Chargers Visit Raiders on Monday Night Football

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Photo by: Ric Tapia/Icon SMI

For the second time in four years, the Chargers will start their regular season in Oakland, facing the Raiders and playing in the late game on Monday Night Football. In previous seasons throughout the Norv Turner era, they’ve started very slowly and with the head coach and general manager on the proverbial hot seat, a fast start is necessary.

The San Diego Chargers are a one-point favorite on the NFL odds as most people still believe in this team even though they are merely 17-15 over the last two seasons. The talent appears to be in place but they’ve consistently underachieved.

Even though the Chargers have won 13 of their last 20 trips to Oakland, the Raiders have been a thorn in the Chargers side recently as they’ve won three of the last four meetings overall. The games have been won on the line of scrimmage as the Chargers offensive line has declined in recent seasons while the Raiders front four has improved. That offensive line will be a chief concern all season long and it already appears to be an issue.

The Chargers starting left tackle Jared Gaither (back) isn’t practicing right now and there is no timetable for his return. On top of that, center Nick Hardwick missed the team’s final preseason game while recovering from a concussion and although he has returned to practice, concussions can be dicey. The Chargers will also be without starting running back Ryan Mathews for the opener.

As for the Raiders defensive line, Richard Seymour and Tommy Kelly are a handful on the interior, so the Chargers will have to hope their units hold up.

In previous years, the Chargers would have been expected to beat the Raiders but now it’s a coin flip. There’s no question that the Chargers are still significantly more talented than Oakland but San Diego just hasn’t played to their potential in the Turner era. However, maybe being humbled a little bit and not having the spotlight on them to win the AFC West will wake them up. We’ll find out right off the bat in Week 1.

Hester Among Cut Day Casualties

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Photo by: Ric Tapia/NFL.com

Jacob Hester, a special teams captain for San Diego last season will now be looking to bring his services elsewhere. Hester had been featured at fullback as well, finishing the season with 90 yards rushing and 12 receptions including a touchdown. The Chargers felt it was time to move on and revamp a special teams unit that was one of the most inconsistent in the NFL.

Among the other high profile cuts was last year’s starting kicker Nick Novak, defensive end Jacques Cesaire, and offensive tackle Mario Henderson.

Ryan Matthews is still healing from his broken clavicle injury, and is expected to miss the season opener as of right now. If Matthews does not make the start, Ronnie Brown will be the Chargers go to man at running back. Brown had several good seasons with the Miami Dolphins, but has been below average since then. With the Philadelphia Eagles last season Brown only gained 136 yards on 42 carries. San Diego would better serve themselves starting the big, bruiser Jackie Battle, and use Brown as a change of pace and third down back. However, it is well documented that Norv Turner is not most orthodox head coach. Hopefully, the Chargers can get fully healthy before facing the Oakland Raiders next Monday Night.

Chargers Health Becoming an Issue

There is one thing you do not want to see in pre-season other than bad play, and that is injuries. With  left tackle Jared Gaither, left guard Tyronne Green and center Nick Hardwick injured, Norv Turner made the smart decision by not playing Philip Rivers and Antonio Gates on Friday. Generally the starters play a full half in the third pre-season game, but there is no reason to submit your quarterback to Jared Allen in a meaningless game.

San Diego’s defense played well against a scrub filled Vikings offense, who did not play their star running back Adrian Peterson. Peterson is practicing but does not want to expose his knee to hits just yet. With plenty of injuries already, it was not a good site when Melvin Ingram, rookie linebacker, was assisted off the field. Ingram came away with just a thigh bruise and will reportedly be ready for the opener along with running back Ryan Matthews.

Expect no one of importance playing in the Chargers’ final pre-season game. For the psyche of the team alone it could be damaging to witness another player getting injured. I do not think it is going out on a limb that this is finally the make or break season for Norv Turner. He has been on the hot seat for what seems like forever. The one thing that gives you confidence is that although the Broncos added Peyton Manning, the Chargers seem to have the most talented team in the AFC West. It will be up to Norv to make the pieces come together and excel as unit.

Chargers want your Money! Threaten Black-Outs if Tickets go Unsold

After reports surfaced that the NFL’s attendance peaked in 2007 and has since then decreased by 4.5%, the NFL adjusted their rules to lessen the required attendance at games to avoid black-outs. Starting this season, teams only need to fill 85% of the stadiums to avoid local black-outs, which has happened to the Chargers six times in the past two seasons. However, just because the NFL now permits lower attendance, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the teams need to go along with the more lenient rules.

The Chargers have decided to take on the public in what will likely be a PR nightmare for the club. They acknowledged the new rules with a “thanks, but no thanks” attitude. According to Business Insider, this decision is based on the fact that majority of their revenue is generated through ticket sales, and they don’t exactly have the same opportunities as other teams for big revenue making sponsorships. The Chargers are willing to take on this PR nightmare because if ticket sales don’t give them reasons to stay in San Diego, then they know they will be welcomed to L.A. with open arms. Chargers fans, this means you need to buy tickets, or say good bye to the team that has represented San Diego for decades.

Let’s Take a Moment to Honor LaDainian Tomlinson

LaDainian Tomlinson officially announced his retirement from the NFL this past week, and returned to the Chargers to sign a one day contract so that he could retire from the team that he built his legacy with. Tomlinson had some remarkable seasons with the San Diego Chargers, including his most historic season when he set the single season record for touchdowns with 31 back in 2006. Tomlinson played as a member of the Chargers for nine of his eleven seasons in the NFL, and in those nine seasons as a Charger, Tomlinson rushed for over 1,000 yards in 8 of them, and for no less than 10 touchdowns during any of those seasons. Tomlinson is essentially guaranteed a spot in Canton as a result of the pure brilliance and dominance he played with as a member of the Chargers backfield.

The #21 will forever be remembered by Chargers fans as the number associated with one of the most talented running backs to not only play for the Chargers, but to play in the NFL.

Vincent Jackson Unlikely to be Franchise Tagged

According to SportingNews, it is unlikely that Vincent Jackson will receive the franchise tag. This means that on March 13th, Vincent Jackson will be an Unrestricted Free Agent and available for any team, including the San Diego Chargers, to extend an offer to. It had been speculated that if the Chargers were to use their Franchise Tag, it would be to retain their Pro Bowl receiver, Vincent Jackson. If the Chargers lose Jackson, they will have a big hole at the receiver position to fill, and I don’t think management feels that Malcolm Floyd had the ability to be the teams go to receiver for a whole season.

In addition to the news regarding Vincent Jackson, the San Diego Chargers Pro Bowl guard, Kris Dielman, was forced to retire after having another serious concussion during the game against the New York Jets last season. He made the decision so that he can live a healthy life and not risk another serious head injury if he continued to play.