Preseason Game 2, Deserving Observations

Interesting events of the week such as, the release of Ryan Mc Neil and the reduction in reps for wide receiver Tim Dwight top the list of deserving observations as the San Diego Chargers are set to battle the lowly Arizona Cardinals. The redbirds travel to the "Q" after an impressive shut out of the Dallas Cowboys…

Last week against the Seahawks, the first team defense of the San Diego Chargers took some heat for allowing an uncontested opening drive touchdown. Soft coverage appeared to be the culprit. FS Ryan Mc Neil has been released and the safety positions are now manned by Kwamie Lassiter at free safety and Vernon Fox at strong safety. Look for better coverage this time around as Vernon Fox brings more speed to the secondary and Kwamie Lassiter is well schooled at aligning his DBs.

While some worry about the Chargers lack of a pass rush, it is not something to be overly concerned about. Many predicted the Chargers would pick up some defensive linemen come draft time, they didn't. The way the NFL is evolving with mobile quarterbacks and 3 step drops, pass rushing may be slightly overrated. If you look at last week's game, Seahawk quarterbacks rarely held the ball long enough for a pass rush to materialize. The Charger's approach to defend this is to get more speed and coverage men on the field. In obvious passing situations, the Chargers will often rush just three, while two linebackers and six defensive backs drop back into coverage.

SD Bolt Report broke the news of Tim Dwight's feelings about he and Cory Raymer being on AJ Smith's list of players to cut. Couple that with Dwight‚s lack of repetitions at WR and there could be legitimate concern. The move would make no sense as Tim has guaranteed money due (so did Ryan Mc Neil). He is also a dynamic punt returner, slot receiver, and fan favorite. Hopefully this concern will be a non-issue, but it‚s definitely something to keep tabs on. In the game look to see if Dwight is seeing reps with the 1st team as a 3rd receiver. If he is not, it could mean that the concerns are legitimate or Marty just wants to see how Eric Parker performs as the 3rd receiver. If Parker performs well (like usual) that means Dwight could become the 4th receiver. He makes a lot of money for a 4th receiver/punt returner. Another interesting note is Eric Parker receiving time at punt returning....

TE Stephen Alexander appears set to return from his groin problem. Despite the clean bill of health Stephen will not play. With Josh Norman starting out as one of the stars of camp, it seems the enormous amount of reps has given him a bad case of the dropsies. Josh remains a major weapon and mismatch but look to see if Justin Peelle cuts into his playing time. Antonio Gates remains a work in progress but just keeps getting better and better. Look for him to see some passes come his way and if you get the chance, focus on his blocking progression.

With Jamal Williams out (1-2 weeks, back pain) other defensive tackles will get a chance to shine. The undermentioned Leo Carson will take his place. Carson is a high-energy player who has a little pass rush to his game and a bit of a mean streak. In last seasons blow out loss to the New York Jets, Leo showcased his mean streak during a minor scuffle with pro bowl center Kevin Mawae.

The Chargers run defense figures to be tested a bit going against the Arizona RBs, including limited carries from LaDainian Tomlinson's idol Emmitt Smith. Look to see how the run D holds up with the absence of big #76. Linebackers like Zeke Moreno and Donnie Edwards may have to take on more blocks without Jamal in there to wreak havoc.

The linebacker battle is getting interesting. Zeke looks to keep his starting MLB spot with his instincts being his best friend. The Chargers will probably keep six linebackers. We know Edwards, Leber, and Moreno are probably locks. Jude Waddy may have a spot with his coverage skills. Matt Wilhelm doesn't figure to get the axe so soon in his career. So that's five. The last spot may come down to Carlos Polk, LeMarcus McDonald, Stephen Cooper, and Jordan Kramer.

You may ask why Polk is not in the top four. While Polk is awesome on special teams at this point he is only a back up at linebacker. What makes that a problem is that he plays middle linebacker, where a recent 4th round pick (Wilhelm) also resides. With the emergence of LeMarcus McDonald on special teams, the team may feel it has a cheaper special team nut/back up linebacker. McDonald also possesses good instincts at linebacker something Polk is not known for. The one thing going for Carlos is the fact that he is used (primarily as a blitzer) in the nickel package. Keep on eye on him Saturday. Also against him – Wilhelm has drawn praise for his performance on special teams.

As usual, 1st round pick Sammy Davis will be under the microscope. Another solid performance could catapult him to the starting spot opposite Quentin Jammer. Keep one eye on Sammy and another on Tay Cody as the battle continues...

The back up running battle takes a turn as Marty has said he would like to see Dahrran Diedrick (6-0 226) get 8-10 carries against the Cardinals. It will be interesting to see if he can top Nick Maddox's performance against Seattle. Diedrick, a former Nebraska Cornhusker, possesses a different running style than Nick. He is not quite as shifty but has more power and may be better between the tackles. Try saying that ten times fast...Look for Demarco McCleskey (5-11 215) to get a few carries as well.

Mike Scifres and Darren Bennett continue the punting battle. Mike's consistency is improving and we will see if he can correct the problem from last week of outkicking his coverage. If Mike can prove consistent in his punting, we may be forced to say good-bye to long time favorite Aussie, Darren Bennett.

Mike has proved his worth on kickoffs almost always smashing balls into the end zone.

Hopefully the offense will get the team in position to kick a few field goals, as Mackenzie Hoambrecker wants to show what he's all about. Steve Christie may get an attempt but look for Hoambrecker to see most of the action.

There are many things to look for Saturday night, as preseason performances look to make a huge difference in the shape of the roster.

One thing is for sure at Carson. From undrafted rookies to nine-year veterans, everyone is on edge. AJ Smith has them believing that they must perform or they are gone. This type of competitive environment may not be popular among players but with the recent collapses of the team, it is much needed. Let‚s just hope that there is enough veteran presence to spread over that 53-man roster.

Will Mortensen can be reached at

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