Chargers preseason report card: Raising Arizona

The San Diego Chargers thoroughly pummeled the Arizona Cardinals in their first away game of the preseason. The special teams, in particular, had a performance for the ages and set the tone for the rest of the domination.

Quarterbacks:

Drew Brees has another strong game. He picked apart the Cardinals secondary and showed a rare air of poise and composure. His deep balls had zip, although he did overthrow a few receivers that were open and when he missed it was by a mile. Why he threw the interception ball when it was clearly covered…

Cleo Lemon started off a little slow and felt some heat inside before settling down and hitting his passes. He could not cap off a drive but has shown he can perform at a capable level. Joe Germaine made just one throw and it was intercepted. It was a poorly thrown ball to Luke Powell who did his best to swipe the ball away.

Grade: B

Running backs:

Michael Turner got the bulk of the work. He ran tough inside the tackles and fought hard for some extra yards, especially early on in the game. Take away his one long gain, however and his average was just over two per carry. Jesse Chatman was held to a whisper on the few runs he had. Calvin Murray was down before he even secured the ball.

Grade: C

Wide Receivers:

Kassim Osgood is developing rapport with his quarterbacks. Why he is not on the field to open the game is beyond me. Eric Parker got nailed early on and was mostly a non-factor the rest of the way. He did make an excellent reaching grab on a poorly thrown ball – his only catch. Reche Caldwell had a mental error inside the ten yard line that cost the team a shot at seven points. His stop and go was a stop and stutter. It is that kind of play which makes one wonder if he will ever get it. Wes Welker made a nice touchdown reception in the back of the end zone and held onto the ball despite a solid shot from a defender sending him crashing down. In a word – Micah Ross is steady.

Grade: B+

Tight Ends:

Antonio Gates made one catch and came out of the game with an injury. Justin Peelle had a great game. His in game blocking is clearly better than his camp blocking and one pass he caught with a defensive back literally piggy backing him only to come out unscathed and move another 10-15 yards up the field. The two passes he caught went 2- or more yards. Josh Norman continued his one drop a game trend that may keep him off the team when final cuts come. Brock Edwards made a tough catch in traffic and was popped. It may be too little, too late for the undrafted tight end.

Grade: B

Offensive Line:

Nick Hardwick is proving to be one capable center. No botched snaps and solid play along the interior of the line. He also led the way on the first play of the game – a reverse. The one area he has to work on is blocking on the second level. He did not come off his first block effectively in the run game. David Brandt had another subpar game and with the fresh recruit expected in this week he could be out. Toniu Fonoti was punishing at the line. He does need to direct a little better at the point of attack as he pushes people off the line but they were still able to make tackles on running plays. Courtney VanBuren wasn't crisp with short pulls going to his left but was excellent in pass protection. Roman Oben missed a block or two in the running game. He was solid in pass protection and locked up his men quickly.

Grade: B-

Defensive Line:

Igor Olshanksy looked a bit slow out there. He had quite a few chances to wrap up a QB or RB as they slid past him and he was either slow off his block, not wrapping up or flat out missing in his attempts to tackle. Adrian Dingle had one nice run stuff but not much else. He looks thinner than a year ago and that seems to have robbed him of some strength. Otis Leverette has the wingspan but provided little pressure. Jamal Williams took on his assignments and opened a few lanes for the linebackers. Dave Ball simply has a non-stop motor. What he lacks in pure athleticism he makes up in heart and a work ethic to rival anyone.

Grade: B

Linebackers:

Stephen Cooper was exceptional again. He read the offense perfectly and ran through a seam in the line to get his safety, tearing down the running back as he lunged to get outside the end zone. Shaun Phillips was active again. He had a smothering sack to force a fumble and recovered another. His speed off the edge has proved to be a valuable asset. Zeke Moreno had some tackles but was not a terrible force out there. Steve Foley missed a clear shot at Emmitt Smith but had containment most of the day. He learned from that mistake. Randall Godfrey had a quiet game – too quiet. Ben Leber had a better opener than second game. Matt Wilhelm brought some energy to the second unit even if he did not make many plays.

Grade: B

Secondary:

Quentin Jammer played off the ball a little too much but did provide some blanket coverage deep on a couple of plays. Sammy Davis went down to a concussion after a decent game. Drayton Florence was again swiping at balls and got his hand on one while missing another. Hanik Milligan has not been as impressive this preseason as he was during last year's. Was Terrence Kiel on the field? Jerrell Pippens seemed a step slower than last week and he was – due to an undisclosed ankle injury he sustained early in the game. Jamar Fletcher had a good game and the skills that made him a first round pick are evident. Jerry Wilson missed an easy interception.

Grade: C

Special Teams:

In all my years watching the Chargers, they have never had a game in which they annihilated the opposition in the area of special teams. This wasn't even funny. It was a sick, twisted joke that often left me shaking my head and wondering where a game like this has been. Drayton Florence set the tone early and they never let up. Nate Kaeding and Mike Scifres hooked up for a field goal fake for the ages. Some say they should have never shown it in the preseason but I beg to differ. Talk about giving confidence back to your kicker. Luke Powell capped off the night with their first return of a punt since 2001. The only area that needs improvement is in kickoffs. Scifres may get a shot at that.

Grade: A

Coaching:

You have to be impressed with the special teams call when they could not punch it in while the team was in the red zone. Who cares if it is preseason. Wade Phillips held his defense back more this week and did not use as many varied looks. Against the Cardinals there was no need to waste it. They need to stop playing cover-2 at the end of the game and continue to play with some pressure up front. Two games in a row they have been beaten by late scores. The offensive play calling in the red zone has been abysmal for two years and it does not look like it will change.

Grade: B+


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