Preseason games aren't very useful for team quality analysis, and only slightly more useful for individual player analysis. This becomes more true later in games, as unpolished young players flash their talent facing other unpolished players making mistakes, and vice versa. But what people often ignore is that (especially in week 1), you don't really gameplan much. You go in with your vanilla playbook, run the standard plays on offense and defense, and don't make opponent adjustments.
And that's how you end up with Kelly Jennings, simply the next guy up in our cornerback depth chart, playing opposite Marcus Trufant against the Chargers #1s. I'm speculating here, but if this were a real game with Walter Thurmond out, and the Chargers starting with 6'5 WR Vincent Jackson and 6'5 WR Malcolm Floyd* as wideouts, I don't think we would've started Kelly Jennings. Jennings played the defensive right cornerback spot for the first drive, let's see how he (and our starting passing defense) did by looking at a handful of relevant plays.
* 6'5 TE Kory Sperry actually started at WR, but he motioned in to block for the opening running play, and was then replace Floyd
2-12-SD 9 (9:11) P.Rivers pass short right to V.Jackson to SD 15 for 6 yards (M.Trufant).
Marcus Trufant is playing about 5 yards off the line on Vincent Jackson. Jackson and TE Randy McMichael both run quick comeback routes. Leroy Hill is on McMichael, but Rivers never looks off Jackson, easy toss and catch as Trufe is behind Jackson.
3-6-SD 15 (8:31) (Shotgun) P.Rivers pass deep left to V.Jackson to SEA 37 for 48 yards (K.Jennings).
Chargers are set in a shotgun formation with splitbacks and three receivers. The pass rush here is good, but Rivers steps up to the right as the pocket collapses, and heaves it deep to Jackson running a go route. Jennings is close on Jackson but not close enough to try and break up the pass, instead he wraps and brings him down.
The Seahawks have two safeties with deep half responsibility, Josh Pinkard on the defensive right, with the cornerbacks playing man. The Chargers send three deep. Trufant and Jennings are on two of them, and Earl Thomas is on the slot receiver (Patrick Crayton, I think). Pinkard is watching the assignments of both Thomas and Jennings, and soon sees Thomas lose a step on Crayton, who is running a post route. Pinkard cheats and then just runs towards that matchup, putting himself out of position to help Jennings, and arriving too late to even help with the tackle once he recognizes where the pass is going.
While this play highlights that Jennings should not be one-on-one on someone like Jackson, the coverage breaks down when Thomas and then Pinkard screw up.
1-10-SEA 37 (7:41) P.Rivers pass incomplete deep right to V.Jackson.
Jackson runs deep. Trufant is right on him. The ball is beyond Jackson's reach but even if it was in his reach Trufant would probably have knocked it away.
2-10-SEA 37 (7:41) M.Tolbert up the middle to SEA 38 for -1 yards (K.Chancellor).
Not a pass, I know, but I couldn't pass this one up. Curry comes around the edge and just smashes Tolbert. He doesn't finish, but the run is dead at that point, with Kam reacting well to mop it up.
3-11-SEA 38 (6:58) (Shotgun) P.Rivers pass short left to K.Sperry to SEA 22 for 16 yards (K.Jennings).
On such an obvious passing down, the Seahawks finally show a bit of creativity, running a blitz which puts Raheem Brock in coverage on the tight end, Sperry, who runs a drag. Brock looks completely lost and Sperry runs for an extra 10 yards before Jennings tackles him. Just a bad matchup there.
2-6-SEA 18 (5:43) (Shotgun) P.Rivers pass short left to R.Mathews to SEA 9 for 9 yards (L.Hill, K.Jennings).
Chargers send three deep, which opens up a hole that Rivers uses by dumping off to Ryan Matthews. Matthews has little but daylight in front of him and runs it for 10 or so yards before Jennings, Hill, Curry and Thomas all converge on him. This one seems to be mostly Curry being out of position.
2-8-SEA 8 (4:21) (Shotgun) P.Rivers pass short left to M.Tolbert for 8 yards, TOUCHDOWN.
Vincent Jackson runs to the corner of the endzone, with Jennings following him. Leroy Hill is covering the flat, but reacts too late to Tolbert. Jennings seems to have seen it sooner and puts himself in a position to stop Tolbert, but the small Jennings is hurdled by the small Tolbert.
Our defense looked really bad playing the Chargers starters. There was some pass-rush, but nothing to write home about. We stopped the run well. Mostly, Rivers just picked at holes in our coverage and bad match-ups created by some of our new and backup personnel, most notably Jennings, Hill and Brock.
Jennings didn't really stand out, but his performance did underline once again that he should not start opposite anything but undersized speedsters and slot receivers, which means he's your 3rd CB at best. It's a question of personnel management, which just isn't raised yet because it's the pre-season. He's an easy target for derision, but this drive told us nothing new about his skills or role with this defense (which, again, should be mostly slot coverage). Nor does this particular matchup tell us a lot about our defense, though our passing defense is still my biggest concern going into the season. Chancellor is the only one that stood out positively, and that more for his enforcing role, rather than his skills in coverage.