- Bill Williamson, ESPN Staff Writer
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There’s no getting around it: San Diego’s first-team offense was awful.
It’s the preseason and I have never been an August alarmist, but the problems that plagued San Diego in Chicago are the same issues that sabotaged the team in recent years. They were the reason why new head coach Mike McCoy was brought in.
San Diego looked good offensively against Seattle last week, but it was a disaster on Thursday night. The first-unit offense committed four turnovers (backup quarterback Charlie Whitehurst was on the field with the rest of the starters for one of them).
Quarterback Philip Rivers threw an interception and lost a fumble on a sack. Turnovers have been a problem for Rivers the past two years. He also hasn’t gotten much protection. That was an issue again Thursday night as Rivers was sacked three times in three series. That’s ridiculous, but it’s nothing new.
According to ESPN Stats & Information, Rivers was sacked every 11.9 times he dropped back to pass last season -- the worst rate in the NFL. The pace was much higher in this game. It has to get better or the Chargers and Rivers will falter regardless of the good work McCoy and his staff are doing.
Max Starks started over King Dunlap at left tackle. Dunlap started last week and has been the starter most of camp. Dunlap played the second drive and is considered the favorite to win the job. Starks was beaten badly on a play Rivers was sacked and where he lost a fumble on the third drive. The performance could go a long way in giving Dunlap the job.
Guard D.J. Fluker, the No. 11 overall draft pick this year, has struggled in pass protection, but has been awesome in run-blocking. That’s the book on him as a rookie.
Running back Ryan Mathews looked good. He ran hard and had 45 yards on nine touches. He will be fine if he can finally stay healthy.
Whitehurst had a solid night. He completed 9 of 13 passes for 97 yards and two touchdowns. He improved from last week and his performance in Chicago quieted talk that he could be replaced as the backup.
Rookie quarterback Brad Sorensen was also good as he went 8-for-14 for 127 yards and a touchdown.
The first-team San Diego defense was decent, considering all the turnovers it had to deal with. The unit has some holes, but it’s further along than the offense at this point.
The Chargers have been beyond shaky on special teams in two preseason games. They were alarmingly bad in all phases at Chicago. McCoy believes the team will be better in the regular season because of injuries. Guys are playing who won’t be in a few weeks.
Rookie receiver Keenan Allen's chances of winning the punt-returning job decreased when he badly muffed a punt and it was recovered by Chicago. Can’t do that, rookie.
Running back Danny Woodhead did not play as he comes back from an undisclosed injury. He is expected to make his preseason debut next week.
Second-year tight end Ladarius Green had a touchdown catch for the second straight game and he totaled five catches for 78 yards for the night. He is showing he may be a factor this season.
Former Green Bay linebacker D.J. Smith continued to look good for San Diego.
Key backup cornerback Johnny Patrick was shaken up.
Undrafted rookie safety Jahleel Addae continued to make a push to make the 53-man roster.
Detroit is reportedly signing defensive tackle Justin Bannan. The Chargers had interest in him earlier this summer and could still use depth on the defensive line.