Sports Out West

Seahawks vs. Chargers, NFL preseason Game 1: 5 questions for the Bolts

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The San Diego Chargers will hit the field for the first time in 2013 for their preseason opener against the Seattle Seahawks on Thursday night at Qualcomm Stadium with a number of questions after another disappointing year in which they failed to make the postseason. Although teams don’t generally show much of anything before the games really count, there are some important things to learn from the exhibition season. 

As the Bolts enter a new era under a new head coach and general manager in Mike McCoy and Tom Telesco, much of the talk is about expectation and how competitive they will be. That all depends on what they can build over the remainder of the offseason and have carry over into real games. The Seahawks are deep, and they are among the favorites to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl, so despite the circumstances, Thursday’s action should prove to be a good barometer of where they’re at. 

Here are five questions that may have answers when its all said and done: 

Will the protection improve?

Defenses are notably vanilla during the preseason, so it will be hard to gauge whether or not the offensive line that struggled to protect quarterback Philip Rivers over the last few seasons will improve. Veterans King Dunlap and Max Starks will be called upon to solidify a line that was in a state of flux for much of the season in 2012. 

Nick Hardwick will have a tough task getting all of the pieces to work together, and his leadership skills will be put to the test as the Bolts will depend heavily on this unit to help the offense move the chains. They’ll probably see limited action, but this should be the first thing that any Chargers stakeholder should pay attention to on the first snap Thursday. 

Will Robert Meachem be the odd man out? 

The veteran wide receiver was brought in by ousted general manager A.J. Smith for a hefty price tag to be Rivers’ top target, but last season, he was anything but. So far in training camp, Eddie Royal, Keenan Allen and Danario Alexander each have looked better at times, and they figure to be in the mix to start opposite Malcom Floyd

It will be interesting to see who gets the nod on Thursday and where Meachem plays the majority of his snaps. He isn’t necessarily Telesco’s guy, so where he fits in with so much depth at the position is worth following. 

Can Cam Thomas be the guy? 

After starting three games last year, Thomas will get a look this season as the starting nose tackle after playing sparingly last season.  In a 3-4 defense, he will be heavily relied upon to create lanes and clog the middle for the inside linebackers, where the Chargers have some young talent. They’ll all have to be on the same page as they enter another season under John Pagano as coordinator. 

What will Manti Te’o look like? 

It’s been a great thing for Manti Te’O to end up in the relatively small media market in San Diego where he can focus on football. Now, he’ll get national attention for being what made him a high draft choice and one of the best players in all of college football last year by taking the field once again. If he manages to make a big play in limited action against Seattle, it will generate plenty of buzz for all the right reasons. 

How will Danny Woodhead fit in? 

This has been a topic of great discussion around San Diego, and all eyes will be on how the newest running back fits in to a new offensive system and how they plan to use him. Again, we’re only talking about the first exhibition game here, so don’t expect the Bolts to show much on either side of the ball in terms of schematics.

What they may do, however, is put Woodhead in a few different situations on the field where most running backs don’t normally end up a la Darren Sproles. That could make for an entertaining few touches if he has his number called and hint at how the Bolts will keep defenses honest by making him a jack-of-all-trades. 

Photo Credit: Jake Roth | USA TODAY Sports

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Michael C. Jones is the managing editor and founder of Sports Out West and a Southern California-based sports journalist. His work is also regularly featured on Yahoo! Sports and SB Nation. You can catch up with him on Twitter: @MikeJonesTweets.