SAN DIEGO -- For NFL coaches, exhibitions are about player evaluation, player development and ultimately execution -- getting your team prepared for the regular season.
So San Diego Chargers offensive coordinator Frank Reich understands he has a prime opportunity to see all three of those facets in action when his offense faces one of the best defenses in the league in the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday.
The Chargers are expected to play the starters into the third quarter.
"The advantage of going against the 49ers is that they’re a good football team," Reich said. "And you’re still in preseason mode, so you want to be tested in every area. They have a great front seven, they’ve been a great defense so it’s a good test for us going up against that NFC West. They’ve got the best defenses around, so it will be a good challenge for us offensively."
Reich said generally the Chargers keep the offense basic during preseason so coaches can see players in one-on-one matchups to better evaluate positional battles. But as teams nudge closer to preseason, the Chargers will start to plan specifically for this week’s opponent.
According to Reich, 80 percent of a game plan will be the team’s base plays each week, so it’s trying to find that 20 percent to give his offense an edge against the opposing defense.
"When you really start to game plan specifically, you’re looking to give your players an edge, an advantage," he said. "How can we create a mismatch by changing a formation, by shifting, by using a different personnel group or by countering something we’ve done in previous weeks -- we have a tendency, now we’re going to counter that tendency."
Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers helped Reich evolve as a coach over this past year, with his experience and ability to command an offense.
"That’s one of the great things as a coach," Reich said. "You’re the coach, but when you’re around players like Philip and some of our other players, you realize you’re still learning. And I look at what I’ve learned over the last year just being around him, I think it’s made me a better coach and prepared me for this role I’m in now."
Reich said the expectation for receiver Vincent Brown, who has been out since July 25 with a calf strain, is to jump back into the receiver rotation once he’s healthy.
"Vince is a real pro," Reich said. "And we anticipate that he’s working as hard as he can to get healthy. He had a productive year last year. We had a pretty productive offensive year last year, and Vince was a big part of that.
"He’s a dependable guy who has good feet and runs good routes. And he’s a pro, so he’s the kind of guy that you really don’t even think twice about. When he steps in, you expect him to be there and make the plays that he’s made over the last couple years that he’s been here."