Training Camp is officially over for the San Diego Chargers, and game two of the preseason is upon us. That means more vanilla play calling, but it also means another look at what could be in store for the 2015 season. Here are three things to watch for on offense, and defense:
- The biggest storyline heading into Saturday night’s game is whether or not first-round pick Melvin Gordon will play. Gordon, who is dealing with an ankle injury, sat out Wednesday’s practice but returned on Thursday. According to Michael Gehlken of the U-T, indications are Gordon will not play. If that’s the case, bummer. Gordon appeared hesitant in his first NFL action against the Cowboys, and stressed his eagerness to improve in his next game action. Still, there’s no point in rushing him with two more preseason games remaining. However, the more the Chargers can get their new running back reps against first team opposition before the season starts, the better. Either way, expect a heavy dose of Branden Oliver against Arizona. After another solid training camp, and a strong preseason game against Dallas, Oliver is making a serious case to be a big part of the team’s running game, despite drafting Gordon.
- Expect the Chargers first-team offensive line to look exactly the same against the Cardinals. That means, from left to right, King Dunlap, Orlando Franklin, Chris Watt, D.J. Fluker, and Joe Barksdale. With a second-year center (who’s still learning a new position) flanked by two new guards, including Fluker, who’s playing inside for the first time, building cohesion is paramount for this unit.
- The Chargers top four wide receivers are all but set with Malcom Floyd, Keenan Allen, and newcomers Stevie Johnson and Jacoby Jones. Dontrelle Inman has the inside track to number five on the depth chart, but he’s facing strong competition from Tyrell Williams and Austin Pettis. And don’t forget about Javontee Herndon and Torrence Allen, both of whom were on the practice squad last season. It’s a strong group, but there are only so many spots to go around.
- The Chargers are banged up at the cornerback position. Jason Verrett, Steve Williams, Chris Davis, and Greg Ducre have all either been limited or missed practice over the last week. That’s not good for the latter three, especially considering the Chargers brought in Patrick Robinson from New Orleans, and drafted Craig Mager in the third round. Williams had a subpar game against the Cowboys last week, allowing two receptions of 20+ yards, and another for 11. His roster spot could be in jeopardy. Look for Oceanside native Richard Crawford (who was signed to the practice squad midseason last year) and Mager to see a good number of snaps against Arizona.
- Over the last week of Training Camp, Jimmy Wilson appears to have assumed the starting strong safety position over Jahleel Addae. He’s seen the majority of action with the first team defense while Addae has worked with the second team. Keep an eye on how the Chargers play the two against Arizona, especially in nickel and dime. Don’t be surprised to see both on the field.
- Before the Cowboys botched snap on the opening drive, their offense was driving against the Chargers first-team defense. Yes, it was basically just one series of starters versus starters, but San Diego has to be more physical up front. The Chargers finished 26th against the run last year, and were 29th in sacks with a paltry 26.
–Andrew Burer (TWITTER: @andrewburer)