As time expired on Friday night, K Nick Novak made a 45-yard field goal that squeaked just inside the left upright. Novak’s second good kick of the night gave the Chargers a 12-10 victory over the Vikings and extended San Diego’s preseason record to 3-0. Despite the win, the Chargers will return to San Diego with myriad concerns. Their current O-line is awful, and OLB Melvin Ingram (round one, 18th overall pick) was dinged.
QB Philip Rivers did not play because three-fifths of the starting O-line was out. LT Jared Gaither (back spasms) and C Nick Hardwick (concussion) and LG Tyronne Green (foot) were replaced by LT Mike Harris (undrafted, UCLA), LG Rex Hadnot (free agent, Cardinals) and C David Molk (round seven 226th overall pick).
The decision to sit Rivers turned out to be the right call. The backup offensive linemen were atrocious, and the Vikings defense combined for six sacks. Starting QB Charlie Whitehurst was only 8 of 18 for 82 yards with a passer rating of 58.1. Whitehurst, however, orchestrated two field goal drives. K Nate Kaeding connected from 50 yards in the first quarter, and Novak was good from 34 yards in the second quarter.
Potential third-string QB Jarrett Lee (undrafted, LSU) nearly matched Whitehurst statistically. Lee was 5 of 12 for 81 yards and a passer rating 58.1. Lee also led San Diego to two field goals. Kaeding hit from 54 yards in the fourth quarter before Novak’s game-winning 45-yard kick.
The real positive for San Diego was its defense, which flew around the field and racked up four turnovers (three fumble recoveries and an INT). The defense was also efficient at applying pressure on the QB and finished with five sacks.
Ingram (first round, 18th overall pick) left the game early with a deep left thigh bruise and will undergo further evaluation. Ingram will likely miss the final preseason game next Thursday against the 49ers but potentially could play in Week 1 against the Raiders on Monday Night Football. More information on Ingram will likely be available on Sunday when the team returns to practice.
Three players who improved their stock
- CB DeAndre Presley: With CB Marcus Gilchrist and Shareece Wright both out with hamstring injuries, Presley (undrafted, Appalachian State) started at nickelback. Presley played well and had an interception. He's still a long-shot to make the 53-man roster but is now a strong candidate for the practice squad.
- Nate Kaeding: Kaeding virtually secured the kicking job over Novak with his two kicks. Novak, however, will likely find himself on an NFL roster this season.
- Micheal Spurlock: Spurlock (free agent, Buccaneers) led San Diego receivers with three receptions for 46 yards. Spurlock has been a leading a receiver throughout the preseason. He was on the bubble before WR Vincent Brown suffered a broken ankle against the Cowboys last Saturday. Spurlock has now locked up a spot on the 53-man roster.
Three players whose stock dropped
- LT Mike Harris: Harris was completely overmatched by DE Jared Allen, who had two sacks and two QB hits. Harris, however, will likely continue to start until Gaither (back spasms) returns.
- RB Michael Hayes: Hayes (undrafted, Houston) did not have a carry. He has been competing against RB Edwin Baker (round seven, 250th overall pick) for a spot on the practice squad. Baker led the Chargers in rushing with 13 carries for 35 yards.
- TE Kory Sperry: Sperry didn't have a reception. He now looks like an extreme long shot to make the team.