NFL Nation: 2011 preseason seahawks-chargers

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.

Observation deck: Seahawks-Chargers

August, 11, 2011
8/11/11
11:11
PM ET
Observations from the Seattle Seahawks 24-17 victory over the San Diego Chargers in a preseason game Thursday night:

  • Losing left tackle Russell Okung to an ankle injury on the fifth offensive play ruined the night for Seattle. X-rays were negative, the team said, and it was not immediately clear how long Okung would be sidelined.
  • The Seahawks need Okung. Building up the offensive line has been Pete Carroll's top priority as the Seahawks' head coach. Carroll has sought highly acclaimed line coaches to lead the unit, going with Alex Gibbs and now Tom Cable. The team has used two first-round picks on tackles in Carroll's two seasons as coach, most recently taking a right tackle (James Carpenter) over a quarterback (Andy Dalton) in an effort to build from the inside out.
  • The offensive line struggled badly last season, so even modest success in an exhibition game counts for something. Carpenter had some rough moments in pass protection, but he helped clear the way for a third-and-1 conversion early. He played deep into the third quarter, as did right guard John Moffitt. The experience was valuable for both rookies.
  • Rookie linebacker K.J. Wright recognized a screen play quickly and tracked down the receiver for a decisive tackle. Two other Seattle rookie draft choices, linebacker Malcolm Smith and safety Mark LeGree, provided bit hits. Smith chased on his play and finished strong. LeGree broke up a pass with his hit. LeGree also secured Seattle's victory by breaking up a pass in the end zone on the Chargers' final play.
  • Two more rookie notes: Defensive end Pep Levingston batted down a pass on third-and-long, while undrafted free agent Jeron Johnson broke up a pass. Johnson also made a third-down tackle in the backfield off the left edge. And he combined with LeGree on the Chargers' final play.
  • Seattle’s quarterbacks were under siege early and didn’t have many opportunities to make big plays. Tarvaris Jackson moved effectively, as anticipated, and scrambled for a first down up the middle amid heavy traffic. But the offense had no rhythm. That was expected. Jackson and other players with new contracts began practicing only one week ago.
  • Backup Charlie Whitehurst gained momentum as the third quarter progressed. His strike to tight end Dominique Byrd for a 29-yard gain stood out. What did we learn about him Thursday night? Not much. Whitehurst has produced at times during past exhibition games (214 yards, 107.0 rating in the 2010 opener). He completed 14 of 20 passes for 115 yards in this one, with no touchdowns, interceptions or sacks. His rating was 84.4.
  • Third-string quarterback Josh Portis built upon the positive impression he made early in training camp. He showed a good feel for the game, moving away from pressure and finding tight end Anthony McCoy for a 6-yard touchdown. This performance should build confidence for Portis. Coaches and teammates were enthusiastic in their support for him following the touchdown pass.

Okung's status is the note that matters most stemming from this game. If Okung misses an extended period, the line will have a harder time against teams with strong right defensive ends (Seattle faces Justin Smith and the San Francisco 49ers on the road in Week 1). The team might also have to keep a tight end near the formation for blocking help.

SPONSORED HEADLINES