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2010 Regular Season
CARDINALS @ CHARGERS PREVIEW

  • When: Sun. 10/3 - 4:15 pm ET

  • Satellite Radio 10/3 -  4:15 pm - SIRIUS Ch 113

  • Televised: Sun. 10/3 -  4:15 pm ET (DirecTV Sunday Ticket )

Overview
Last Game
Meet the Chargers
Cardinals Roster
Cardinals vs. Chargers Matchups

Overview:
The Chargers were upset by Seattle. The Cardinals were handed a present, courtesy of a missed FG by Seattle's Sebastian Janikowski. Cards are 2 & 1. Chargers (notoriously slow coming out of the box) are 1 & 2. Cards face a toughie the following week when NO pays a visit - they'd be ecstatic going into their Bye week 3 & 2, but considerably less so if they were 2 & 3.

Last Game:
Chargers fell behind 17 - 0 early in the 2H, came back to tie the game 20 - 20 only to  watch their comeback thwarted by a KO return in a 27 to 20 upset loss to the Seahawks. Deciding factor came in the form of two long kickoff returns for touchdowns (for 101 yards and 99 yards) by Seattle's Leon Washington - the second one breaking a 20 - 20 fourth quarter tie with 6:24 left to play.

First Quarter

  • War of attrition. San Diego received, but after a 16-yard Sproles run turned the ball over at their own 46 on Naanee's fumble. They held Seattle to 3 & out. Chargersmoved from their own 20 to their 40 in 7 plays before punting. Seattle started from their own 14 but, after 10 plays, had to punt. Chargers ran off 5 plays and punted. Next Seattle possession extended into the next quarter. Seattle 0 - San Diego 0.

Second Quarter

  • A 28 yard run by Forsett and a 37 yard completion to Carlson moved Seattle out of the shadow of its own goal line deep into Charger territory. They made it as far as the SD 2, but were eventually forced to settle for a Mare 23 yard FG.  Seattle 3 - San Diego 0.

  • A sack by Mebane helped make the Chargers go 3 & out. But on the very next play, Jammer intercepted a Hasselbeck pass. Golden opportunity with SD ball on the Seattle 20. On the 11th play of the Charger drive (at the Seattle 12), Tolbert fumbled. Seattle ball at their own7 with 5:15 left til halftime. On the 9th play of the Seahawk possession, Hasselbeck hit branch for 42 yards and an apparent TD, but the play was eventually ruled a fumble. SD ball on their own 20 with 1:38 left til halftime. They went 3 & out.  With 1:15 left starting from the SD 41, a 23 yard pass interference call on Jammer set up a 9-yard scoring pass: Hasselbeck to Carlson. Seattle 10 - San Diego 0.

  • Sproles fumbled the ensuing kickoff and Seattle ran out of clock at the SD 2 (Makes you wonder about Pete Carroll's clock management). Halftime Score:  Seattle 10 - San Diego 0.

Third Quarter

  • Leon Washington returned the 2H kickoff for a 101 yard touchdown. Seattle 17 - San Diego 0

  • Chargers received and, after Rivers' completions to Gates (28 yards) and A Davis (49 yards), scored on a 3-yard TD pass from Rivers to Floyd. Seattle 17 - San Diego 7.

  • Next Seattle possession started from their 26, used up 7 plays & ended at the Seattle 45-yard line with a punt. SD possession started from their own 16, used up 10 plays & (after a Clemons sack of Rivers for minus-9) ended at the Seattle 43 with a punt. Starting at their own 7, Hasselbeck was sacked in the end zone (by Siler) for a safety. The score tightens. Seattle 17 - San Diego 9.

  • Chargers started the next series from their own 45 and moved to the Seattle 11 in 8 plays capped by a 29-yard Kaeding FG.  Seattle 17 - San Diego 12.

  • Seattle ran off one play before the quarter ended. Third Quarter Score: Seattle 17 - San Diego 12.

Fourth Quarter

  • Seattle wound up going 3 & out. On the third play of SD's next series, Rivers' pass intended for Gates was picked off by Thomas and returned 34 yards to the Charger 11. Seattle moved to the Charger 5 where Mare was forced to kick a 23 yard FG. Seattle 20 - San Diego 12. 

  • Chargers mounted a key TD drive, lasting 10 plays & resulting in a 12 yard scoring pass from Rivers to Gates. 2-point conversion was good (Rivers to Naanee) tying the score: Seattle 20 - San Diego 20.

  • Unfortunately, with 6:44 left to play, the Chargers blinked at the wrong time, and Leon Washington returned his second of two scoring kickoff returns - this one for 99 yards. Seattle 27 - San Diego 20.

  • Returning the KO to their own 21, the Chargers moved to the Seattle 14 where (after a 5-yard delay of game flag) their drive stalled at the  19 where they turned over the ball on downs with 2:28 left. The defense held, and they got the ball back via the punt at their own 45 with 1:38 left on the clock. This time, they managed to move all the way to the Seattle 12. Another delay of game penalty on Rivers moved them back to the Seahawk 19. Two plays later, Rivers' pass intended for Naanee was picked off by E. Thomas. One knee; game over.    Final Score: Seattle 27 - San Diego 20.

Highlights/Lowlights

  • Pretty evident that Chargers were done in by special teams play (the 2 KO returns).

  • They were also plagued by penalties. (11 penalties for 83 yards vs. half as much for Seattle).

  • And turnovers (3 fumbles lost/2 picked off = 5) vs. 2 turnovers by Seattle.

  • And sacks (Rivers was sacked 4 times)

  • They controlled the clock (36:04 to 23:56)

  • And outgained Seattle in total yards: 518 to 217, but still lost the game.

  • But still lost.

  • Their main rook (Matthews) didn't play Tolbert was their main ball carrier with 73 yards on 17 carries.

  • Despite being sacked 4 times and having a 2:2 TD to pick ratio, Rivers still had a QB-Rating of 80.3

  • Gates was thrown at 13 times (7 completions). Floyd was targeted 10 times (6 completions). Naanee 8 times (4 completions). Five others were thrown to at least 3-times.

  • Jammer had SD's only interception.

  • Nine Charger defenders shared the workload with total tackles ranging from 3 to 6.

  • Siler, Phillips and Applewhite were each credited with a sack. Oliver forced a fumble.

Meet the Chargers
They They entered the season dragged down by contract disputes (McNeal and Jackson) and injuries to key players (Merriman). McNeal just signed his tender. Whether he'll need time to get in football shape is open to discussion.

 Quarterbacks
17 Rivers, Philip QB 6-5 228 28 7 North Carolina State
07 Volek, Billy QB 6-2 214 34 11 Fresno State
04 O'Sullivan, J.T. QB 6-2 232 31 8 California-Davis

Three deep in quality. Rivers is considered one of the NFL's top throwers. Volek and O Sullivan are seasoned backups.


 Running Backs

24 Mathews, Ryan RB 6-0 218 22 R Fresno State
43 Sproles, Darren RB-KR 5-6 190 27 6 Kansas State
44 Brinkley, Curtis RB 5-9 208 25 1 Syracuse
22 Hester, Jacob FB 5-11 235 25 3 Louisiana State
35 Tolbert, Mike FB 5-9 243 24 3 Coastal Carolina

They traded up to get Mathews in the first round and expect big things from him. But he didn't play last Sunday; Tolbert got most of the work instead. Sproles is their breakaway specialty guy but surprisingly tough inside (in the same vein as Reggie Bush).


 Wide Receivers
80 Floyd, Malcom WR1 6-5 225 29 5 Wyoming
12 Crayton, Patrick WR 6-0 205 31 7 Northwestern Oklahoma State
11 Naanee, Legedu WR2 6-2 220 27 4 Boise State
84 Davis, Buster WR 6-1 210 24 4 Louisiana State

Naanee and Floyd play secondary roles to Gates as Rivers' receiving options, but both get their share of passes thrown their way.

 Tight Ends
85 Gates, Antonio TE 6-4 260 30 8 Kent State
81 McMichael, Randy TE 6-3 255 31 9 Georgia
88 Wilson, Kris TE 6-2 245 29 7 Pittsburgh

Gates is a proverbial Pro Bowl standout and Rivers' main go-to target. McMichaels is highly-regarded throughout the NFL as a quality backup TE.

 Offensive Line
62 Dombrowski, Brandyn LT 6-5 323 25 2 San Diego State
69 Green, Tyronne G 6-2 316 25 2 Auburn
68 Dielman, Kris LG 6-4 320 29 8 Indiana
61 Hardwick, Nick C 6-4 305 29 7 Purdue
63 Mruczkowski, Scott C-G 6-5 310 28 6 Bowling Green
65 Vasquez, Louis RG 6-5 335 23 2 Texas Tech
66 Clary, Jeromey RT 6-6 320 26 4 Kansas State
78 Terry, Adam T 6-8 335 28 6 Syracuse
The absence of LT Marcus McNeal (contract dispute) certainly hasn't helped any. McNeal just signed, but it's unclear whether he'll be ready to play this Sunday. If he does, you're talking about an All Pro instead of a second year backup protecting Rivers' blind side.
1



 Defensive Line

74 Cesaire, Jacques DE 6-2 295 30 8 Southern Connecticut State
96 Johnson, Travis DE-DT 6-3 311 28 6 Florida State
71 Garay, Antonio DT 6-4 320 30 4 Boston College
91 Nwagbuo, Ogemdi DE-DT 6-4 312 23 2 Michigan State
76 Thomas, Cam DT 6-4 335 23 R North Carolina
93 Castillo, Luis DE 6-3 290 27 6 Northwestern
70 Boone, Alfonso DE 6-3 320 34 10 Mt. San Antonio JC
92 Martin , Vaughn DE 6-4 330 24 2 Western Ontario
Your basic average 3-4 D-line front. With possibly the exception of Castillo, a bunch of no-names whose jobs are most likely to keep blockers off the LB's. All we know is that they held Seattle rushers to less than 70 yards.

 Linebacker

95 Phillips, Shaun OLB1 6-3 250 29 7 Purdue
90 Applewhite, Antwan OLB 6-3 258 25 3 San Diego State
57 Lang, Brandon LB 6-3 266 24 R Troy
54 Cooper, Stephen ILB 6-1 235 31 8 Maine
59 Siler, Brandon ILB 6-2 239 24 4 Florida
99 Burnett, Kevin ILB 6-3 240 27 6 Tennessee
5
3 Holt, James OLB 6-2 223 23 2 Kansas
56 Merriman, Shawne OLB2 6-4 265 26 6 Maryland
52 English, Larry OLB 6-2 255 24 2 Northern Illinois
94 Tucker, Jyles OLB 6-3 258 27 4 Wake Forest
Merriman is considered one of the NFL's elite defensive players. Phillips and Siler each were credited with a sack last week.
 Secondary
23 Jammer, Quentin LCB 6-0 204 31 9 Texas
30 Strickland, Donald DB 5-10 185 29 7 Colorado
20 Cason, Antoine RCB 6-1 195 24 3 Arizona
29 Bennett, Fred CB 6-1 200 26 4 South Carolina
28 Gregory, Steve SS 5-11 195 27 5 Syracuse
25 Stuckey, Darrell SS 5-11 208 23 R Kansas
32 Weddle, Eric FS 5-11 200 25 4 Utah
27 Oliver, Paul FS 5-11 210 26 4 Georgia
41 Spillman, C.J. FS 6-0 199 24 2 Marshall

Jammer continues to play at a Pro Bowl level. Cason is solid on the other side. Weddle is highly regarded. Don't know anything about Gregory.

 Special Teams
10 Kaeding, Nate K 6-0 187 28 7 Iowa
05 Scifres, Mike P 6-2 221 29 8 Western Illinois
58 Neill, Ryan LS 6-3 253 27 4 Rutgers
43 Sproles, Darren RB-KR-PR 5-6 190 27 6 Kansas State

Kaeding is among the NFL's elite. Scifres is solid. Sproles strikes fear into the heart of any ST coordinator.

Coaching Staff
Norv Turner Head Coach
Clarence Shelmon Offensive Coordinator
Ron Rivera Defensive Coordinator
Steve Crosby Special Teams Coordinator

CTuner is considered one of the best offensive minds in pro football and a true "QB Maker." Rivera is a solid DC.

Cardinal Roster

QB - 03 Anderson, 06 Hall,  19 Skelton,
Anderson continues to be a work in progress - in the Oakland game, his passing attempts looked crisp 25% of the time, were successful but still sort fo an adventure" 25% of the time and unsuccessful the remaining 50% of the time. The 50-50 ratio is pretty much the way it's been all season, but the ratio of "clicking" completions to adventures continues to improve. Major area of vulnerability - If not Anderson, who? (Answer: undrafted FA Hall).

RB - 34 Hightower, 31 Wright, 36 Stephens-Howling  (KR/PR), 26, Wells
Beanie saw action and gained 75 yards (He has to be careful not to grab face masks when using his stiff-arm though). Interesting, most of Hightower's big gains occur around right end; whereas Beanie seems most successful running outside left tackle (Woe be to anyone who fails to anchor the edge vs. Beanie). Wells provides more physical pop in the running game than does THT, but Hightower may have slightly more explosive breakaway speed. Ball vulnerability an issue, but not a pressing one at this stage.

FB - 45 Mau'ia
Cards have been playing shuttle-diplomacy with this position in their quest for the best available lead blocker (FB's come, FB's go, FB's return). Right now it's beginning to seem that the coaches have settle on the returning Mau'ia to provide lead-blocking potency.

WR - 15 Breaston, 12 Roberts,  18 Komar,  80 Doucet
WR -11 Fitzgerald (Probable), 14 S Williams,
Breaston has a sore knee (but he can go). Fitz is slowly recovering from his injured knee. Doucet is likely to be out indefinitely. Komar, Williams, Roberts and most recently the returning Onrea Jones (arguably the most reliable pass catcher of the youngest 4) are expected to pick up the slack. Certainly not last year's (Fitz, Q, Stevie) group of WR's, but if Breaston and Fitz are reasonably OK, we'll be OK.

TE - 89 Patrick, 83 Spach,  81 Dray
Patrick is slowly emerging as the big-play go-to TE target for Anderson. Spach is the best blocker of the three (although he can be expected to have at least one frustrating penalty called on him each game). Dray is promising but still a rook.

LT- 75 L Brown,
73 Bridges
LG-
66 Faneca,  70 Hadnot
OC-
63Sendlein, 62 Claxton, (70 Hadnot)
RG- 76 Lutui
RT 
72 Keith
This unit still too often lets pass rushers get the best of them (& the worst of the pummeled Anderson). Keith got busted by the "eye in the sky" who caught him with no one to block, but standing around instead of looking for a new target. Levi (like most LT's) tends to get beaten at least once a game for a sack. But this is a young unit that is improving as pass blockers. We're not sure if this is true every time, but we're led to believe by the TV analysts that the reason why Beanie is able to cut upfield off RT is due to Faneca's seal blocking.

DE - 93 Campbell, 79 Iwebema
NT - 97 B Robinson, 98 Watson, 92 D Williams
DT - 90 Dockett, 78 Branch
They're doing OK, but, for a group as talented and deep as this one, they're not making enough things happen. A bit up and down defending the run (Horrible vs. Atlanta. Decent but not great vs. Oakland and McFadden. Without much fanfare, Dockett racks up a surprisingly large number of tackles by the end of each game.

OLB1 - 55 Porter
ILB  51 Lenon, 52 Obiozor
ILB- 58 D Washington,
56 Walker,
OLB2 - 53 Haggans,  59 W Davis
This is where a lot of the action takes place in the Cardinal defense. Lenon and Washington are making more than their share of plays for ILB's (whose traditional roles used to be stopping the inside run and protecting inside zones). Haggans and Porter make occasional big plays, but OLB's traditional;ly flash more

RCB - 28 Toler, 37 McBride, MacDonald
LCB-
29 Rodgers-Cromartie, 27 Adams   
SS-
  24 Wilson,
 22 Ware, 41 Abdullah,
40 Tillman
FS- 25 Rhodes,  
49 Rash Johnson
DRC is still going through the 2 big plays/one bad play cycle typical of many young corners. Toler is getting the opportunity of a lifetime at the other corner and, although "learning on the job", he's making more than his share of big plays. Wilson had a brief period of awful play last week when he got flagged for roughness followed by getting turned around 2 or 3 times trying to keep up with Zach Millers multi-moves before he made a deep TD  catch. (Save the tape as a collectors item; you may not see A-Dub do something like that ever again). In addition to making one or two key plays each game, Rhodes is quietly becoming the team's leading tackler. Ware provides quality swing-DB depth. Adams is another up & down player who messes up on one play and then comes through with something big on the next.

K-04 Feely
P- 05 B Graham,

H - 05  B Graham
LS-
82 Leach
KR -
37Stephens-Howling

PR
- 12 Roberts, 18 Komar, 15 Breaston, 37Stephens-Howling
Feely and Graham provide quality kicking and punting. LSH has taken two returns to the house (1 legit/1 nullified) and has cemented his reputation as a return man that had better be accounted-for. Roberts was a disaster fielding punts last week (& almost cost us the game).

 Cardinals vs. Chargers Matchups

Injuries:
Cardinals: Out:
TBA . Questionable: TBA  Probable: TBA  

Chargers: Out: TBA . Questionable: TBA . Probable: TBA .

Charger Passing Attack vs. Cardinal Pass Defense
Rivers spreads the ball around to a lot of receivers (with his TE - Gates - his main guy). Which means the entire Cardinal back-eight had better be on its toes in the coverage game, with A-Dub probably drawing main responsibility for containing Gates. Without McNeal at LT, Rivers has been getting gotten to by pass rushers (sacked 4 times last week). If McNeal returns (having just signed his contract) in any kind of playing shape, it may be tougher for Cardinal pass rushers to get to Rivers. Nevertheless, expect Bill Davis to mix up his looks and have his guys come at Rivers from all kinds of bizarre angles - but not at the expense of getting lax in coverage.

Charger Running Attack vs. Cardinal Run Defense
They went with their FB as the main toter of the leather (Tolbert) last Sunday; which meant that rookie sensation, Ryan Mathews didn't play. Tolbert gained 70+ yards a week ago. We don't know if Mathews will play Sunday. Obviously if he does, we have to make sure we contain him. And if it's Tolbert, the Cards have to do a better job at manning-up to the SD smashmouth running attack than they did vs. Atlanta.

Cardinal Passing Attack vs. Charger Pass Defense
Anderson has been stuck on a 50% completion average throughout regular season, but there has been one improving dynamic: Out of the 50% of the passes he's completed, an increasing percentage of those throws look relatively crisp (i.e. on time, on target etc.) compared to those that still look more like "adventures" (I'd say the ratio between "Crisp" and "Adventurous" is about 1-to-1 right now - but it does represent an improvement). Fitzgerald (gradually improving from knee injury) and Breaston (continuing to be nagged by knee pain) are two execellent and experienced wideouts. With Early Doucet shelved for the time being, the Cards are relying on youngsters, Steve Williams, Max Komar, Andre Roberts and recently activated Onrea Jones to pick up the slack. Just one man's opinion, but the difficulty Anderson is having hooking up with Fitz has a lot to do with (a) Fitz being the best in the business at high-pointing high throws but (b) Anderson not being adept at throwing balls that have a "high-point" (i.e. the trajectory his medium to deep throws are either flat or hump-backed). I believe his problem is mainly due to Derek's lack of confidence in using his wrist on deeper throws. Gaining that confidence means lots of "wrist-reps" during mid-week. Until then, he and Fitz will continue to have "challenges" hooking up.

Jammer is one of the elite NFL corners. Cason is sold. Chargers may be a bit less solid at at least one of the two safety positions (Big week for Patrick)? The relative health of Fitz and Breaston may turn out to be key factors.

Cardinal Running Attack vs. Charger Run Defense
The Chargers are tough against the run (limiting Seattle to under 70 ground yards). The Cardinal ground game (though far from where it needs to be) has been improving from week to week, showing brief flashes of explosion both from Tim Hightower and Beanie Wells (with Hightower best attacking the right perimeter and Wells hitting just outside left tackle. When Brandon Keith is into the action, he can be devestating, but he occasionally will take a play off if he doesn't find someone to block directly in front of him. On the left side, Alan Faneca is superb at sealing off the edge for Beanie. Assuming that the Chargers put extra emphasis on protecting the perimeter, it might be the appopriate time to run 2 RB sets using  Wright up the gut.

Special Teams
In the return game, we'd better watch them (Sproles) and they'd better watch us (LSH). Kaeiding and Feely are pretty equal as punters. Graham is arguably best in the business. I don't know a whole lot about Scifres but he seems to be solid.

Final Word
This figures to be a game of question-marks. On the Charger side of the ledger: "Who's going to play/not play? (Matthews? McNeil)? On the Cardinal side: What improvement, if any, will we see from Anderson and his receivers? Will Beanie take it up a notch from what was a pretty impressive first outing last week?

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