SAN DIEGO-Crash and burn. That’s the sound of the Arizona Cardinals football team after they got a taste of the 2016 San Diego Chargers defense. It’s the preseason and nobody is going to care one way or another about the second game of the preseason once the regular season is popped into full mode.
With that said, there’s still something to be said about preparation. The Chargers’ defense looked like they were in mid-season form after dismantling the Cardinals’ high-powered offense into a bottle of ineptness in a 19-3 victory at Qualcomm Stadium.
There’s a wait-and-see approach to seeing what kind of team the Chargers will have on the field this season, especially on the defensive side of the roster.
Judgment of how well the defense will play once the Chargers kick off their regular-season debut Sept. 10 against the Kansas City Chiefs, can be a bit premature after watching a couple of stagnant possessions in the second game of the preseason.
But going head up against Carson Palmer and the explosive Arizona Cardinals for the first three series of their first preseason home game, the Chargers’ defense look ready for the challenge any offensive unit try to bring to them.
The Chargers made Palmer look like he was still on summer vacation, picking off one of his passes on the Cardinals’ second possession of the game for a pick six, and nearly came up with a second one on the their third series.
The Chargers rendered Palmer (4-8, 37 yards) useless in his three series for the game, roughing him up with stout interior play and putting pressure on him with stunts and blitzes.
It was about as of a vanilla performance by the Cardinals as you can find in the preseason. Nevertheless, the Chargers D had something to do with that.
It was the pressure the Chargers exhibited early that forced Palmer to throw an interception right into the hands of Brandon Flowers, who returned the gift for a 25-yard touchdown for the game’s first score.
The Chargers almost came up with a second pick of Palmer when cornerback Jason Verrett jumped a sideline route.
If at first you don’t succeed, you try and try again. Well, since Verrett wasn’t able to get his hands all the way on Palmer’s misfire, Jahleel Addae made up for it. Jahleel picked off Palmer’s backup, Drew Stanton, on Arizona’s fourth possession of the game for a 61-yard interception return.
Why is this a big deal? It’s a big deal because the Cardinals were one game away from playing in Super Bowl 50. It’s a big deal because the Cardinals had the No. 1 offensive unit in the NFL last year during the regular season. The Cardinals averaged 408 yards per game and put up just over 30 points per game.
The Chargers’ defense played Arizona like they were not in awe of those numbers. It was a good first real test for the Chargers’ secondary. Needless to say with their limited playing time, Flowers, Verrett, Addae and the rest of San Diego defensive backs passed this particular test. It was a good home start.
With safety Eric Weddle no longer roaming the middle of the field, the onus for the Chargers’ secondary is to see how well the rest of the unit will jell together and step up. For now, Flowers, Verrett, Addae and Dwight Lowery appear they have a handle on things.
If they do, this could help the team reverse a trend from last season when the Chargers found themselves on the cusp of winning several close games but lost out on. A couple yards short here, a big play there, and its a good chance the Chargers would have made the postseason had they not fell on their own sword of finishing games.
This is a new season. The expectations are higher. A stadium deal (Los Angeles or in San Diego), one way or another, will have an impact on the team’s future. And considering the upgrades the team made in the offseason, the Chargers have a lot riding on how they play.
The Chargers came out of the gate with the intent of sending a message to Mr. Palmer and the Cardinals from their defense, even without touted rookie Joey Bolsa, who is still in holdout mode. As Palmer found out, the Chargers mean business.
On the first play from scrimmage, the Chargers came close to recording a sack of Palmer, only to see the sly veteran wiggle himself out of harm’s way. He got away that time, but he couldn’t get away from Flowers on the second series when the Chargers’ defensive back hit the Arizona backfield on a blitz and snagged Palmer’s flair pass for his touchdown romp.