San Diego Chargers: Preseason Week Two Preview


In 2014, two of the four teams in the NFC West earned playoff spots in 2014. That includes the Arizona Cardinals, the San Diego Chargers preseason Week 2 opponent (the first of three NFC West teams the Chargers will play in the preseason this year).

With the help of Bruce Arians and former Oakland Raiders and Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer, the Cards have transformed themselves from cellar-dwellers to perennial playoff contenders.

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This season the Chargers will take on the Cardinals in the preseason, but not in the regular season surprisingly. Their week two preseason contest will take place on Saturday, August 22nd at 9:00 PM (ET) at University of Phoenix Stadium in Arizona.

Exhibition contests, while meaningless in terms of their effect on the playoffs and regular season, are actually incredibly important to teams evaluating new prospects and current roster players.

In this game of the Cardinals against the Chargers, there will be no regular season repercussions between the teams considering that they won’t be playing in the regular season, nor the playoffs (unless they both reach the Super Bowl, seeing that the Chargers are from the AFC and the Cardinals from the NFC). Thus, this game is individually important to both teams who are looking to fine tune their ball clubs before the regular season starts.

Who knows, the Cardinals and Chargers could be in a West-Coast showdown for the Lombardi Trophy come next February.

There is a good reason why though that both teams could be Super Bowl contenders.

The Cardinals, with their revamped offense, tough defense and great coaching staff, have all of the pieces and then some to make a run. The Chargers, on the other hand, are in the same position, with greater talent on offense than on defense.

One underrated facet of the Cardinals game has been their defense with draft picks such as cornerback Patrick Peterson, safety Deone Bucannon and defensive end Calais Campbell. Peterson, a former first-round draft pick, has been as consistent as they come in the secondary, totaling 15 career interceptions and 49 passes defensed.

In a game with the 11-5 Arizona Cardinals and 9-7 San Diego Chargers, there is bound to be some exciting storylines. Here are a couple of the top storylines for the game.

Jan 3, 2015; Charlotte, NC, USA; Carolina Panthers wide receiver

Kelvin Benjamin

(13) reaches for a pass against Arizona Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson (21) during the fourth quarter in the 2014 NFC Wild Card playoff football game at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Secondary should test Clemens, Sorensen and Rettig:

With the secondary that the Cards had last season, 1.375 passing touchdowns allowed per game (tied for sixth-best), 259.5 yards per game in the air (ranked fourth-worst) and an overall 63.0% completion,

Philip Rivers


Kellen Clemens


Brad Sorensen

and Chase Rettig should have an interesting game ahead of them.With the collection of cornerbacks Patrick Peterson,

Jerraud Powers

, and

Alfonzo Dennard

, strong safeties

Rashad Johnson


Tony Jefferson

, and free safeties

Tyrann Mathieu

and Deone Bucannon, the Cardinals could end up stopping the Bolts early on.However, I think that with the wide receiver talent that the Chargers possess, this game could be won through the air (if Melvin Gordon doesn’t already light up the scoreboard).What I am most looking forward to is undrafted rookie Chase Rettig and how he performs against Arizona. Considering that Kellen Clemens is the second man in line, Rettig could be cut from the 53-man roster and demoted to the practice squad unless he doesn’t absolutely wow the Bolts in the preseason.Before being the current fourth-string QB, Rettig was a standout at Boston College, completing 685-of-1242 passing attempts for 8,263 yards and 52 touchdowns in 46 career games and concluded his collegiate career ranked among the school’s passing leaders in yards (fourth), touchdowns (fourth), completions (third), attempts (fourth) and wins (fourth; 18). He may get very little play time in the initial preseason games (if any at all), but if he does, I think he has potential to wow the Bolts.Both Rettig and Sorensen will be competing considering both are very similar in age and experience. They will have a lot of different weapons to chose from in this exhibition match-up with the Cardinals in the form of undrafted free agent wide receivers Titus Davis, Demetrius Wilson and Tyrell Williams, all of whom were relatively successful in their collegiate campaigns. Of course we will see

Torrence Allen


Javontee Herndon

before we see the UDFAs. Those two will give us explosive plays, but I am truly excited about what former Central Michigan WR Titus Davis can show us. He’s big and physical and I can see him making the Chargers roster if he has an impressive preseason on offense and special teams.What the Cards defense has up its sleeve is a plethura of underrated pass rushers in the forms of starting DE Calais Campbell and draft picks DEs Markus Golden, Shaquille Riddick and DT Rodney Gunter. They’ll for sure give the Chargers O-line a lot of trouble.

In any case, this game against AZ will be a good indicator for how starting QB Philip Rivers will look during his contract 2015 season. He has produced for a good decade of his professional career and I think this season could be another successful season. The preseason, if anything, is a hyped practice and this will allow Rivers to make actual game-time decisions and connect with his new (and renewed) receiving corps.

Nov 30, 2014; Atlanta, GA, USA; Arizona Cardinals running back Andre Ellington (38) leaves the game with an injury against the Atlanta Falcons in the second quarter at the Georgia Dome. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Arizona’s Backfield Dilemma

Last season, the once effective, 5.5 yards-per-carry back Andre Ellington in 2013 was little more than an afterthought in 2014, averaging just 3.3 yards per carry in an injury-plagued 12-game season. Ellington was more productive catching the ball out of the backfield than he was rushing the football it seemed with 46 catches for 395 yards and two touchdowns.It’s unbelievable to see a guy who rushed for more than 4.0 yards per carry 11 times in 2013, rush for above that mark just three times in 2014.It’s a good thing that this season Ellington is back healthy and ready to do some damage. In the case that Ellington doesn’t remain healthy, the Cards have third-round pick

David Johnson

out of Northern Iowa (4,682 yards, 5.4 yards per carry, 49 touchdowns, 141 receptions, 1,734 yards and 14 touchdowns during his career at NIU),

Stepfan Taylor

and even former San Diego Charger

Marion Grice

to compliment Ellington.Whether or not they produce is beyond me, but the Chargers will have to prepare for at least somewhat of a rushing attack from Arizona. I think that Johnson could be a potential burden for the Bolts considering his rushing ability while in college and his big size (6-1″, 229). His stats may be inflated by poor defenses of the FCS, but I think he has serious upside in the NFL.What is interesting to note is that the Cardinals offensive line, once ranked dead last in the league by

Pro Football Focus

in 2013, was ranked 24th-best in the league in 2014. According to PFF’s Khaled Elsayed, “The offseason acquisition of

Jared Veldheer

has proven to be a big hit. The former Raider has given them the kind of security at left tackle that predates the PFF era…Usually the steadiest of the group, the form of

Lyle Sendlein

has seen a sharp decline. Only one center had a worse rating with him with a lack of control of blocks in the run game and too much pressure allowed in the pass game being the charges laid against him.

Slowly they get better, but we’ve seen false dawns before in Arizona. Veldheer lifted the talent level of the team, but the interior remains something of a mess. What they wouldn’t give for Jonathon Cooper to get completely healthy and deliver as his draft pick suggested he would.”

With that considered, the Chargers should have a pretty good time against the Cards. There may be a potential roadblock in the form of first-round draft choice D.J. Humphries who, according to Fabian Ardaya of Arizona’s 98.7 Sports FM, ” has been ‘impressive’ thus far in the organized team activities and minicamps, [Cardinals offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin] told Doug & Wolf on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM Tuesday.”

Who we really should be watching out for though should not be the new Arizona Cardinals running game or offensive line, but rather the Chargers newly-signed defensive end Corey Liuget who will now be earning huge bucks in the coming years.

If there is anybody that we should be holding to a higher standard during these preseason games, it’s Liuget. If he can show promise and durability in the preseason, I think there could be hope for a productive regular season and justification for the capacious contract he was given from the Chargers.

Aug 23, 2014; Baltimore, MD, USA; Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Jacoby Jones (12) carries the ball against the Washington Redskins at M&T Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Amber Searls-USA TODAY Sports

Special Teams Storylines

With the newest addition of former Baltimore receiver Jacoby Jones, the Chargers have improved their special teams game from one of the bottom half return games to one of the top half return games.What should be interesting to watch against the Cardinals will be the return game of Jacoby Jones who helped the Ravens with his outstanding return abilities.During his time in Maryland, Jones punt return abilities never wavered, in 2013 he returned 19 punts for 237 yards with a 12.5 yards per punt average and a touchdown in 2012. And even though he was a good punt returner, Jones was most effective returning kicks.Over three seasons, Jones took back 101 kicks for 3,037 yards and four touchdowns for an average of 30.1 yards per return. His two touchdowns off of kick returns in 2012 and one in 2014 ranked first in the NFL. In fact, Jones even had a kick return for a touchdown in the 2012 Super Bowl that sealed the Ravens championship win.With a 22nd-ranked return game in 2014 (26 kicks for 577 yards and a 22.2 average), the Chargers definitely upgraded big time.

What’s interesting is the fact that the Chargers and Cardinals are both probably going to have one some of the best return games in the league in 2015 despite the Cards having the literal worst return game in the league in 2014. Even though the Cards had the ninth-best punt return game in 2014 with Ted Ginn Jr., they also had the league’s worst kick return game, averaging 19.0 yards per return on 417 return yards (both last in the NFL in 2014).

This season, rookie standout John Brown will be the kick returner along with former West Texas A&M wideout Nathan Slaughter. Brown has been a huge presence in the receiving game for Arizona, catching 48 passes for 696 yards and five touchdowns with a 14.5 yards per catch average.  As for Slaughter though, he has not experience the same NFL success after getting hurt and then cut by both the Houston Texans and Jacksonville Jaguars.

According to Darren Urban of the Cardinals official website, “the team, after seeing young wide receiver Nate Slaughter at the NFL Veteran Combine Sunday at the Cardinals’ Tempe facility run sub-4.4 40s, signed him to the 90-man roster…At 5-foot-9 and 184 pounds, Slaughter was a standout return man in college. His senior season, he had three kickoff returns for touchdowns and averaged 41.7 yards a return. Not coincidentally, the Cardinals are in need of a kickoff return man, although Slaughter figures to be a long shot to make the roster.”

Currently Slaughter is listed as the other return man with John Brown who actually was quite the returner in his day.

According to his official Cardinals bio, Brown was “one of the nation’s top special teams players, he returned 78 punts for 1,063 yards and three TDs, as his average of 13.6 yards rates the third-best in school history and added 1,400 yards with two TDs on 52 kickoff returns, ranking fourth in PSU annals with an average of 26.9 yards.”

This game should feature the improvement of two different, yet impressive return games from the Cards and Chargers. The kickoff returns and punt returns will surely be an underrated part of this game not only for the returners, but for the blockers and gunners. Special teams, many may not know, is a perfect opportunity for guys who may not make it on their defensive or offensive abilities alone to try and make the 53-man roster as a punt or kick return specialist.

Overall though it should be an interesting game between two western powerhouses that will hope to combine the speed of their receivers and secondaries with the power and brawn of their offensive and defensive lines.

Next: Preseason Week One Preview vs. Dallas Cowboys

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