Injuries to multiple receivers already in training camp have put the actual intentions of the San Diego Chargers offense in doubt. A team that has been primarily based on the passing game in recent years is now depleted in weapons through the air and will likely need to turn its attention more toward the ground game. Seeing how that looks in the second preseason game of the year against the Chicago Bears will be interesting on Thursday evening.
Now granted, no NFL team is going to show its hand this early in the proceedings, but the Chargers need to prove to not just the fans but themselves that they can get the job done on the ground. Most have been very critical of running back Ryan Mathews for his lack of production in recent seasons, and he will be expected to show signs that he warrants sticking around with a new regime in town this year.
Against a tough front four like the Bears boast, seeing just what kind of damage Mathews and the San Diego offensive line can do will be a fun battle to watch. Obviously the running game is as much based on the performance of the five guys up front as it is the guy carrying the football. The Chargers have struggled in the trenches in recent years, and that all came to a head last season when they allowed quarterback Philip Rivers to be sacked a staggering 49 times. San Diego also averaged just 3.6 yards per carry which ranked second to last in the league a year ago.
Much will hinge on the performance of a new-look offensive line and the overhauled philosophies of the new coaching staff. Head coach Mike McCoy and offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt figure to bring a much more balanced attack to the table this year, and continuing to see that in action will definitely be worth keeping an eye on against the stout Bears defense.
While the trouble at receiver is certainly a contributing factor to why the Chargers will be more run-based in the upcoming season, the team is certainly trying to trend in that direction anyway given the struggles that Rivers has had recently. Having a solid run game to help take some of the pressure off of him will greatly aid his cause and help the team as a whole to be more effective. Look for that strategy to continue to manifest in the second preseason tilt with the Bears on Thursday evening.