Cowboys vs Chargers – What to watch for

Melvin Gordon cropped

We’ll get our first look at the 2015 San Diego Chargers Thursday night as the Dallas Cowboys come to town for the first game of the preseason. The majority of the starters won’t see a ton of snaps, but there are a few storylines to keep an eye on:

OFFENSE

  • First round draft pick Melvin Gordon should see his first snaps as a pro on Thursday, but I wouldn’t expect him to play much more than a series or two. He’s looked good in camp, but is still learning as a pass catcher and protector, especially on third downs.
  • New wide receiver Stevie Johnson has arguably been the “MVP” of Training Camp so far. He’s made some incredible catches and seems to have already established a strong rapport with quarterback Philip Rivers.
  • The offensive line has a new look to it this year. However, what exactly that look is remains to be seen. With Johnnie Troutman limited over the last week, D.J. Fluker has seen significant reps in practice at right guard while Joe Barksdale has filled in for Fluker at right tackle. I expect that will be how the first team offense lines up Thursday night with the Chargers seemingly intent on getting a good look at Fluker inside. Though, it must be noted that offensive line coach Joe D’Alessandris is a big fan of having players learn multiple positions up front. That could very well be the case for Fluker. We’ll see.
  • It will be interesting to see how the Chargers handle Ladarius Green and Antonio Gates this preseason. Green is no stranger to working with the first team, but the Chargers must find a way to balance out preparing Green for an increased role at the start of the season, and making sure their future Hall of Fame tight end is ready to return after Week Four. We’ll get our first real look at that attempt Thursday night.

DEFENSE

  • Perhaps the team’s biggest position battle is at strong safety where third-year pro Jahleel Addae is competing with free-agent signee Jimmy Wilson. The two have split reps with the first team fairly evenly so far in Training Camp, and neither is making a very convincing argument as to who should start at this point. It’s worth noting that both have seen reps on the field together in nickel and dime formations at practice, similar to how Addae and former strong safety Marcus Gilchrist (who often moved to nickel) worked last season.
  • Again, its expected both teams’ first units will only play a few series but I’m anxious to see how Chargers defensive line (it appears without Sean Lissemore Thursday night) stacks up to one of the best, if not the best, offensive line’s in the NFL. Cory Liuget got a big extension in the offseason because the Chargers believe he is on the rise to greatness. Time for him to take the first step against the Cowboys.
  • The linebacking corps lost some key veterans in Jarret Johnson and Dwight Freeney. Melvin Ingram and Jerry Attaochu must replace that void and remain healthy. Donald Butler will get his first shot at redemption, and hopefully Manti Te’o won’t break his foot.
  • Second year cornerback Jason Verrett has looked great in camp and has teammates clamoring over his potential. Although, he still hasn’t proven anything yet, having only shown flashes during his six games last year. And that’s not a knock, it’s just the truth.

Annie Heilbrunn and I take a more in depth look at these storylines in this Cowboys vs. Chargers podcast:

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–Andrew Burer (TWITTER: @andrewburer)

 

VIDEO: Joe Tutino & Jay Paris share thoughts on the Chargers preseason game against the Cowboys, plus the latest on Philip Rivers’ contract situation and the ongoing stadium saga:

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