The LA Chargers kicked off their 2018 season last Sunday, August 11 on the road at the Arizona Cardinals falling 17 to 24. Starters Philip Rivers, Keenan Allen, and Joey Bosa didn’t suit up for the contest. Even with key absences, there were important takeaways from the matchup heading into 2018.
LA Chargers Positives
Getting the start for Rivers, Cardale Jones took most of the 1st half snaps. The most noticeable contribution to the offense was his mobility. Jones showed that he could extend plays with his legs and still reset to deliver the ball; a stark contrast to Rivers’ limited pocket maneuverability.
Geno Smith showed more accuracy than Jones finishing with 218 passing yards, a spectacular TD pass, and an interception that was deflected in the air by a missed ball. In the next few preseason games, Smith may move up the depth chart to become Rivers’ primary backup.
Melvin Gordon’s Elusiveness
Melvin Gordon showed that he could be more than a plodding between-the-tackles bruiser. The knock on Gordon has been his low yards per carry average. With improvements on the offensive line including the addition of Center Maurkice Pouncey, Gordon looks like he will be an even more valuable weapon in 2018.
Austin Ekeler‘s Versatility
Usually seen as a situational back, Austin Ekeler looks like he can contribute beyond passing downs and gimmick plays if Gordon were to miss any significant time. Ekeler’s 39-yard catch and run for a TD are beginning to look routine.
LA Chargers Negatives
Cardale Jones’ Accuracy
Philip Rivers has been an ironman for the Chargers at QB. If he went down, Jones would need to improve his passing accuracy for the Bolts to save the season. Many of his passes were uncatchable including low balls. It’s easy to love Jones’ mobility but it won’t mean anything if he wastes plays with bad passes.
No Answer At Tight End
After releasing Antonio Gates and losing Hunter Henry for the season with a torn ACL, the Chargers have no reliable Tight End. Virgil Green seemed to be atop the depth chart and looked noticeably ineffective, simply due to the fact that he is a primary blocking TE. Either Antonio Gates will have to resign at age 38 or one of the young camp TEs will have to make his case to win the starting job.
Questionable Run Defense
The first team unit didn’t do much to inspire progress in stopping the run. David Johnson seemed to be able to move the ball at will. Chase Edmonds had his way with the Charger defense as well, including a 4th-and-goal TD by Edmonds that should have been stopped.
Without many of their star players suiting up for any action, it is difficult to make any true assumptions after week one of the preseason, but mistakes will certainly be addressed, and hopefully corrected before the week 2 game.