Chargers Impress Early, Fall to Seahawks

The Chargers dropped their preseason opener to the visiting Seahawks, 24-17, but the real story was how the top players performed. The offense engineered a touchdown on its opening drive and the defense kept Seattle from crossing midfield in the first half as Norv Turner's crew made a strong statement.

Welcome back, Vincent Jackson.

After missing most of last season in a contract impasse, Jackson fired out of the gates and proved he is primed to return to Pro Bowl form. He and Philip Rivers hooked up on San Diego's first two passing plays, connecting for gains of 6 and 48 yards.

Jackson ignited an opening drive in which the Chargers marched 89 yards in 10 plays. Ryan Mathews hauled in a 9-yard pass and Mike Tolbert scored on an 8-yard reception two plays later, proving Rivers still has pass-catching options out of the backfield even without Darren Sproles.

The man who may inherit Sproles' role as the No. 3 halfback, rookie Jordan Todman, had a nice game, picking up 51 yards on 10 total touches (six runs, four receptions).

The search for Sproles' replacement on kick returns had mixed result. Frontrunner Marcus Gilchrist dropped the ball on his first punt return. Things got much better in the second half, though, when 2010 practice-squad member Bryan Walters ripped off a 103-yard kickoff TD to give the Chargers a 17-10 lead late in the third quarter.

LB Darryl Gamble
Donald Miralle/Getty
Walters' return was a rare highlight in a mostly ugly second half. The Seahawks dominated after intermission, picking up five times as many first downs as the home team (15 to three).

Despite the decline, the Chargers still had a chance to tie or win the game in the waning moments. However, undrafted rookie QB Scott Tolzien misfired on three straight attempts from the Seattle 5-yard line, sending the Seahawks home with the win.

Lightning Quicks

--Several notable Chargers skipped the game due to injury, including Antonio Gates (foot), Larry English (foot), Antoine Cason (finger) and Marcus McNeill (knee). All of them are expected to be back before the regular season begins.

--The running game still needs a lot of work, as the Chargers averaged just 2.8 yards per carry. Tolbert lost yards on both of his carries and one of Mathews' two attempts gained but a single yard.

--San Diego's special teams, a focus all offseason, still had some leaks. Seattle's Doug Baldwin had a punt return of 20 yards and a kickoff return of 41 yards. The Chargers have some excuses -- they were rotating players on the coverage teams and are still learning new coach Rich Bisaccia -- but this was still worrisome.

--No player helped his stock more than Darryl Gamble, an undrafted pass-rusher from Georgia. He led the team with eight tackles and picked up one of San Diego's two sacks (Ogemdi Nwagbuo snagged the other). Gamble was extremely active and earned a chance to crack a thin linebacker rotation.

--The secondary depth looked suspect. Charlie Whitehurst and Josh Portis carved up San Diego's reserves, combining to go 19-of-29 (65.5 percent) for 184 yards.

--Norv Turner's squad will look to crack the win column next Sunday, Aug. 21, when the Chargers visit the Cowboys. The teams will convene in Dallas a few days before the nationally televised contest for some inter-squad practices.

Chargers fans discuss Thursday's preseason opener inside the message boards.

Michael Lombardo is a long-time contributor to the network. His analysis has been published by the NFL Network, Fox Sports and MySpace Sports. He has followed the Chargers for more than 16 years and covered the team since 2003. You can see more of his updates by following him on twitter.

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