinals' preseason to do list. The often-injured Wells has yet to appear in a game and Steve Breaston has a long way to go before recovering. Getting through the preseason unscathed is a difficult task for all NFL franchises. One of the reasons behind the Cardinals' Super Bowl run last season was an uncanny lack of injuries. Healthy, they are one of the top squads in the NFC.


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