Many thanks to Ross Warner, who blogs about the San Diego Chargers and his favorite music on Justice Is Coming, for taking the time to answer our questions about the Chargers and this week's matchup.
Total Titans: One of our readers, Duane, asks, "I'm curious if Ross has an opinion on whether the chargers will try and force Locker to stay in the pocket and to complete passes outside the hashmarks? If so, how would they try and set their defense to do so?"
Ross Warner: John Pagano's defense is still unclear to fans (and writers) from one week. Last week looked a lot like the "bend but don't break" defense of 2007. But that squad, coached by the much-maligned Ted Cottrell, did force turnovers. They appeared to be focused on keeping the Raiders in front of them, even though their most dangerous receivers appeared to be on the sideline. They did bring some heat on Carson Palmer late.
As for Locker, I don't know if they are focused specifically on keeping him in the pocket. If I understood or could predict what this team does I would have gotten off the bus a long time ago. I am sure they will try to treat Locker like a first year starter. However, they couldn't succeed with that in their last playoff game against Mark Sanchez. I know that you think Chris Johnson isn't the threat he once was, but the Chargers run defense is similarly unknown.
TT: How much does the loss of Vincent Jackson concern you? Robert Meachem doesn't seem to be a satisfactory replacement.
RW: I am not upset with the decision to let Jackson walk. I'm sure you know his checkered pass off the field. His kicking of the challenge flag in the aforementioned playoff lost is reflective of his occasional selfishness and immaturity. He was also in handcuffs earlier that day. When it came down to it, he's not worthy of the money it would have taken to keep him. I like Robert Meachem. He proved in New Orleans that he wasn't just the recipient of Drew Brees' brilliance. He didn't hook up with Philip Rivers all summer, but had a big catch on Monday. I would much prefer the "game management Rivers we saw in Oakland as opposed to what I call the "chuck and suck" approach.
TT: If Antonio Gates and Ryan Mathews play only sparingly, how much of a dropoff will there be in the Chargers offense?
RW: Are you referring to dropoff from this year, the last two, or the "salad days" of '04-'09? Gates is a fighter. There is not other reason for him to be exposing himself to the punishment he did in Oakland. He was futilely trying to bull his way to a first down like he was still an undrafted free agent trying to make the team. If he can't play or is limited, I'm not entirely worried. But that's no reflection on the Titans. The Chargers are used to having to work around Gates.
The biggest problem is when they reach the red zone. Gates uncharacteristically let one go off his fingers in the end zone on Monday. That's no shock when it's Brandon Marshall, but Gates usually gets those. The Bolts had to running game without Ryan Mathews, which makes Philip Rivers' patience all the more impressive. They need Mathews, but more for the majority of the season than a single game. I hope he's truly healed because the Chargers will be in trouble if he's shelved for a long time.
TT: Chris Johnson can't run the ball effectively. Jake Locker will be making only his second NFL start. Kenny Britt will be in his first NFL game since an ACL injury last year, isn't at full strength yet, and probably won't play much. The defense can't get much of a pass rush. Is there anything about the Titans that concerns you?
RW: Lots of things concern me about Sunday. Many of them are about the Chargers, but that's just because I have been let down so often by them. The stadium will be loud and emotional, with the ceremony for Junior Seau. However, the Bolts played one of their worst games last year when Seau was inducted into the team's Hall of Fame. Johnson has always had a few big plays against the Chargers.
TT: If there's anything I haven't asked that you think Titans fans should know about the Chargers, here's your chance to tell us. Also, feel free to predict a score if you want to – how badly will the Chargers beat the Titans?
RW: In 2009, I told you guys that the things that Jeff Fisher, Cortland Finnegan and Company hated about the Chargers were some of the same things fans did. The Shawne Merriman sack dance is only cool when you back it up. Obviously, the hits on Merriman or Gates in that year's playoff game were dubious. But I know you guys think that this isn't much of a rivalry right now. I do think the Bolts will win, but only if they deserve to. In other words, I don't expect it to be like any of the four wins the team had in it's "quick" start of a year ago. They made mistakes galore, especially Rivers, and they paid for them during a six-game losing streak that kept them out of the playoffs but didn't rid fans of Norv Turner. Good luck and thanks for always being a friend to me and www.justiceiscoming.com