The San Diego Chargers and Arizona Cardinals began preseason in similar positions, with new head coaches, looking to improve their fortunes from a year ago. Both teams improved their offensive lines through the draft and are leaning on successful veteran quarterbacks in Philip Rivers and Carson Palmer, both of whom haven't had postseason success.
With two preseason games in the books these teams went in divergent directions. The Cardinals are 2-0, boasting a draft class that already looks excellent. Meanwhile the Chargers have been struck down by injury, now relying on their rookies to get them through -- particularly at wide receiver.
Meet the San Diego Chargers
Philip Rivers can't catch a break. Just as the Chargers moved forward with a new-look offense under the watch of head coach Mike McCoy, injury has struck San Diego's depth. As a result they're leaning on tight end Lardarius Webb this preseason, hoping rookie Keenan Allen can improve quickly.
The other major concern for the team is their pass rush. The Chargers have only gotten three sacks in two games, allowed eight. Losing second-year pass rusher Melvin Ingram hurt, but nobody has taken steps forward to fill his absence.
Meet the Arizona Cardinals
Tyrann Mathieu, known universally as Honey Badger, was viewed as one of the biggest risks in the NFL draft. Despite his small size, Mathieu is making a big impact. He's showed along the way that he has matured since being kicked off LSU for drug related issues. The rookie defensive back is playing a role on special teams, leads the team in tackles and has added a sack. This game will be an excellent chance to see how he'll operate in the Cardinals' base defense.
The issue for Arizona has been scoring. They're ninth in the league in offensive yards, while being 24th in scoring. For the Cardinals to convert this offensive production into game-day success they need to find a way to get the ball into the end zone.
Local Takes: Arizona Cardinals
Jess Root from Revenge of the Birds says there will be plenty of chances to see the Cardinals' first team.
"Bruce Arians said last weekend that the starters would play into the third quarter. How much? On Thursday he said it would be one series.
He said that he wanted the team to be able to go into halftime and make their adjustments like they would during the regular season and then implement them after the half."
Local Takes: San Diego Chargers
John Gennaro of Bolts from the Blue sees the benefit in have two excellent safeties and thinks Jairus Byrd could bring something to the table.
"Does the move make financial sense? Probably not. Telesco probably would scoff at the asking price too, which would undoubtedly be a high pick or two in addition to a contract extension. That being said (and I'm allowing myself to be a fan instead of an impartial observer on this one), go get Jairus Byrd! It'd be worth it just to watch how great him and Weddle could be together."
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I would actually pay money to see McCoy start answering injury questions with "That's football, Marty." #chargers— Bolts From The Blue (@BFTB_Chargers) August 21, 2013
The Arizona Cardinals are getting the home field bump, and then some. OddsShark has them favored by 4 points.
The San Diego Chargers heads home to face the San Francisco 49ers on Aug. 29.
The Arizona Cardinals are finished at home this preseason, as they visit the Denver Broncos on Aug. 29.