Chargers- Cardinals Primer

If there is any preseason game worth watching, this third-game showdown with the Arizona Cardinals is the one. The Chargers will play their starters -- minus LaDainian Tomlinson -- into the second half. The offense will work on some quick-hitting plays; the defense will unveil some new blitz packages; and the special teams will determine the backend of the roster.

Offense

The Chargers offense has done a fine job moving the ball. Philip Rivers has a preseason passer rating of 109.0 while Billy Volek has done even better with a 115.8. In the rushing game, preseason starter Michael Turner has averaged 5.8 yards per carry while the electrifying Darren Sproles is at 9 yards per tote.

What has been missing is the execution. The Chargers have completed 11 of 28 third-down opportunities, which is less than 40%. Also, the Bolts have committed 15 penalties already this preseason. The offense needs to clear these things up in order to extend drives, win time of possession and put more points on the board.

The first priority against the Arizona Cardinals, as always, will be protecting the quarterback. The Cardinals have several quick defensive linemen who match-up favorably against a Chargers offensive line that relies more on size than speed.

Darnell Dockett, Bert Berry and Calvin Pace all have the quick first step to beat San Diego's linemen off the snap. The Chargers need Rivers to get the ball out of his hand quickly and Turner to establish the running game to keep these pass-rushers at bay.

Defense

The Cardinals will run a more balanced offense under new head coach Ken Whisenhunt, but it is their potent passing attack that has the Chargers' attention. Last year's first-round pick, Matt Leinart, will be flinging the ball to former first-round selections Larry Fitzgerald and Bryant Johnson, as well as Pro Bowler Anquan Boldin.

When the Chargers and Cardinals met in week 17 last year, back-up Kurt Warner completed 22 of 32 passes (68.8%) for 356 yards and a score. The Chargers will need to apply heavy pressure on Leinart to prevent him from being as productive as his mentor was during that contest.

Ted Cottrell will have his cornerbacks playing a lot of man coverage, allowing his safeties to attack the line of scrimmage and disrupt Leinart's timing. While Quentin Jammer has developed into one of the league's top corners, it remains to be seen if Drayton Florence and Antonio Cromartie can handle this elite level of competition.

The Chargers have executed very few blitzes this preseason, and the ones that have been called have been simplistic. However, with the starters expected to play into the second half of Saturday's game, this may be the team's final chance to practice any exotic blitzes in a live-game scenario. The starters are only expected to play a series or two in the preseason finale.

Special Teams

The battle for the final linebacker position is a fierce three-headed affair featuring Brandon Siler, Nick Roach and Jyles Tucker. Each will look to make his mark in kick coverage against the Cardinals, as this training camp battle might come down to special teams ability.

When the Chargers are returning kicks, the return men better keep an eye out for Hanik Milligan. As he proved by earning Pro Bowl honors with the Chargers in 2005, Milligan is one of the best in the league and will be eager to remind the Chargers of what they are missing.


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