The preseason finale for the 49ers and Chargers takes place tonight at Candlestick Park, with kickoff set for 7:00 p.m. (PDT). To preview the game and the upcoming regular season, Niner Noise teamed up with Chargers fan website Bolt Beat and Editor Ernie Padaon for a Q&A. Below are Ernie’s answers to our questions, and after the jump you will find our answers to his questions. Enjoy and go 49ers!
Q. With Ryan Mathews hurt in the preseason and his well-documented fumble problems, what are the expectations from Chargers fans for him this season?
A. There was optimism to start the season. He came into camp in great shape and looked the part, but then on his first carry he goes down with an injury. Now, we just wait and hope that he changes as a player. The expectations have dropped back down until we can see him on the field again.
Q. Are the Chargers the team to beat in the AFC West? What will it take for them to reclaim the AFC West title?
A. Nobody thinks it can be done, except for fans of the team and the people in the locker room. We need some good health and we need Philip Rivers to play like the player he was a couple of seasons ago. He is the key to the offense and we need him destroying defenses again.
Q. Can Melvin Ingram win defensive rookie of the year?
A. Yes he can. There are a lot of comparisons to Shawne Merriman out here. Not the injured Merriman, but the one that was juiced up and destroying quarterbacks. Not saying the Ingram is juiced up, but his potential impact is high for the defense.
Q. Other than Ingram, are there any young players that have really surprised Charges fans so far in the preseason that we should be watching for?
A. DE Kendall Reyes has a motor and knows how to get to the quarterback. He will be one to watch. Undrafted free agent LT Mike Harris will be starting the game and has won a job. He is not going to be an All-Pro, but he could be starting a few games for us while Jared Gaither is sidelined with an injury.
Q. Can Phillip Rivers bounce back to his old Pro Bowl form after throwing 20 interceptions last season?
A. That is the question that we all have out here. We all hope so, otherwise we are in for a long, long season.
Niner Noise’s answers after the jump: