AFC West: Shannon Eastin


A look at the Chargers’ 21-13 home win Thursday night:

As Philip Rivers’ said in a sideline interview with ESPN, the Chargers’ offense was good and bad. The good was a 23-yard dart Rivers hit tight end Antonio Gates with for a touchdown. Gates is healthy for the first time since 2007 and he has been outstanding in training camp. That was a good sign.

However, Rivers made a mistake later when Green Bay cornerback Tramon Williams jumped in front of a pass intended for new San Diego receiver Robert Meachem deep in Green Bay territory. It was probably just a matter of timing for Rivers and Meachem. However, Rivers threw 20 interceptions last season and he must improve in that area.
  • The San Diego first-team defense looked strong, which is a great sign. It did allow Green Bay to covert on third down on its first two attempts. San Diego was last in the NFL in third-down defense last year. But overall, San Diego’s first unit looked terrific and aggressive on defense. Overall, the Chargers’ first-team offense and defenses looked further along than the Packers' did.
  • First-round pick Melvin Ingram played extensively. He looked fabulous. If San Diego wasn’t shaking with delight over the prospect of having Ingram before Thursday, it should be now. Boy, is he explosive. He forced Aaron Rodgers into throwing an interception and he was all over the place.
  • Undrafted free-agent quarterback Jarrett Lee looked really good for San Diego and outplayed Green Bay backup Graham Harrell much of the night. He made some big league throws. I’d be shocked if Lee doesn’t make the 53-man roster as the No. 3 quarterback behind Rivers and Charlie Whitehurst, who is still recovering from a knee injury.
  • Reserve receiver Vincent Brown worked hard for the final 7 yards of a 27-yard touchdown pass from Lee, and Brown had a good night overall. I think he will be a key contributor in the season.
  • Running back Ryan Mathews hurt his shoulder and was taken out. There is no word on the status. It is not a surprise that he was taken out after the injury even if it was minor. Update: the San Diego Union-Tribune reports Mathews suffered a broken clavicle. He will be out four to six weeks. I will have more this later.
  • Kicker Nick Novak missed a 35-yard field goal attempt, further making Nate Kaeding the favorite to win the kicking competition. Novak replaced Kaeding last season when Kaeding tore his ACL on the opening kickoff of the season.
  • Receiver/returner Michael Spurlock is making a big push to make the 53-man roster. He had two catches for 52 yards.
  • Undrafted free-agent left tackle Mike Harris started for the injured Jared Gaither. Harris had a nice night, which is commendable for an undrafted rookie who started his first preseason game at a premium position. Harris should easily make the team.
  • It was a cool scene to see some San Diego players greet replacement official Shannon Eastin prior to the game. She is the first woman to officiate an NFL game.

Health betrays Marcus McNeill

August, 9, 2012
8/09/12
7:15
PM ET
Sadly, we could see this coming.

ESPN’s Adam Schefter is reporting that former San Diego left tackle Marcus McNeill is being forced to retire at the age of 29 because of a neck injury. The injury prematurely ended his 2011 season and it was the reason why the Chargers moved away from him in the offseason. The neck has never improved enough to allow McNeill to play again.

He was a talented player who appeared to be on his way to a long career, but in recent seasons his health betrayed him. McNeill is a smart, likeable guy. Best wishes to him and his family as he moves onto the next stage of his life.

In other AFC West notes:

Here is a look at Shannon Eastin. Thursday night, she will become the first woman ever to officiate an NFL game when the Chargers host the Packers. The NFL is using replacement officials because it is in a labor dispute with the permanent officials.

Denver football leader John Elway tells NFL.com what he thinks it will take new Denver quarterback Peyton Manning to be remembered as the greatest quarterback of all time.

Kansas City general manager Scott Pioli shares a strong bond with Arizona running back Ryan Williams.
History will be made Thursday night in San Diego.

A woman will be part of the officiating crew for the Chargers’ preseason opener against visiting Green Bay. It will be the first time a woman has officiated an NFL game. The game will be telecast on ESPN.

The league confirmed to ESPN.com’s Kevin Seifert on Monday that Shannon Eastin will be part of the replacement officiating crew. The NFL is using replacement officiating crews in the preseason, because the permanent officials are in a labor dispute with the league.

Eastin has been a referee in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference.

While I think the lockout is a potentially ugly situation for the game, the opportunity for Eastin on Thursday is terrific for the game, and it adds a dose of intrigue to an otherwise lackluster first preseason game for the Chargers.

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