Preseason Game #1
San Diego Chargers vs Tennessee Titans (08/13/16) 5:00 PM
Nashville Tennessee, Nissan Stadium (capacity 69,143)
The shoulder pads are on and the position battles are taking hold, the long-awaited San Diego Chargers season is about to begin. For a team that was once (and frankly still is) in much turmoil, the distraction of playing the initial game should help ease any negative thoughts the players and fans have about the future of the San Diego Chargers in the city that loves them.
The team heads east to Tennessee to take on the young and improved Titans. Well at least for Titans fans they hope that team has improved. The Titans have had an enormous turnaround of players from last years team. That team was ironically led by present Chargers offensive coordinator, Ken Whisenhunt. The former coach of the Titans had a horrible time in Nashville in which he composed an overall record of 3-20 in a year an a half on the job. He was fired last season mid way through and replaced with current head coach Mike Mularkey.
The Titans brought in a new GM as well as the team hired former Bucs director of player personnel, Jon Robinson to lead the front office. He elected to keep Mularkey, but the squad was completely overhauled. 36 of the 90 players on the current roster are new Titans. The new GM and new coach wasted no time in bringing in the players they believe can make them successful.
The biggest addition was that of former two-time Pro-Bowl running back DeMarco Murray. He was acquired via trade in March and looks to solidify the running game for the Titans. That is good news for Marcus Mariota who now has a solid running game to take the pressure off of him. Murray teamed with Dexter McCluster, Derrick Henry and Bishop Sankey form a very formidable group. In reality one in this group will likely be dealt or cut. Sankey is looking like the odd man out early in training camp.
What to look for when the Chargers are on offense
This is the first game of the preseason so do not expect much from any of the more recognizable names on offense. You will not see Philip Rivers give a fist pump after a long bomb to Travis Benjamin down the sidelines. Nor will you see Melvin Gordon bust open a long running play in the gap. It’s just too early for that. But it is coming. Having Keenan Allen, Antonio Gates and Jason Verrett healthy when the season starts is the top priority.
Focus your attention on the battle for roster spots. The offensive line battles will be fun to watch as you will get an opportunity to see rookie Max Teurk at center. You will also see another rookie Donavon Clark battle is out as he attempts to establish himself as a backup for the team. The offensive line was beat up last season and the Chargers have brought in plenty of bodies to potentially play for the team. Tyler Johnstone, Vi Teofilo, Spencer Pulley, Brett Boyko and company will all be playing hard in an attempt to make the squad. Derek Watt the rookie fullback will also be one to keep an eye on in this game as he has impressed early in camp.
The backup QB job will be on full display and this will be everybody’s first chance to see Zach Mettenberger, Mike Bercovici and Kellen Clemens battle it out to see who earn one of the best jobs in the NFL; Backing up Philip Rivers who has never missed a game in his NFL career since being named the starting QB of the Chargers in 2006. Mettenberger will return back to Tennessee and it will very interesting to see how he performs under the pressures of playing for the team he once led in the huddle not too long ago. All in all the offense should be pretty basic and this will be a feeling out game for Whisenhunt and his new crew.
What to look for when the Titans are on offense
Like the Chargers, the stars for this young squad will play sporadically if at all. Mariota will not be put in jeopardy of injury and the Titans will instead focus on getting their reps in and coming out of the game unscathed and with no injury issues. Veteran QB Matt Cassel and Alex Tanney will run the offense for the most part.
Expect the Titans to feature a heavy run attack on Saturday night. Sankey and Henry might get some extended work as the team starts to determine who they will keep moving forward. Denzel Perryman has been banged up so do not expect to see him in action. The defensive stars and veterans will be eased into action in this game so the game will be pretty boring to the modest fan.
Players to watch
The quarterback returns to play against the team that drafted him out of LSU. He played in 14 games in 2013 and 2014, starting 10 of them for the Titans. Mettenberger ended his career in Tennessee with 2,347 yards throwing and 12 touchdowns. He was once viewed as the future at the position but that thought process quickly changed and the team went after Marcus Mariota in the draft. Mettenberger has ability but needs to mature and gain confidence in the pocket if he ever wants to get better.
With the first round pick Joey Bosa still unsigned, nobody is poised to take advantage of that more than Darius Philon. He will get Bosa’s reps and with that he endears himself to the coaching staff and is quickly earning respect with the veterans. The longer Bosa is out, the worse it will be for him when it comes to criticism of his play. Being a rookie in the NFL is difficult enough without putting a target on your back. Philon is 22 and in his second season out of Arkansas. He played in eight games last season for the Bolts and comes with the experience Bosa lacks. He is also gaining more experience as Bosa and the Chargers play chicken.
Josh Perry and Jatavis Brown
These two linebackers will be a joy to watch this season. Brown is a speed burner who has the fierceness of a linebacker but the size of a safety. It will be interesting to see how the Chargers utilize this young man. Saturday’s game will probably be the first glimpse into what the Chargers plan to do with this rookie talent. Perry has great instincts and will rotate with Manti Teo and Denzel Perryman in the middle. He is a natural leader and will impress the fan base with his ability to be in the right place at the right time. The Chargers young defense will be one exciting unit to watch this season.
Not much to go on with this game as it could easily go any which way. Expect a sloppy game with little to no offense once the game gets into the third and fourth stringers. I am a Bolts fan, so I will predict a score of Chargers 20 Titans 17. But in reality who cares what the scores is. Just making it through the whole game with no injuries. That is the main goal. GO CHARGERS!