Insider's Take: Chargers vs. Rams

The Chargers handed the keys to their youngsters in Saturday's 7-6 loss to the St. Louis Rams, and the kids showed they aren't quite ready to drive. The defense made a pair of big plays while the offense protected the football, but the numbers tell an ugly story. SDBoltReport.com takes a closer look at San Diego's second preseason contest.

What Worked

--For the second consecutive week, the Chargers forced two turnovers without giving the ball away. The Chargers have turned all four preseason turnovers into points, although they settled for field goals against the St. Louis Rams after scoring touchdowns against the Dallas Cowboys. Last season, the Chargers led the NFL in turnovers (48) and points off turnovers (128).

--Jacob Hester showed some big-play ability, ripping off runs of 22 and 17 yards. However, he was only OK in short-yardage. While he converted a third-and-2 early in the second quarter, he got knocked backward one a third-and-1 towards the end of the third quarter. The Chargers turned the ball over on downs one play later.

--The defense made a nifty goal-line stand early in the second quarter, making sure a Rams drive that spanned 17 plays and 82 yards resulted in zero points. The Rams had a first and goal at the 3-yard line but were unable to punch it in, thanks to two fantastic plays by Stephen Cooper. On first down, Cooper made a diving breakup of a pass intended for Dan Kreider. On fourth down, he shadowed Brian Leonard and tackled him for no gain on a swing pass. Cooper, who is suspended for the first four games of the regular season, was the best linebacker on the field on Saturday.

What Didn't

--In a repeat of the preseason opener, the Chargers' run defense got steamrolled. San Diego watched the Rams carry 38 times for 183 yards (4.8 avg), including the game's only touchdown. Steven Jackson stand-in Antonio Pittman was particularly effective, averaging 7.4 yards on nine carries. If you're looking for culprits on the San Diego side of the ball, Matt Wilhelm and Jyles Tucker noticeably struggled getting off blocks and bringing down ball-carriers. Life's not so easy without Jamal Williams and Luis Castillo there to occupy offensive linemen.

--Pass protection was spotty, especially up the middle. The Chargers quarterbacks had no pocket to step into, which explains how the team finished with less than 100 net yards passing. There were also problems on the outside, where Jeromey Clary was absolutely owned by Leonard Little. With L.J. Shelton waiting in the wings, Clary will have to elevate his play to maintain his starting spot. Shelton wasn't much better on the left side, but could be better off without handling blindside responsibilities.

--Charlie Whitehurst got his most extended playing time to date and failed to do much with it. While he shows a strong arm and a willingness to push the ball up the field, he still struggles to make the right reads under pressure. He makes a handful of throws every game into tight- or double-coverage, leaving coaches to wonder what he's seeing out there.

What's Next

--The Chargers will bask in the bright lights of primetime as they host the Seattle Seahawks on Aug. 25 on ESPN's Monday Night Football. The Seahawks are 2-0 this preseason, beating the Minnesota Vikings, 34-17, and the Chicago Bears, 29-26.

Michael Lombardo is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America and a long-time contributor to the Scout.com network. His analysis has been published by the NFL Network, Fox Sports and MySpace Sports. He has followed the Chargers for more than 15 years and covered the team since 2003.


SD Super Chargers Top Stories

","mobileBody":"What Worked

--For the second consecutive week, the Chargers forced two turnovers without giving the ball away. The Chargers have turned all four preseason turnovers into points, although they settled for field goals against the St. Louis Rams after scoring touchdowns against the Dallas Cowboys. Last season, the Chargers led the NFL in turnovers (48) and points off turnovers (128).

--Jacob Hester showed some big-play ability, ripping off runs of 22 and 17 yards. However, he was only OK in short-yardage. While he converted a third-and-2 early in the second quarter, he got knocked backward one a third-and-1 towards the end of the third quarter. The Chargers turned the ball over on downs one play later.

--The defense made a nifty goal-line stand early in the second quarter, making sure a Rams drive that spanned 17 plays and 82 yards resulted in zero points. The Rams had a first and goal at the 3-yard line but were unable to punch it in, thanks to two fantastic plays by Stephen Cooper. On first down, Cooper made a diving breakup of a pass intended for Dan Kreider. On fourth down, he shadowed Brian Leonard and tackled him for no gain on a swing pass. Cooper, who is suspended for the first four games of the regular season, was the best linebacker on the field on Saturday.

What Didn't

--In a repeat of the preseason opener, the Chargers' run defense got steamrolled. San Diego watched the Rams carry 38 times for 183 yards (4.8 avg), including the game's only touchdown. Steven Jackson stand-in Antonio Pittman was particularly effective, averaging 7.4 yards on nine carries. If you're looking for culprits on the San Diego side of the ball, Matt Wilhelm and Jyles Tucker noticeably struggled getting off blocks and bringing down ball-carriers. Life's not so easy without Jamal Williams and Luis Castillo there to occupy offensive linemen.

--Pass protection was spotty, especially up the middle. The Chargers quarterbacks had no pocket to step into, which explains how the team finished with less than 100 net yards passing. There were also problems on the outside, where Jeromey Clary was absolutely owned by Leonard Little. With L.J. Shelton waiting in the wings, Clary will have to elevate his play to maintain his starting spot. Shelton wasn't much better on the left side, but could be better off without handling blindside responsibilities.

--Charlie Whitehurst got his most extended playing time to date and failed to do much with it. While he shows a strong arm and a willingness to push the ball up the field, he still struggles to make the right reads under pressure. He makes a handful of throws every game into tight- or double-coverage, leaving coaches to wonder what he's seeing out there.

What's Next

--The Chargers will bask in the bright lights of primetime as they host the Seattle Seahawks on Aug. 25 on ESPN's Monday Night Football. The Seahawks are 2-0 this preseason, beating the Minnesota Vikings, 34-17, and the Chicago Bears, 29-26.

Michael Lombardo is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America and a long-time contributor to the Scout.com network. His analysis has been published by the NFL Network, Fox Sports and MySpace Sports. He has followed the Chargers for more than 15 years and covered the team since 2003.

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