By Boltarious aka MTR
All photographs by Paul Parks- copyright 2006 pparks
2006. Finally. Since the end of the Denver game, back in 2005, we have all waited to get on with it. Any Charger fan who sat through the painful finale last season, knows of what i speak. Denver's scrubs worked a wounded Charger team all afternoon, in the rain and cold, and Drew Brees was playing his last game in a Charger uniform. There was frustration in the stands, as we watched our Bolts get pushed all over the field by the Broncos first and second teams. It was completely un acceptable...
<img width="327" height="220" id="image2625" alt="photo pparks" src="http://bolttalk.com/wp-content/uploads/2006/08/SD_DEN_01.jpg" />
That frustration can now be worked off, as the 2006 season looks even brighter than the previous one did. The Chargers are positioned to make a real run in 2006, one of the better teams in the NFL.
What follows is a position by position analysis, and my predictions for the year
1 Phillip Rivers- 17
2 AJ Feely- 7
3 Charlie Whitehurst- 6
4 Brett Elliot - 4
The Rivers era begins. Drew Brees is gone, and comparing the two is pointless. On paper, this position looks weaker than it did with Brees and Rivers at 1-2. However, the fact is, Rivers has taken the proper route to the starting QB job. 2 years with a clipboard, Vince Lombardi style. "Learn the game kid." And hopefully, this will give Rivers an edge over a raw rookie. Plus, he got the opportunity to pick both Drew Brees, and Doug Fluties brains, while under minimal pressure, an ideal learning atmosphere. How that translates out on the field remains to be seen, and see we all shall. If the Chargers keep the load to a minimal one for Rivers to start, he should be just fine.
<img width="300" height="195" id="image2626" alt="Drew is now a Saint- get used to it. photo by pparks" src="http://bolttalk.com/wp-content/uploads/2006/08/drewsaint.jpg" />
As to the back up situation, AJ Feely? All i can say is, he is better than having Tom Flick there. The Chargers have had many interesting characters roll through here as the back up over the years. Perhaps, Feely can make his mark, like the immortal Babe Laughenberg. The Babe quarterbacked the Chargers to the greatest pre season comeback i have ever been to. Laughenberg and WR Darren Flutie teamed up for 3 4th quarter TDs, leading the Chargers to a meaningless, yet satisfying 24-21 victory over the Dallas Cowboys many years ago.
Hopefully, with Rivers taking the job, thats all we will ever have to worry about with Feely. PRE SEASON...
Whitehurst, and Elliot, i have to get a look at them this weekend.
1 Ladanian Tomlinson- 21
2 Michael Turner- 33
3 Darren Sproles- 43
4 Ray Perkins- 26
What more can anyone say about
<img width="319" height="211" id="image2627" alt="LT - photo by pparks" src="http://bolttalk.com/wp-content/uploads/2006/08/LTpparks.jpg" />
LT is the greatest back in the game. Having said that, the Chargers would be wise to load up on LT, and ride him to victory. Run him, Pass To him, Let him pass, Let him kick. LT is the best player in the NFL.
<img width="334" height="215" id="image2628" alt="LT - photo by pparks" src="http://bolttalk.com/wp-content/uploads/2006/08/LTpparks2.jpg" />
The next best back here in San Diego is pretty solid himself- one Michael Turner. Turner sealed the victory, against the undefeated Indianapolis Colts in 2005, with a scorching coast to coast TD run. Turner would be starting for most teams, and is a great second punch to any defense weary of chasing LT.
Add to that - the scat back- Darren Sproles.
<img width="326" height="213" id="image2629" alt="Darren Sproles - photo by pparks" src="http://bolttalk.com/wp-content/uploads/2006/08/sprolespparks.jpg" />
Sproles reminds me of Lionel James- the Little Train. James ran people out of their shoes, and Sproles has that same potential. The Chargers should get him involved in the passing game, screens and swing passes.
Ditto on Perkins, gotta take a look.
1 Lorenzo Neal- 35
2 Andrew Pinnock-- 34
The key to San Diego's rushing attack is Lorenzo Neal. A devastating blocker- Neal leads the way into the line, opening space for Tomlinson to jet through. Neal has also been known to get key short yardage conversions, and occasionaly has caught passes. Pinnock has proven to be a load, and gives the Chargers flexibility in keeping Neal fresh.
1 Keenan McCardell- 87
2 Eric Parker- 88
3 Vincent Jackson- 83
4 Kassim Osgood- 81
5 Greg Camarillo- 82
6 Malcolm Floyd- 80
Keenan McCardell leads a solid, if unspectacular receiver corps into 2006. McCardell has proven to be the go to guy San Diego had been looking for, since the day the Chargers got him from Tampa Bay. If Phillip Rivers can find that comfort zone with McCardell early this season, the sky is the limit. Having a weapon like McCardell opens up everything for everyone else.
<img width="290" height="208" id="image2630" alt="photo by pparks" src="http://bolttalk.com/wp-content/uploads/2006/08/parkerpparks.jpg" />
Eric Parker is a solid receiver, who should have a breakout year. Jackson and Osgood are giants, who should create mismatches with smaller defensive backs.
1 Antonio Gates- 85
2 Brandon Malumaleuna- 86
3 Aaron Shea- 84
Once again, the Chargers are blessed with the best player at his position, in the NFL.
<img width="293" height="201" id="image2631" alt="Antonio Gates - photo by pparks" src="http://bolttalk.com/wp-content/uploads/2006/08/gatespparks.jpg" />
Gates is a defensive co ordinators nightmare. He can out muscle linebackers, out run defensive backs, and Gates grabs passes like the rebounds he used to snag under the hoop in college. If Rivers cant get it going to McCardell early this season, perhaps Gates will be his alternative.
Malumaleuna and Shea- gotta see...
LT- Romen Oben- 72 Leander Jordan- 75 Marcus Mcneill- 73
LG- Kris Deilman- 68 Wes Simms- 60 Jimmy Martin- 67
C- Nick Hardwick- 61 Scott Mruczkowski- 63 Nick Milhauser- 62
RG- Mike Goff- 79 Cory Lekkerkerker- 71 Cory Withrow- 65
RT Shane Olivea- 70 Jerome Clary- 66 Ben Johnson- 69
A solid unit, that still has its best days ahead of it- provided Romen Oben can stay healthy. A 2000 yard season lays before LT, and this line can get him there. As to the pass protection? Thats a different kettle of corn. i just dont know. the OL was far too inconsistant last season. Rivers could be running for his life all season, or he could be untouched. Time will tell...
<img width="309" height="196" alt="photo by pparks" id="image2637" src="http://bolttalk.com/wp-content/uploads/2006/08/cheerpparks.jpg" />
<strong>Overall Offensive Outlook-</strong>
There is no reason that the Chargers can't average 24 points a game. Lets all hope a reason does not become obvious, or it could be a long season. LT will be a pleasure to watch, as always. Phillip Rivers has a chance to be the number one QB, here in San Diego, for many seasons to come.
LE Luis Castillo - 93 Derrick Robinson- 98 Chase Page- 96
DT Jamal Williams- 76 Ryon Ringham- 97 Brandon McKinney- 91 Alvin Smith - 78
RE Igor Olshansky- 99 Jaques Cesaire- 74 Patrick Massey- 90
San Diego has the good fortune to field one of the leagues best defensive lines- number one against the run in 2005. That stat is somewhat misleading however, as teams discovered they could get yards through the air, against the Chargers number 28 pass defense. This puts pressure on Williams, Castillo and Olshansky to pressure the quarterback, more this season than ever.
Everyone after Cesaire is a question mark, and injuries here could hurt the Chargers.
OLB Shawne Merriman- 56 Carlos Polk- 52 Marques Harris- 92
OLB Steve Foley- 53 Shawn Phillips- 95 Akbar Gbaja Biamila- 94
ILB Randall Godfrey- 58 Stephen Cooper- 54 Tim Dobbins- 51 Phil Archer- 47
ILB Donnie Edwards- 59 Matt Wilhelm- 57 Jonathan Pollard- 40
Once again, one of the best units in the NFL.
<img width="316" height="211" alt="photo pparks" id="image2638" src="http://bolttalk.com/wp-content/uploads/2006/08/SD_DEN_02.jpg" />
AJ Smith has to be given major credit for putting together the best linebacker corps in Charger history. If Donnie Edwards can focus on the Super Bowl, and not his wallet, he will be a force. Shawne Merriman can be the best linebacker in the game this season, a logical next step for the NFL Defensive Rookie of the year. With Foley, Godfrey, Cooper and Matt Wilhelm in the mix, San Diego has depth and experience, always a plus. Look for this unit to dominate.
LCB Quentin Jammer- 23 Marcus Curry- 36 Raymond Walls- 22 Steve Gregory 38
RCB Drayton Florence- 29 Antonio Cromartie- 25 Cletis Gordon- 30 Anthony Mims 39
SS Terrence Keil- 48 Clinton Hart- 42 Andre Lott- 24 Hanik Milligan- 31
FS Bhawoh Jue- 27 Marlon McCree- 20 Jerrell Pippins- 28 Mitch Meeuson 45
If there is one weakness on the Charger squad- this would be it. The secondary underwent its customary off season overhaul, with the addition of number one pick Antonio Cromartie, and newcomer Marlon McCree. The pass rush MUST give these guys help, or we will be seeing a lot of 30-24 games this season.
<img width="331" height="229" alt="Drayton Florence - photo by pparks" id="image2639" src="http://bolttalk.com/wp-content/uploads/2006/08/florencepparks.jpg" />
<strong>DEFENSIVE OVERALL OUTLOOK-</strong>
This unit should be able to keep the Chargers in the game, and should provide the offense with good field position all season long. Injuries could decimate here- especially on the defensive line.
K Nate Kaeding- 10
<img width="272" height="444" alt="Mike Scifres - photo by pparks" id="image2640" src="http://bolttalk.com/wp-content/uploads/2006/08/scifrespparks.jpg" />
P Mike Scifers- 5
Kaeding enters his third season, Scifers his 4th. Both are young, improving players with more experience every day. The Chargers are in good shape here- the only question being the special teams blocking. Losing to Philadelphia on a blocked field goal last season was intolerable,
Ahh, the AFC West. Always a dogfight. Denver, Kansas City and Oakland are permanent tormentors. Denver is always loaded, Kansas City is rebuilding, and the Raiders are in shambles.
<img width="297" height="184" alt="San Diego vs Denver - photo by pparks" id="image2641" src="http://bolttalk.com/wp-content/uploads/2006/08/SD_DEN_03.jpg" />