The Arizona Cardinals host the Los Angeles Chargers in the first preseason game for both squads on Thursday night at 10pmET from State Farm Stadium. Last season, the Cardinals won this game in preseason, 24-17 in Week 1. These teams also met in the regular season with the Chargers getting revenge, 45-10 at home on Nov. 25.
Time is running out
Philip Rivers is 37 and his 13th season at the helm as the quarterback for the Chargers. At some point, he’s going to slow down. Well, he can’t get any slower in terms of footspeed but at some point, that arm will wear down. At least not yet. He led Los Angeles to a 12-4 record last season and a playoff road win over Baltimore, before falling at New England the next week. He threw for 32 touchdown passes last season and completed 68 percent of his passes. They also return Austin Ekeler, who rushed for 554 yards on 5.2 yards per carry to give Melvin Gordon (885 yds, 10 TDs) a spell.
Now the Chargers have other concerns and it starts with Gordon, who is holding out after the team passed on a $10 million a year offer. Ekeler is more of a change-of-pace back and that would mean more time for Justin Jackson (206yds) if they trade him.
Defensively, the Chargers ranked ninth overall last season and should be a top 10 defense again, if not a top five one thanks to Joey Bosa (5.5 sacks), Melvin Ingram (7.5 sacks) and one of the best young safeties in the game in Derwin James (105 tackles).
Coach Anthony Lynn detailed what he looks for in the first preseason game.
“You just want guys executing and doing what they’re told to do and you can evaluate that,” Lynn said. “If it’s scheme, then that falls back on coaches. We don’t have time to scheme preseason and most people don’t, to be honest with you. We want guys going out, executing and playing fast and physical and we can evaluate that.”
Changes at the top and at QB
While the Chargers have a solid offense, defense and head coach (Anthony Lynn), the Cards are a mess. They had no patience with head coach Steve Wilks after just one season and decided to go to the college ranks to get Kliff Kingsbury, he of the 35-40 career record at Texas Tech. Wilks is gone along with last year’s first-round pick, Josh Rosen, who is now in Miami. Enter baseball phenom and speedy quarterback Kyler Murray, who will try and run Kingsbury’s Air Raid offense. Murray is just 5-10 but with a strong arm and tremendous speed and elusiveness.
Of course, Murray needs weapons and while Larry Fitzgerald is a future Hall of Famer at wide receiver, he’s also 35 and will turn 36 when the regular season begins. He did catch 69 passes for 736 yards last season to lead the team. David Johnson (940 yards rushing) also returns after a subpar season. He’ll be more involved in the passing game this season, which should help. After Murray, it’s all about the offensive line, which was horrific last season. They were forced to use 10 different line combinations last season and should improve some thanks to the additions of veteran right tackle Marcus Gilbert guard J.R. Sweezy.
Defensively, the Cards were in the middle of the pack in most categories and that’s not bad considering they were on the field a ton last season. They did rank fourth in the NFL against the pass, yielding 203.9 yards per game. New defensive coordinator Vance Joseph brings back the 3-4 defense led by OLB Chandler Jones (13.5 sacks) and cornerbacks Robert Alford (from Atlanta) and Patrick Peterson. However, Peterson will miss the first six games due to a suspension for PEDs.