The third week of the preseason is the dress rehearsal game for all NFL teams, as the preparation and execution of a gameplan must be regular season-worthy.
The San Diego Chargers' first-team offense hasn't looked good at all this preseason, so you weren't surprised with them playing with a sense of urgency against the Arizona Cardinals.
The team's 24-7 victory was crucial for this new regime because if they continued to struggle, then the skeptics would have come out to criticize how the atmosphere still hasn't changed around this once-proud franchise.
Here are five things we learned this week:
D.J. Fluker is a Stud
Usually, NFL rookies need time to adjust to the speed of a professional football game, but offensive tackle D.J. Fluker is one of those rare first-year players that probably was NFL-ready in his freshman season at Alabama.
He has been designated the lead blocker when the coaching staff wants to established the running game. What sets Fluker apart from others is his ability to explode out of his stance and gain control of the line of scrimmage, which sets a tone for the entire game.
The one blemish to Fluker's game is his pass-blocking skills, but a tight end could be placed next to him to chip a defender before heading out on his pass route.
The Anticipated Debut of Danny Woodhead
Finally, we had a Danny Woodhead sighting in a preseason game, unfortunately, not much can be taken from his snaps on Saturday night. You get the impression though that the coaching staff considers him more than a third-down receiving back.
Woodhead was a much better runner than given credit for during his time with the New England Patriots, and Charger fans could expect to see him in certain two-back sets on first and second down this year.
Dwight Freeney Still Has a Presence
San Diego Chargers defensive end Dwight Freeney may no longer be one of the premier pass rushers in the NFL, but he's still can be a productive member of a quality defensive unit. The future Hall-of-Famer was very quiet in the first two preseason games, but the "real" Dwight Freeney came out to play in Arizona on Saturday night.
He showcased his dominant pass-rushing skills once again, as he perfectly executed his patented spin move to sack the quarterback on the final play of the first half. This performance should convince all that Freeney will have a significant role in the Chargers defense this season.
Richard Marshall Joins the Defensive Secondary Mix
The team announced last Friday that they reached an agreement with cornerback Richard Marshall on a one-year contract. He's most likely to be the nickel back on obvious passing downs this season, as the Chargers are woefully thinned at the cornerback position.
Especially after rookie Steve Williams suffered a season-ending injury against the Chicago Bears in Week 2 of the preseason. The one concern with this signing is that Marshall is coming off a back injury that prematurely ended his season in Miami last year. He's a solid corner that could step into the lineup if one of the starters goes down with an injury.
Other Odds and Ends
Eyebrows were raised when Mike Harris came out with the second unit at the left tackle position, as this could have signaled the end of Max Starks' career in San Diego. Harris showed vast improvement with his footwork and overall quickness coming off the snap of the ball. No question, he has a chance to be one of few backups on the roster with previous NFL starting experience.
Charger fans should have some concern with kicker Nick Novak's overall performance in the preseason. His kickoffs have been woefully short of the goal line in all three preseason contests, and this puts the defense at a distinct disadvantage of defending a shortened field.
Novak's pinpoint accuracy from inside 50 yards is the sole reason why he keeps a roster spot, but if Novak falters a bit, then the kicker position becomes an open competition ASAP.