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Inside Slant

Discussion in 'Latest Chargers News & Headlines' started by robdog, Oct 26, 2006.

  1. robdog

    robdog Code Monkey Staff Member Administrator

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    Source: <a target="_blank" href="http://www.usatoday.com/sports/football/nfl/chargers/home.htm">USA Today</a>

    <img width="282" height="184" alt="Darren Sproles - photo by pparks" id="image2629" src="http://bolttalk.com/wp-content/uploads/2006/08/sprolespparks.jpg" />
    <div class="inside-copy">The Chargers welcome the St. Louis Rams to San Diego on Sunday, looking forward to getting back on the football field.</div>
    <p class="inside-copy">Some of that motivation comes from wanting to wash away the bitter taste left from Sunday's heartbreak in the heartland. The Chargers rallied from a 20-3 deficit only to fall, 30-27, on a last- minute field goal by Lawrence Tynes.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"> But the Chargers are also anxious to get in between the lines for another reason. It's been a rocky week with the news that Pro Bowl linebacker Shawne Merriman tested positive for steroids.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">That charge is under appeal, and Merriman won't know for certain if he has to miss four games until his appeal hearing on November 7.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">Still, the focus this week has been about chemistry, and not the kind the Chargers brag about possessing in the locker room.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">The Chargers can't go to sleep on the Rams, a game that those following the teams probably had circled when the schedule came out. The Rams were coming off a 6-10 mark and are breaking in a new head coach in Scott Linehan.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">But the Rams have done something that should make them grow in the Chargers' eyes: beat the Denver Broncos. The Chargers trail the Broncos by one game in the AFC West, anxiously awaiting their two games with the defending divisional champions.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">First, the Chargers will need to dispatch a well-rested Rams squad, which is coming off its bye and matches 4-2 records with the Chargers.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">The Chargers need to concentrate on the task at hand, and not the troubles Merriman finds himself in. Or the injury to Shaun Phillips, which will put the team's third-string linebacker on the field in Marques Harris.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">Running back LaDainian Tomlinson is confident the Chargers' mind-set won't waiver. Never mind the news of Merriman comes on the heels of linebacker Steve Foley being shot, of Foley and Phillips being arrested but not convinced in off-season tussles with law enforcement officers, of Terrence Kiel being arrested on five felony drug counts.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">"It's not a distraction," Tomlinson said about the Merriman issue. "We talk about this every time an incident comes up; you guys always ask how much of a distract it is because it can be.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">(But) I think we understand what it is all about. It is not a distraction because we don't allow it to be. We got professional guys on this team that understand what it is all about."</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">And that's to get to the playoffs and the Super Bowl.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">"No one said it was going to be easy at the beginning of the year," Tomlinson said. "We knew it wasn't going to be peaches and cream. We didn't know who we would lose to injury or we didn't know what was going to happen. It's all the things you take into consideration. You have to be prepared for them and it's not something we are worried about. I think we are going to be just fine."</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">The Chargers are too tough, according to Tomlinson, to be knocked off track by an off-the-field incident.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">"I think you guys forget this is a resilient team now and guys got a lot of pride," he stressed. "And we are going to continue to play well."</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"><strong>SERIES HISTORY:</strong> 9th meeting. The St. Louis Rams lead the series, 5-3, and have won the last two games. Although both of those were in St. Louis. The last time the teams played in San Diego, the Rams - then calling Anaheim home - were beaten by the Super Bowl-bound Chargers, 31-17.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"><strong>NOTES, QUOTES</strong></p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-OLB Shawne Merriman is expected to be available for the next two games, before the appeal of his four-game suspension for a positive test for steroid is heard. Merriman's defense of not knowing he ingested the steroid is weak, on the surface. "No matter what happens I will be taking responsibility," said Merriman, the NFL's rookie defensive player of the year last season. "I am not running from the situation here; I will do what is best for this organization and this team." Merriman was his usual upbeat self at Wednesday's practice.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-QB Philip Rivers, the former North Carolina State great, in a Maryland shirt? That was part of his wardrobe after NC State fell to Merriman's Maryland team on Saturday. Too bad Maryland didn't lose, as Rivers had something special planned for Merriman. "I have the shortest pair of NC State gym shorts you can imagine."</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-Marques Harris has already made his mark in his first significant playing time on Sunday. "Did you see that back flip?" Donnie Edwards asked. Harris celebrated his sack -which caused a fumble - with a cartwheel which led into a back flip.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">"I've been doing that since middle school," Harris said. "But it's hard to do with a helmet and shoulder pads on." Will it become a staple after big plays? "We'll see," Harris said. "I just don't want to do one and land on my head."</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-LaDainian Tomlinson, a six-year pro, has rushed for 7,834 yards in 85 games. Tomlinson needs 166 rushing yards to reach 8,000 career yards. Only seven players in history have reached the 8,000-yard milestone in fewer than 90 games. Of those seven, five have been elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. "I really hadn't really thought about that, but at some point this season it would be great to surpass 8,000."</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-LT Roman Oben returned to practice on Wednesday. Oben has been on the physically unable to perform list since the beginning of the season. Oben said he's shooting for the Bengals game on Nov. 12 to return to the active roster. "Then we'll just see what my role will be," Oben said. Rookie Marcus McNeill - although his play was uneven on Sunday - has done well in Oben's place. Added Tomlinson: "It was great to see him back out there."</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-How bad was the Chargers' tackling on Sunday? Coach Marty Schottenheimer counted 18 missed tackles, which gave the Chiefs an extra 81 yards. Tackling, Schottenheimer promised, will be a focus in this week's practice. "It starts with attitude," Schottenheimer said.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-The Chargers remain the NFL's top defense, but their run defense ranking has tumbled to No. 5, allowing an average of 82 yards per game.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-QB Philip Rivers is fine after suffering a spasm in the neck area on Sunday. He took all the reps on Wednesday.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"><strong>BY THE NUMBERS:</strong> 17-25: Combined record of the Chargers' first seven opponents, which includes the Rams (4-2).</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"><strong>QUOTE TO NOTE:</strong> "I don't know where he got his degree in medicine." - Coach Marty Schottenheimer, on LB Shaun Phillips predicting he could return Sunday, despite his expected absence of 2-4 weeks with a strained calf.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"><strong>STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL</strong></p>
    <p class="inside-copy">The Chargers are getting thin at outside linebacker, with Marques Harris making his first NFL start. Harris is replacing Shaun Phillips (calf); Phillips was replacing Steve Foley (shot three times).</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">It will be interesting to see if Harris can have as big an impact in the pass rush, as Phillips does. Not only is that a key to the left outside position, but Phillips was becoming such a force (six sacks) that it took some of the attention away from Shawne Merriman.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">Now with Harris in the lineup, might offensive blocking schemes be more concerned with keeping Merriman away from the pocket. So not only is Harris' spot worth watching, but it will be interesting to see if Merriman is hampered by Phillips' loss, too.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"></p>
    <p class="inside-copy">PLAYER NOTES</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-RB LaDainian Tomlinson has rushed for 100 yards but once in six games.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-RG Mike Goff broke his finger last Sunday, and he didn't practice on Wednesday. He is expected to play Sunday, but he might be compromised.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-DE Igor Olshansky (knee) will be out for another three weeks. Jacques Cesaire will replace him again.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-DE Derreck Robinson is seeing some action on passing downs, with Olshansky being out. And Robinson has showed well, with five tackles and a.5 sack on Sunday.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-RB Michael Turner has seen his carries dwindle drastically. After averaging about 12 carries in the first four games, he's had but five rushed in the past two contests.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-OLB Akbar Gbaja-Biamila was re-signed to add some depth at the position. He was among the last Chargers cuts toward the end of camp.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"><strong>GAME PLAN:</strong> The Chargers have gotten away from the run a bit this year, which is always surprising when Tomlinson is on your team - although it is still ranked No. 3 in the league. But the Chargers haven't cracked the 100-yard rushing barrier in their last two games. But this could change, considering the Rams' woes stopping the run. The Rams have been gashed for 121 yards per game and now here comes Tomlinson. So don't be surprised if the Chargers lean on the run more so than it has lately, with the undersized Rams having trouble stopping the run.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"><strong>MATCHUPS TO WATCH:</strong> Chargers pass protection, which showed a few holes last week, vs. the Rams pass rush, led by DE Leonard Little. Overall, the Chargers have protected Rivers quite well, letting him be sacked but nine times this year. But he was sacked four times against the Chiefs, as they blitzed with regularity. Little paces the Rams with five sacks. He no longer just stays on the right side as in years past, so by moving him around he might get a shot at rookie LT Marcus McNeill.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-Chargers' running game, with the 1-2 punch of LaDainian Tomlinson and Michael Turner vs. the Rams run defense, led by MLB Will Witherspoon. Tomlinson is due to cut loose with a big ground on the game - although he has been effective in the passing game. Turner, too, could see the ball more after being virtually ignored the past two games. The Rams' run defense has been struggling, especially against powerful backs. But Witherspoon has been pretty solid in the middle, after signing as a free agent. Plus, Pisa Tinoisamoa, the Rams; weakside backer, is playing with a dislocated elbow and fractured a bone in his left hand on Wednesday.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-The Chargers punt return game, which has showed a spark of late, against the Rams punt defense, which is ranked No. 7. Eric Parker is averaging 10.1 yards per return and has now tied for 10th in the league. It was Parker's 50-yard return that got the Chargers going in the second half against the Chiefs. Tye Hill (five tackles) and J.R. Reed (four) are the Rams' special teamers that will need to be accounted for.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"><strong>INJURY IMPACT:</strong> OLB Shaun Phillips (calf) won't play and will be replaced by Marques Harris.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-S Bhawoh Jue (knee) is still limited in his work and it seems a stretch to think he will return this week.</p>
     

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