Amberly Dressler: The Chargers blame their slow starts on the lack of reps in the preseason. Will Norv Turner let the stars put in some work on Saturday? Who should the Cardinals expect to see?
Michael Lombardo: The Chargers played all of their starters for two series during the preseason opener, then began pulling them out in waves. This week, I'd look for the starters to play into the early parts of the second quarter, with most of them going to the bench by intermission.
Almost everyone who is healthy should play, although LaDainian Tomlinson's status is still up in the air as Norv Turner looks to keep him fresh for the season. A couple of the notable players who will miss the games with injuries are RG Kynan Forney (neck), DE Jacques Cesaire (calf) and OLB Larry English (hamstring).
AD: Speaking of the man with the plan, what do Norv Turner and all the rest of the coaching staff want to accomplish on Saturday?
ML: The top priority is to leave Saturday's contest without any significant injuries. The Chargers have been bitten badly by the injury bug over the last two seasons, and the team is cautiously optimistic the curse has been lifted.
Other than that, San Diego would like to see some more big plays from the starters. Last week against the Seattle Seahawks, the first-string offense failed to score and the first-string defense did not record a turnover or a sack.
AD: Each season you write about the Chargers' "training camp darlings." Who are they this year and do any of them have a chance in the regular season?
WR Vincent Jackson
ML: For those who don't know, a "training camp darling" is a player who shines in the offseason but disappears during the season. This season's candidates include Malcom Floyd, Legedu Naanee and CB Cletis Gordon. Floyd and Gordon are regular members of this group, while Naanee is a bit of a newcomer.
All three players face long odds of earning significant minutes. Floyd and Naanee are both battling with former first-round pick Buster Davis in search of time behind entrenched starters Vincent Jackson and Chris Chambers. And Gordon is stuck behind a trio of former first-round picks: Quentin Jammer, Antonio Cromartie and Antoine Cason.
Of the three, Floyd has the best chance to make a real impact. He actually finished with more receiving yards than Chambers last season (465 to 462) and could wind up splitting time at the flanker position opposite Jackson. Floyd boasts incredible leaping ability and can dominate in the red zone. He just needs to become more consistent, especially on underneath and intermediate routes.
ML: I think the top story line going in the secondary is cousins Antonio Cromartie and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie sharing the same field for the first time in the NFL. Although they won't be on the field at the same time, it will be fun to watch these two incredible athletes attempt to out-do one another.
Once Fitzgerald and Boldin sit, there are a few players to focus on in San Diego's secondary (other than the aforementioned Gordon). Backup safeties Kevin Ellison and Paul Oliver are both exciting players who can separate receivers from the ball. And at the corner position, keep an eye on CB Simeon Castille. This is a guy who's received no publicity whatsoever, but I really believe he has a future in the NFL.
AD: Each year, Chargers fans claim "it's this year or never." Will the Chargers miss the boat again this year, or is this really the Chargers' year?
ML: That's an impossible question to answer in August. All we know is this: there is an upper-crust of teams that figure to legitimately contend for the Super Bowl crown, and the Chargers are clearly in that top tier.
San Diego has plenty of reasons to be optimistic. The Chargers have arguably the most talented roster in the NFL; they have depth across the board; and they have playoff experience. With those things in place, there are three keys to winning it all: 1) stay healthy; 2) earn favorable postseason matchups; and 3) get lucky.
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.