Tale Of The Tape: San Diego Chargers At Arizona Cardinals
- QuarterbackPhilip Rivers went into the 2013 season with questions about his performance hanging over his head, but he answered those questions with ease last year as he enjoyed a brilliant year. Rivers and Chargers head coach Mike McCoy developed an excellent rapport, and that manifested itself in Rivers’ performance. He completed 69.5 percent of his passes with a 32-11 TD-interception ratio last year.The acquisition of Carson Palmer has proven to be an excellent move for the Cardinals. He has given them steady production at the quarterback position, and that has increased the overall confidence of the team. Palmer threw for a career-high 4,274 yards and completed 63.3 percent of his passes last year while throwing 24 touchdowns and 22 interceptions.
- OffenseThere is a quiet confidence surrounding the Chargers this season because McCoy knows he has a well-rounded offensive team ready to attack this year. Ryan Mathews is a relatively unheralded running back who gained 1,255 yards last year. Keenan Allen is a solid receiver and he has a chance to develop into a star after catching 71-1,046-8 last year. Antonio Gates remains a solid tight end.The Cardinals go into the season with Andre Ellington as their starting running back. He gained 652 yards last year and he is merely an average player. The Cardinals want to attack downfield with wideouts Larry Fitzgerald and Malcolm Floyd. Fitzgerald caught 82-954-10 and is a superb technician who can get open when the game is on the line.
- DefenseThe Chargers are a work in progress on defense after struggling in 2013 with the 30th-ranked pass defense in the league. If the Chargers are going to improve in this area, they need to get more production from their pass rush. Defensive end Cory Liuget had 5.5. sacks last year, and needs to build off that figure. Free safety Eric Weddle is a big hitter who had 115 tackles last year.The Cardinals had a sensational defensive season in 2013, and that figures to be the strength of the team once again. Even though Darnell Dockett is out for the season and Daryl Washington is suspended, the presence of defensive end Calais Campbell and cornerback Patrick Peterson should make the defense quite formidable. Tyrann Mathieu should be ready to have a huge year at free safety.
- Special TeamsThe Chargers have had a solid kicking game for several seasons, and that is not likely to change this year. Placekicker Nick Novak made 34-of-37 FG attempts last year, and he gives the Chargers a chance to score anytime they get inside the opponents’ 40. Punter Mike Scifres is a solid directional kicker.The Cardinals have done well with Jay Feely at the placekicker position, but they decided to get rid of their veteran kicker and replace him with rookie Chandler Catanzaro. Dave Zastudil is an excellent directional punter who put 35 of his kicks inside the opponents’ 20 last year.
The Chargers appear to be one of the more overlooked teams in the league, but they have an excellent quarterback and a balanced offense. While they have a difficult road assignment, that should be enough to get them through this. -Steve Silverman, CBS Local Sports