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September 12, 2014 at 6:34 PM

Five Questions, Five Answers — San Diego Chargers

It’s time for our weekly look  at Seattle’s opponent by asking five questions — and getting five answers — from a beat writer who covers the other team.
This week, our guest is Michael Gehlken, who covers the Chargers for the San Diego Union-Tribune. Follow him on Twitter here.
As always, our questions and his answers:
Q1, The offense struggled more Monday night at Arizona than it usually did a year ago. Was it just one of those things, or there are some issues on that side of the ball?
 
A: Maybe a bit of both. The Chargers struggled to run the football, and that surprised them. They expect to run more effectively than that. One 20-yard Ryan Mathews run aside, and San Diego’s backfield had 15 carries for 23 yards. We’ll call that an issue at this point, even though I think they’ll be OK. The rest of the Chargers’ shortcomings — botched shotgun snap, several drops, missed blocks — came down to execution and need to be cleaned up.
Q2, Frank Reich has taken over for Ken Whisenhunt as offensive coordinator. Any noticeable differences as a result?
 
A: In scheme, no. All the terminology is the same. But I think in the opener, we saw Reich is still gaining a feel of how he wants to rotate personnel. It took Whisenhunt a little time last year, too, before he decided how to use Mathews. Danny Woodhead easily paced all Chargers backs in Week 1 snaps. Ladarius Green ran only seven routes. I doubt either is a season-long trend.
Q3, This looks like a pretty tough turnaround for the Chargers, playing on Monday night and facing a team off since the previous Thursday. Will that change anything about how the Chargers prepare this week?
 
A: It might’ve helped in one sense. There was no time to sulk a bad loss. The Super Bowl champs were coming. Players had to shake it off. That said, I can’t think of another benefit to this kooky schedule. You can tell by looking at the injury report which team is on a short week. At least, for the Chargers, they don’t have to play this game at CenturyLink Field.
Q4, Defense was San Diego’s weakness a year ago. The Arizona game appeared to show some hope for improvement. Is there?
 
A: There is. The defense really added some athleticism with its first two draft picks. Cornerback Jason Verrett, a first rounder, and outside linebacker Jerry Attaochu, a second rounder, were difference makers in Glendale. Both are worth watching Sunday.
Q5, The Chargers signed University of Washington grad Donald Butler to a big contract in the off-season. What is his role on the team expected to be this season?
 
A: He is an every-down inside linebacker. Base defense, nickel, dime — it doesn’t matter. Defensive coordinator John Pagano wants Butler, an instinctive, mobile player, on the field for him at all times. It’s a heavy workload, but Butler is hoping to have the first 16-game season of his NFL career. We’ll see.

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