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Keys to the Game: Chargers vs. Cardinals

Posted Aug 28, 2014

Here are your keys to the game between the Chargers and Cardinals.

Here are five keys to the game heading into Thursday’s preseason finale between the San Diego Chargers and the Arizona Cardinals:

1. “Show Us What You Can Do” – You play to win every time you step on the field, but while it is the last preseason game and the outcome doesn’t count on the regular season record, it poses a much different scenario of  what’s on the line when the Bolts take the field.  At least 22 players will don a Chargers jersey for the final time tonight as the team must get down to 53 by Saturday.  As such, Head Coach Mike McCoy is looking forward to watching his players compete and prove they deserve a spot on the final roster: 

“It’s a great opportunity for a number of players to show us for the last time what they can do.  It’s an opportunity of a lifetime for the players.  For some players this might be the last game they ever play of football.  It’s the bad part of the business but you never know when it’s going to be your last game.  There are going to be guys on our 53, guys on our practice squad and guys claimed on other teams, so it’s another opportunity for players to go out there and (show) what you can do.”

2. Convert on Third Down – One of the most disappointing aspects on offense from Sunday’s game up in the Bay was the team’s inability to convert on third down.  They struggled in that department, converting just 4-of-14 (29%).  Success on third down was imperative to the offense in 2013 as they led the league.  Antonio Gates has made a living converting first downs, so he knows the importance of improving in that regard:

“I think that we need to convert more on the third downs for the twos and threes. I am speaking like I am a coach or something and I am not a coach, I am a player. So obviously, I can only control what I can control. I try to go out and do what I can do to help us win. My job is not to criticize or look at anyone else’s play and say this is what they need to do. That is why they pay the coaches. For me, it is just to go out and do the things that I can do to help us win.”

3. Learn the Opponent
– The Chargers are not only playing to get the win tonight, but are hoping to learn tendencies that will help them when they square off again, against the same opponent, in 11 days.  The Monday night opener on Sept. 8 is of far more importance.  The team is embracing the oddity in the schedule, and Donald Brown stressed the importance of gaining a better understanding of the Cardinals:

“Whoever your opponent is, you just go out and play them.  But it definitely is a unique situation.  There is obviously going to be a lot of carry over, and we’ll have extra days to analyze them and focus in on them which will be nice.”

4. Show Consistency – Every single one of the players taking the field at Qualcomm Stadium has flashed talent and skill over their tenure with the Chargers.  That is why they are in the fortunate position to earn a spot on the 53-man roster.  However, the ability to be a consistent performer is of the utmost importance.  Take the case of Brad Sorensen.  The coaches have been impressed by him over the years, but noted he had an up-and-down game last week.  When asked about Sorensen, Offensive Coordinator Frank Reich explained how he represents a number of players who will suit up tonight:

“I think Brad’s had a very good two years here.  As a former quarterback myself, I know what it’s like to struggle in a preseason game.  But I look at Brad’s whole body of work, and he’s been solid.  He had a really good preseason last year and was good in our first two games this year.  Then you even look at this last game, it didn’t go so well but there are always factors.  You’ve got to look at what’s going on in the meeting room (and) how is he picking things up there.  He’s been solid and improving in my mind steadily since he’s been here. ”

5. Tough Decisions on the Horizon–
As noted above, tonight provides one last chance to impress coaches and the personnel department. When the dust settles, key decision makers will meet to make some tough choices.  Everyone in that room has a say in the matter, but ultimately McCoy and General Manager Tom Telesco will get the final word.  According to McCoy, the best way to force yourself into that conversation is to make it a tough decision by showing your merits. But in the end, it is a group decision:

“It’s our decision.  I’ll say this; (Defensive Coordinator) John Pagano wants 53 defensive plays.   Frank wants 53 offensive players.  If you ask (Special Teams Coordinator) Kevin Spencer, he wants this many players.  We’re all greedy as coaches.  We all want more.  So there are some interesting discussions, then it’s my job and (General Manager) Tom (Telesco’s) job to make those decisions.  But we’re doing it as a whole we put all our minds together and then someone’s got to make the final decision.”

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