The wait is finally over. Come 5:00 p.m. on Sunday, Chargers football is back.
Although the first-team offense and defense will see some playing time, the first preseason game is the best barometer for coordinators Ken Whisenhunt and Gus Bradley to gauge some of the newest Chargers. After all, it's the first time many players will physically see game-action.
"You can go out here and you can put them in a game-type situation all you want going against the defense," Whisenhunt said. "But when you start talking about tackling and cutting guys and getting to full-speed, it's different…. One game is not going to make or break a player to a large degree, but getting a chance to see them in this first game is a big deal, and it's a big part of the evaluation."
With a new defensive scheme and training camp at the halfway mark, Bradley is also wanting to see his unit show him what they've learned thus far. While he admits the transition to a 4-3 defense "hasn't been real tough," Sunday's game will prove to him who has become cerebral with the plays.
"I think (the game will) show us an understanding of some of the defense we have (installed) and what we're trying to get done," Bradley explained. "For us as coaches, it's a great evaluation tool. You want them to go out there and not be confused. Just line up and see who can run and hit. That will be the theme, run and hit; and (to) just check out the skillset of all the players."
With no game plan in sight due to the exhibition nature of the tilt, Whiz admitted his offense, specifically the offensive line, will see unfamiliar looks. The biggest thing for him is seeing how quickly those players will adjust on the fly.
Additionally, he's hoping miscues are kept to a minimum. The team has been honing their skills throughout camp, so playing clean football is of the utmost importance on Sunday.
"I'd like to see our guys not make a lot of mistakes," Whisenhunt expressed. "When you get into a game situation, especially the first time; when it's your first group, you expect them to be okay. But when you start putting guys in where maybe this is their first game or (are) young players, then you worry about continuity and getting things done efficiently. First time under the lights, there's a chance for them (but) sometimes, there's a bit of a struggle. What you want to see is those guys not make a lot of mental mistakes."
Overall, Whisenhunt was pleased to have had time to run through a practice at StubHub Center. While he alluded the rehearsal took the unknown out of the playing-portion of the conversation, he also admitted that practice felt like a game thanks to the fans. Sunday is expected to be more electric with a sold-out crowd.
"If that's even a small indication, it's going to be a great place to play. It's hard to stand here and say it had a good vibe, but it really did. It had a good feel to it. With our fans in there being excited and us doing some good things, I think our players are fired up to go in there."