<strong>August 1, 2005</strong>
Source: <a href="http://www.usatoday.com/sports/football/nfl/chargers/home.htm">USA Today</a>
Such a proclamation in years past would have some scratching their heads. Or wondering if a certain Charger had spent too much time in the San Diego sun.
Pro Bowl running back LaDainian Tomlinson was asked his goal for the upcoming season.
"The Super Bowl," Tomlinson said. "And winning it."
The Chargers just might. They return all 22 starters and their punter and kicker from a team which won the AFC West title last year for first time since 1994.
So with a taste of the playoffs still fresh in their mouths, the Chargers are eager to return. And they want to go deeper into the playoffs than their first-round overtime loss to the Jets last season.
But no team in the NFL is perfect - and that goes for the confident Chargers. So if the Bolts really are to jolt the league again, it must answer these five questions before welcoming the Cowboys for the season-opener on Sept. 11.
1. Just who is the real Drew Brees? Can he duplicate his stunning season, in which he was the NFL comeback player of the year? Brees had 27 touchdown passes against only seven interceptions. This came on the heels of two mediocre campaigns. Philip Rivers is waiting in the wings, but first Brees wants to prove last year was no fluke.
2. Finding a pass rush is like finding a summer snowstorm in San Diego. The Chargers had but 29 sacks last year and outside linebacker Steve Foley had more than a third of them. The Chargers are dynamite against the run, but they must harass quarterbacks more to help a wobbly secondary. Unsigned top-pick Shawne Merriman was to help, but he's late getting to camp. Defensive lineman Luis Castillo, another first-rounder, will be asked to contribute immediately. A healthy Dave Ball and a more experienced Shaun Phillips might help.
3. The No. 1 wide receiver is ... good question. Eric Parker revealed in 2004 (career highs in three categories) he might be ready to assume that role. But his slight body is a concern. Keenan McCardell has filled the post, but he's 35 years old. Reche Caldwell was headed for a big year, then wrecked his knee. He needs to rebound big.
4. Which cornerback will be Quentin Jammer's partner in the starting lineup? Sammy Davis lost his job to Drayton Florence last year because of inconsistent play and injuries. And he's already been getting burned in camp. Florence would have to be a disaster in camp to be ousted by Davis.
5. Can Nate Kaeding rebound from his heartbreaking kick, one which was wide right from 40 yards out which cost the Chargers a playoff win last season? By all accounts, yes. But it's worth watching if that one kick will burden him as the upcoming season asks for more clutch efforts.
-Aug. 2: Team works out under the lights at Chargers Park in pads.
-Aug. 6: Fan Day at Qualcomm Stadium. Team will work out in pads.
-Aug. 25: Team breaks camp.
-Rookie WR Vincent Jackson got his first taste of training camp, and it wasn't all good. Especially when dropping a long pass. After the ball clanked off Jackson's mitts, he got an earful from others. "They were saying, 'his hands are full of dollars and that's why he dropped it," coach Marty Schottenheimer said. Jackson's hands were flat on the ground soon after the ball. Every time Jackson misses a catch, he does 10-15 push-ups. "Hopefully I won't get too strong doing that in training camp," he said.
-Outside linebacker Ben Leber was ecstatic about practicing. Leber's work was severely limited in the offseason, as he rebounded from a deep bone bruise in his foot.
"It felt good to be back out there," he said. "It feels a lot better."
The Chargers will be cautious with Leber, a three-year starter who had 58 tackles and two sacks last season. He'll work just once on days when the Chargers have two sessions.
-With the Padres taking on water, coach Marty Schottenheimer threw a wet blanket on those predicting the Friars' demise. "They'll be fine," he said. "(Bruce) Bochy has it under control. The only time it matters if you're in first is at the end of the season."
-Pro Bowl TE Antonio Gates' agent, Andre Colona, was waiting to hear back from the Chargers after negotiations picked up steam on Saturday. "I guess I'm encouraged because we are exchanging proposals," Colona said. Chargers GM A.J. Smith confirmed the parties are talking. It's believed Gates seeks a deal averaging between $4-5 million per year.
-The Oklahoma drill was the highlight of the two Saturday practices. The drill matching two players in a restricted area makes for some violent clashes. And there are few, if any, rules which come attached to it.
LB Steve Foley drew OL Kris Dielman for his battle. "Dielman is one of the dirtiest players on this team," Foley said. "He'll grab you and throw dirt in your face."
QUOTE TO NOTE: "Obviously, our goal is to do better than last year. We definitely don't want to have that one good season and fall back to 7-9 or whatever. You just can't let yourself do that." - C Nick Hardwick, on the Chargers' attempt at establishing long-term success.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
EXPECTED BATTLE OF THE WEEK: Drayton Florence vs. Sammy Davis for starting RCB - Florence wrestled the position away from Davis last year, when Davis was derailed with inconsistent play and injuries. Coaches predict an interesting competition here.
EXPECTED BATTLE FRONTS: Jerry Wilson vs. Bhawoh Jue for starting FS. ... Michael Turner vs. Darren Sproles for backup RB. ... Luis Castillo vs. Jacques Cesaire for LDE on passing downs.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK: LB Marques Harris - This undrafted rookie out of Southern Utah State got kudos for his work in the Oklahoma drill. He lined up against T Carlos Joseph and got the best of him when tackling Darren Sproles. "He made a terrific play during the Oklahoma drill and is really making some plays out here," Schottenheimer said. "I like what we've seen from him."
ROOKIE REPORT: Top pick Shawne Merriman still hasn't signed. ... DE Luis Castillo is adjusting well to his new position. .. WR Vincent Jackson has dropped his share of passes as he absorbs the learning curve. ... RB/KR Darren Sproles continues to open eyes. ... OL Wesley Britt, Wes Sims and Scott Mruczkowski are running with the second and third lines.