The Good, the Bad and the Uncertain

The San Diego Chargers went to 0-2 with a 16-10 loss in front of 41,000+ fans at Qualcomm Stadium. Some play was bad to awful, while some play deserves praise. The jury remains in the deliberation room on yet other battles that are going on through training camp as we review the game tape…

What Worked?

Eric Parker as a punt returner.

The man is as not as explosive as Dwight bit he has fantastic moves. His cuts are precise and when he turns on the burners it is downright scary. The first cutback on his nullified 93 yard return shook leaves from a tree.

Zeke Moreno playing with the first team at middle linebacker.

Moreno made the first defensive stop of the game, shedding a block and getting into the backfield to wrap-up Josh Scobey. Afterwards he showed some emotion, something this defense desperately needs.

The second run by the Cardinals, Moreno again got through to fight through a trap and made the tackle at the line. Again he came up clapping his hands and hooting and hollering to get the fans and the rest of the defense pumped up.

He has a knack for staying away from contact until he sees the same hole the running back sees and that is where he makes his living.

Tay Cody.

Kevin Casper came out on a reverse and Tay Cody was the sole man in the open field. Cody bit on a juke to the inside and had to dive all out to the outside getting an arm on Casper and bringing him down behind the line. Great containment on the running play and he was just as good in the secondary. A flip to the outside was sniffed out by Cody as he again faced the rusher in space and alone.

In pass coverage he fought the whole time. When Brian Gilmore made his catch, Cody got a hand in to knock the ball away before Gilmore snatched just off the ground. His hustle will pay off on any plays such as that as the credit goes to Gilmore for somehow coming up with the catch.

Only one time was he beat, on a deep route, and the ball was overthrown.

First team blocking.

They gave Drew Brees time and Lorenzo Neal was the thunder to the lightning. On one play he realized he did not have to block a guy that had no shot at making the play and moved on to hit someone else. The offensive line did a great job keeping Brees on his feet and he was not pressured at all during his time in there.

Jason Fisk.

He had nice push all day long and really worked to free up his linebackers by taking on an extra blocker. The linebackers were thankful. He was even making the second man in to double him miss. On a few plays he jumped the second man to get in the backfield before the double could get a hand on him.

Another play, Fisk was on the ground and reached up to tackle Scobey from the turf.

Two plays later, Fisk could not get a push on his rush to the quarterback and instead made a play at the line by getting his hands up to deflect a ball. The ball was almost intercepted by Lassiter.

Doug Flutie to Tim Dwight.

Dwight had four catches for 66 yards to lead all receivers. All were delivered by Flutie. Only one pass between the duo fell incomplete.

What Didn't?

Drew Brees getting the ball to David Boston.

Brees looked like he was forcing the ball into Boston when he had other options. Two schools of thought exist here. One is the rapport they are trying to develop and Brees was taking the chance to work on his timing with Boston. The other is Brees feels he must get the ball into Boston and sacrificed his progressions.

The numbers on his performance are deceiving. He was 5-7 but passed for only 48 yards. His two incompletions – both destined for Boston. He had one other pass to Boston and the rest went to his backs. With the need to get more production from all of his wide receivers, he did not look to his other options and checked down to the backs, what should be his last option, much too quickly.

On his first pass to Boston, Brees never looked off him. Watch the eyes, they tell the story to any defensive back. The second time he threw a nice pass to Boston on a curl route, throwing the ball to a spot where only Boston could make the play. On the third and final pass to Boston, Brees again did not look off him and threw the ball out of bounds.

This is just preseason, but there is a worry that he may forget the other weapons he has.

Brian Sump returning punts.

A tough week of practice for Sump led to another tentative game returning punts. Thursday was particularly tough on the youngster as he fell down on a route that resulted in an interception by Cedric Henry and got crushed on a block. He also heard the wrath of the coaching staff. On Saturday, he had two chances as a returner. He called for a fair catch on one ball when he had some daylight to run the ball and a blocker waiting.

It is not that Sump is terrible, but limited reps must prove results. One return, three yards will not cut it despite how good or bad his special teams blocking unit is.

Seth Burford as a quarterback.

The first two times he dropped back to pass he was sacked. The third time he threw an interception. The fourth time was an incompletion, the fifth another sack, while the sixth went incomplete again. He finally completed his seventh pass then got sacked twice in a row again… That ended his day and perhaps his time with the team. The interception was thrown literally at the numbers of an Arizona Cardinal. As AJ Smith said, "He is in a competition with Cleo Lemon; he cannot afford to make many mistakes." Penalties.

The Chargers were penalized nine times for 58 yards, or more importantly two times for 10 points. An Eric Parker punt return for a touchdown was called back when Quentin Jammer was called for holding. Kwamie Lassiter was penalized for a helmet to helmet hit that resulted in a field goal. A swing of ten points. This comes a week after dumb penalties cost the team in Seattle. They stressed the little things in practice this past week. Now the coaches must take the heat for allowing the penalties to continue.

Second /third string offensive line and the running backs blocking.

They were terrible. They allowed eight sacks and quarterbacks were often running for their lives. Even when the team made plays it was largely due to the quarterback stepping up in the pocket, or rolling out or bouncing off people before getting rid of the rock. Everyone had some fault and no one was safe from blame. It is not worth mentioning names as they all were responsible, including Seth Burford for not having pocket awareness.

The jury remains:

The third running back spot.

Does DeMarco McCleskey get the same opportunity Dahrran Diedrick and Nick Maddox had? Diedrick looked good banging the ball in, but the explosiveness of Maddox cannot be denied. They both caught the ball well out of the backfield and it may be settled next week as we wait to see how McCleskey does in his chance.

Generating pressure.

Most of the times that saw the quarterbacks scrambling was due to coverage downfield, and not because the team was generating a lot of pressure. When the quarterbacks scrambled, the line was not able to contain them.

The only sack of the day belonged to cornerback Tony Okanlawon.

Cleo Lemon as the third quarterback solution.

Despite playing behind a porous offensive line, Lemon knew when to tuck it and get what he could. The result was one rush for six yards and two sacks for a loss of four yards. That is a nice way to minimize damage. To put it in perspective, Burford was sacked five times for a loss of 28 yards. Consider Lemon only dropped back to pass nine times, he was scrambling at least 33% of the time. He went five for six on the day and that missed pass was complete, albeit to the other team. Grant Mattos had a play on the ball but failed to work back to it.

Scifres vs. Bennett.

On three punts, Bennett dropped two inside the 20 yard line. On three punts, Scifres dropped two inside the 20 yard line. Bennet averaged 36 yards per punt, Scifres 35.7. Only one punt was returned of the six on the day.

Musings:

Have you ever noticed that most backup quarterbacks hold the ball on field goals? Why don't the Chargers implement this? No offense to Mike Scifres who seems to have done a nice job thus far, but will Mike ever scare anyone into thinking the play may be a fake? Flutie would. That extra time for our offensive line to hold, especially on the low line drives Steve Christie has, could mean the difference between a field goal and a block.

Drayton Florence on kick returns.

He was very solid, not spectacular on kickoff returns. Five returns for 147 yards produced a 29.4 average. That is awesome. His longest of the day was 32 yards. That is odd. Talk about consistency at the kickoff return business and Florence is your man. He runs at full speed all the time and that causes him to go down a bit easier than those who use a more cutback style. He also happens to get upfield about as quick as anyone. He may not break a long run ever, and he may beat his blockers upfield, but at the same token he will always bring it out past the 20 yard line and offer better field position than a year ago. He is better than a week ago and he may just continue to get better as he eases into this role. He is still new at this, so he may need time to excel.

Denis Savage can be reached at safage@cox.net

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