Here are some thoughts from the Chargers’ 24-17 loss to Seattle in their preseason opener on Thursday night on ESPN:
The first-team offense is nice: The expectations in this post-lockout world have been that established offenses would be further along than teams with major change. The Chargers are virtually the same offense as they were last season.
The first-team offense looked like it’s been working daily all year. Quarterback Philip Rivers led San Diego on an impressive 10-play, 89-yard drive in five minutes, 33 seconds. Rivers completed 5 of 6 passes for 87 yards and a touchdown pass. The Chargers cruised down the field as if it were November.
The fact that Rivers led more than 40 players in four-times-as-week workouts beginning in March makes it’s easy to understand why the first-team offense clicked so well.
Happiness on special teams: The Chargers’ area that needs the most improvement is the special teams. It got off to a terrific start in 2011 under new coach Rich Bisaccia. Bryan Walters energized his team with a 103-yard kickoff return in the third quarter. Even though it is just the preseason, the entire stadium erupted and Bisaccia acted like he just won the Super Bowl. You can’t blame the Chargers for reveling in the moment. After a year in which special-teams misery cost them a playoff spot, this was a welcome moment.
VJ-Rivers combination is back: The highlight of that first drive was a 48-yard pass from Rivers to No. 1 receiver Vincent Jackson, who held out for much of last season. Prior to last season, Rivers and Jackson developed a tremendous chemistry and it is clear the combination is back in form. This will make San Diego’s offense, which was ranked No. 1 in the NFL last year, even more dangerous.
Mathews has nice hands: Rivers told me this week when I visited the Chargers’ camp that he was impressed by how second-year running back Ryan Mathews was coming around in the passing game. Mathews made a nifty 9-yard catch on that first drive. If he can continue to make strides, Mathews can help make up for what is lost in the passing game with the departure of free-agent Darren Sproles, who is now in New Orleans.
New coordinator, same nasty D: This was the debut of new defensive coordinator Greg Manusky. He replaces Ron Rivera, who is now the head coach in Carolina and who led the Chargers to the NFL's No. 1-ranked defense last season. I heard good things about Manusky, and Thursday, his defense came out and looked great. The Chargers’ defense was swarming and aggressive -- just the way Manusky likes it. Seattle didn’t pass midfield in the first half. It seems like this defense is still in good hands.
Liuget is explosive: A big part of the new defense is first-round pick Corey Liuget. He was drafted for his speed and his ability to quickly get into the backfield. The Illinois product displayed that Thursday night, and the Chargers have to be thrilled. He is didn’t have an offseason program, signed late and missed some camp time. Yet, he looks ready to go.
Todman looks good: The Chargers have been thrilled about sixth-round running back Jordan Todman. They thought they got a steal when he lasted until the sixth round and they loved the way he worked in camp. The hope is he can replace Sproles. After his first preseason game, that hope shouldn’t change. Todman looked good Thursday. He had 30 yards rushing on six totes and he added 21 yards on four catches.
Third stringers not so much: The Seahawks outscored San Diego 24-7 in the second half. It was a tough game for San Diego undrafted rookie quarterback Scott Tolzien, who has been impressive in camp. He led a good drive at the end of the game that fell just short of the end zone. Overall, this was a good night for San Diego, just not for many of players who likely won’t make the roster.