The 49ers travel down to San Diego Thursday night to finish out the preseason against the Chargers. Normally starters don’t play much if at all in the final preseason game. Usually coaches are trying to decide which players to keep on the roster and which ones to cut. This will be the case for the 49ers but you might see the first-team offense and defense play more than one series with the Jim Harbaugh’s substitution debacle last week. Finishing off the preseason in San Diego has become a tradition and we will get our first glimpse of Takeo Spikes, Travis LaBoy and Greg Manusky who were all with the 49ers last season. Niner Noise hooked up with Ernie Padaon, Editor of Bolt Beat.com, for this week’s getting to know the enemy. Below are the answers from Ernie and you can check out my answers over at Bolt Beat. Enjoy!
Q. The Chargers are notorious for starting the season slow and then flipping on the switch in the second-half of the season. Can the Chargers afford to start the season with a 2-3 record and still be able to win the division?
They have shown that they can pull it off, but after missing the playoffs last season, the fans will not let the team off the hook. We will all probably lose our minds and a bunch of the bandwagoners will jump off real fast.
Q. Special teams were the Achilles heel for the Chargers last season. How have they improved their ST unit and will it keep them from making the playoffs?
We hired special teams coach Rich Bisaccia and it has been an emphasis for our team the whole offseason. Even our draft had a special teams feel to it. Some of the people on the roster will make the team specifically for their skills on special teams. We will definitely be improved and that won’t prevent us from the playoffs this year.
Q. Running back Ryan Mathews was a disappoint last season as the Chargers traded up 16 draft spots to draft him, yet undrafted RB Mike Tolbert had more rushing yards and touchdowns. With Darren Sproles gone how important is it for Mathews to have better production than last season’s 678 rushing yards and seven touchdowns?
We need him to do all kinds of things. He needs to make sure that he doesn’t put that ball on the floor and becomes a reliable back for the team. He needs to make sure that he can pick up the blocks on blitzes as well. He needs to stay healthy. We know that he can break off BIG runs, but he needs to make sure he can stay on the field by doing those other little things.
Q. Norv Turner is entering his fifth season with the Chargers. With the Bolts missing the playoffs last season is this a do or die season for Turner? How far do the Chargers have to advance in the playoffs for Turner to keep his job?
I wish I could say it was do or die with him, but I really don’t see him getting cut loose unless this season is a disaster. Missing the playoffs again would definitely make the seat pretty hot
Q. How important is it to have WR Vincent Jackson back with the Chargers and for a full season after he missed 10 games because of his contract?
Having VJ on the roster from the start of the season will be HUGE. He is a playmaker and finds ways to get in the end zone. He is also one of Philip’s favorite targets!
Q. The Chargers hired former 49ers defensive coordinator Greg Manusky to replace Ron Rivera and signed away from the Niners linebackers Travis LaBoy and Takeo Spikes. What are the expectations from Charger fans for Manusky and the defense? Can Manusky continue the job Rivera started when he was defensive coordinator for the Chargers?
We expect him to bring pressure on the quarterback and to stop the run. He has been given a pretty good crop of talent on the defensive side of the ball, so we expect him that side of the ball to make plays. Ron Rivera brought us a number 1 ranked defense, but there were a lot of things that still could have been improved on that side of the ball. We hope that the new linebackers and Manusky help.
Q. Which Charger player is flying under the radar right now but will have a big season that no one expects?
It’s tough to pick one player, since there are a lot of expectations on this team. Bob Sanders may be a guy to watch out for. Nobody really expects him to make it through the season healthy, but if he does… WATCH OUT!