The Chargers enter Sunday's home opener against the undefeated Jacksonville Jaguars scratching their heads.
San Diego got thumped in Kansas City in lifting this season's curtain, exposed by a team which had won 10 games in three years.
Everyone is preaching calm in the Chargers' circle, but that only adds to Sunday's drama. Especially with the upstart Jaguars, a team riding high with emotion and confidence after beating an AFC West opponent in the Broncos.
Will the Chargers bounce back? Will they start showing they can become the team which coach Norv Turner christened his best since taking over in 2007?
Or are the Chargers starting to show the blemishes in their fine China after several questionable roster moves.
This is a Chargers team in transition, one of which is trying to do so while still maintaining a high level of play. That high level was seldom seen in Kansas City as the Chargers' sloppy play matched the weather and field conditions.
The Chargers are notorious for starting slow, going 2-3 in Turner's first five games in his three years here. The Chargers have always rallied, won the AFC West title and those slow starts are forgotten.
But the Chargers stressed this year was going to be different. Instead it looked like a team breaking in a rookie running back and missing two Pro Bowlers in the unsigned Vincent Jackson and Marcus McNeill.
Sunday's game will help give that answer if the Chargers are in for a tougher transition than first believed. It's a game which has taken on more significance with those wondering what the Chargers' season will look like.
This was supposed to be a Sunday layup, with the mediocre Jaguars traveling across the country. But there are suddenly no slam dunks with the Chargers, and people are curious to see how they rebound.
The Jaguars will present problems; the Chargers have to prove among their biggest problems isn't getting out of their own way.
Too many penalties and inconsistent play was the hallmark of Sunday's loss. The Chargers swear they are not sweating those shortcomings.
Concerned, yes. But no need to panic right now.
Sunday will present an opportunity for the team to prove the Chargers can still be mentioned among the game's top teams. Or, show that those days could be in the past.
SERIES HISTORY: 4th regular-season meeting. Jaguars lead series, 2-1, with both of the Jaguars' wins coming in Jacksonville. This is only the second trip to San Diego, and last time here they fell, 34-21. The Chargers are 31-19 in home openers.
--Coach Norv Turner didn't bite when asked about Kassim Osgood's solid opening game in which the ex-Charger caught the winning touchdown for Jacksonville. "A year ago, when we lost all the guys throughout the year, we were able to replace them," Turner said. "I believe we can replace anyone who's not here. I'm not going to spend a lot of time talking about people who aren't here."
--The Chargers will wear decals on their helmets in honor of the offseason passings of former coach Don Coryell and Hall of Fame defensive end Gary Johnson.
--RB Ryan Mathews had 75 yards on 19 carries, but a critical fumble led to a Chiefs touchdown. "I thought he was very good early," coach Norv Turner said. "I thought after the fumble, he started pressing a little bit. He tried to be perfect. It's exciting to watch him run, he's a very physical runner, and the more he plays, the more comfortable he's going to get." Mathews got stripped by Derrick Johnson. "I should have had two hands on it," Mathews said.
--If you're playing in San Diego, you've got to be cool. That's the thinking behind the Chargers wearing home whites on Sunday instead of their usual navy color to beat the heat.
--TE Antonio Gates often saw triple coverage with the Chiefs ganging up on him off the line of scrimmage and down the field. It didn't go unnoticed by coach Norv Turner. "We're going to look hard to make sure that when he's grabbed and held, that we emphasize it to the officiating crew," he said. "Because there are rules about after five yards, about being [in a] collision and being held. Those are things that he, like any other player, needs to be protected with."
--The Chargers special teams were horrible in the opener, giving up a return touchdown among their numerous mistakes. "It's obviously something we have to address quickly and get better," Turner said.
--The Chargers are coming off regular-, pre-, and post-season losses. That's a difficult trifecta to pull off.
BY THE NUMBERS: 1 -- Number of general manager A.J. Smith's six 2010 draft picks on the opening-day active roster.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I have a pretty good feel for what our football team is, who we are and where we're going. I wasn't going to let that be swayed a great deal whether we won the game or didn't win the game." -- Coach Norv Turner on his team's opening-night loss.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
Long snapper David Binn (hamstring) was put on IR, a position which wouldn't take much notice on most teams.
But Binn is in his 17th season with the Chargers, proving to be a mainstay and a difficult position.
With Binn out, the Chargers signed James Dearth, who played nine years with the Jets.
The Chargers are struggling on special teams and it doesn't bode well they be breaking in a fresh long snapper as well.
A big part of the Chargers' game is its kicking game with Nate Kaeding and punter Mike Scifres. It will be interesting to note if their operation is as smooth minus Binn.
--WR Patrick Crayton didn't get any looks in the opener, surprising in that the Chargers had been talking him up since he came over from the Cowboys. Coach Norv Turner said he expects Crayton to be in the mix Sunday.
--SS Darrell Stuckey was once touted as a starter in his rookie season. But the fourth-round pick wasn't active for the opener. It's not known if he'll dress Sunday.
--WR Buster Davis had a key 22-yard pickup in the game's last drive Sunday to help his cause. Davis is getting a big shot to prove he can be a consistent contributor.
--OLB Larry English will continue to get more playing time with Shawne Merriman's uncertain status. English had three tackles and no sacks in the opener.
--RB Mike Tolbert should get more than two carries on Sunday; he had 26 yards on two carries in the season opener. Turner took some heat for not having the bruising Tolbert in the game late with the Chargers inside the Chiefs 5.
--FB Jacob Hester was the odd man out in the running back mix on Sunday, and that should be the case this season. His role has changed, with him morphing into a blocker instead of a runner. Hester is nursing a sore foot which could limit him Sunday.
GAME PLAN: Philip Rivers is going to go at a pass defense which allowed nearly 300 yards and a score against Denver. Rivers, while throwing for almost 300 yards in the loss at Kansas City, didn't look all that comfortable and was off-target on passes he usually nails. It's important to attack the Jaguars where the Chargers figure they could exploit them, but it is also important to get the franchise player back on track. Don't think that rookie Ryan Mathews won't get 15 or so touches, but this will be a big game for Rivers. He will aim for Jacksonville CB Derek Cox, who had rough game against Denver.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH:
The Chargers' wobbly coverage units vs. the Jaguars return game which features Tiquan Underwood and could get Deji Karim back from injury.
The glaring shortcomings of the Chargers' units were exposed in Kansas City. Was it the wet track at Arrowhead or the lack of experienced talent which let the Chiefs' rookies run wild? Underwood went for 115 yards on three kick returns against the Broncos, with a long of 53. Mike Thomas had a 17-yard punt return for the Jaguars last week as well. The Chargers' coverage teams have to improve without David Binn, a consistent downfield tackler as well as the long snapper.
The Chargers' run defense, which wants to take away one play from last week, vs. the Jaguars' running game with shifty Maurice Jones-Drew.
The Chiefs rushed for 135 yards and a score. But the Chargers mention that 56 yards and the score came on a single carry. Sorry, but that counts too. Still, the Chargers face a great challenge in the versatile Jones-Drew; he rushed for 98 yards on 23 carries last week. ILB Stephen Cooper needs a better game; he had but four tackles and took responsibility for Jamaal Charles's big run. The Jags lean on running the ball so the Chargers will get a chance to show if they can stop it.
The Chargers' untested secondary vs. a Jaguars passing attack which is more than what the Chargers saw last week.
CB Antoine Cason is still proving he's a starter but with the Chiefs offering QB Matt Cassel he didn't get challenged much. David Garrard doesn't figure to fling it around 50 times, but he had three touchdown passes in the opener which shows at least he will try move the ball aggressively through the air. Michael Thomas is a threat at wide out and Jones-Drew is always dangerous out in the flat. Chargers also have a fresh nickel back in Donald Strickland proving his worth.
--OLB Shawne Merriman (Achilles) worked out on Wednesday, but was limited. He seems to have an outside shot of making his season debut on Sunday.
--ILB Stephen Cooper (knee) didn't practice Wednesday. He will likely play Sunday but could be compromised.
--QB Billy Volek is slowly gaining more mobility after getting his knee knocked around during the preseason. He worked on Wednesday.
--FB Jacob Hester (foot) was limited on Wednesday. He should be a go Sunday.
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