It’s always an event when the Los Angeles (nee San Diego) Chargers and the New Orleans Saints meet. Whether it be preseason or regular season, fans are treated to a battle between two future hall-of-fame quarterbacks, two high-powered offenses and stellar defenses, As Chargers fans gear up to watch tonight’s preseason contest, here are a few things to keep on eye on during the game.
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The ‘Twos’ and ‘Threes’ Need to Step Up
After last Sunday’s loss to the Seattle Seahawks, head coach Anthony Lynn wasted no time in putting his depth chart on notice. While pleased with the performance of the starters, Lynn was more than a bit unhappy with the efforts of the second and third string players. In joint practices with the Saints this week, Lynn placed strong emphasis on correcting the mistakes he noticed against Seattle. The Chargers depth players cannot afford to repeat the same mistakes and disappoint yet again. Judging from Lynn’s comments this past week, they already know that would be unacceptable. Therefore, keep a sharp eye on the second and third units, once the starters head to the sideline.
Keenen Allen may see Extensive Playing Time
Coming off of a standout week of practice, wide receiver Keenan Allen may see a bit more time on the field than he normally would in a second preseason tilt. While stats are not a big concern for him, Allen is determined to improve his conditioning and remove any lingering rust after missing virtually all of last season. Now it’s time to see what he can do when the Bolts take the field against the Saints at StubHub Center. Look for Allen to remain focused on establishing a rhythm between himself and quarterback, Philip Rivers, and cementing their chemistry heading into the season opener. It would not be shocking to see Allen get some reps with the second team offense. Both Kellen Clemens and Cardale Jones had sub-par games last week. Sharing the field with Allen may help both to regain form.
Control the Aerial Attack
There were some growing pains for the Bolts’ defense in their week-one tilt with the Seahawks. It’s understandable that there would be some kinks in Gus Bradley’s new 4-3 scheme. However, the team is eager to improve against the Saints, this week. New Orleans is known for its prolific offense, led by quarterback Drew Brees. They are always prepared to stretch defenses vertically down the field. The Chargers surrendered the most yards through the air in the NFL, last week, in their opening preseason contest. As a result, the Bolts will look to lock down the Saints high-powered passing attack. It’s possible that we might see a more physical Chargers defense than originally thought.
Stop the potent Saints Running Game
The Chargers, as a whole, struggled against the run versus the Seahawks. The Bolts defense, primarily the second and third units, surrendered four touchdowns to the Seattle ground game. Gus Bradley is known to employ a strong rush defense. He will undoubtedly look for improvement this week. However, that will not be an easy task against New Orleans. Adrian Peterson, Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara provide the Saints with as potent of a rushing attack as you will see in the NFL. The Chargers will surely be challenged by a trio of backs with multiple skill sets. They must stay aggressive at the line and will need the secondary to assist in coverage.
Take Care of the Ball
Anthony Lynn is a firm believer in protecting the football. Frankly, this was not something that the Chargers did particularly well against Seattle, last week. Ball security has been a point of emphasis all offseason, and Lynn was most alarmed by the rate at which his team turned the ball over. Those turnovers had the defense playing catch-up all game, and the Chargers were unable to recover. This week, Lynn worked his team particularly hard on limiting turnovers. Based on their performance in practice, the Chargers look to be much more stingy with the ball this week.
Who will step up in Denzel Perryman’s absence?
In his third season, linebacker Denzel Perryman was thought to be a key cog in the defense this year. After suffering an ankle injury in last week’s preseason opener, he will miss approximately eight weeks after undergoing ankle surgery. Not only was Perryman the starting middle linebacker, but he was also the defensive play-caller. Korey Toomer will most likely see time in Perryman’s spot. He played exceptionally well last year after being signed off the Raiders’ practice squad and should be the favorite to replace Perryman until he returns. However, Nick Dzubnar and Nigel Harris saw first-team reps this past week, as well. That showcase will continue tonight against the Saints. The front-runner will most likely see the majority of playing time in next week’s contest against the cross-town, Los Angeles Rams.
– Mike D’Abate is the Managing Editor for cover32/Chargers and covers the Los Angeles Chargers.