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USA Today: Chargers Inside Slant - 07/15/2006

Discussion in 'Chargers Fan Forum' started by WonderSlug, Jul 15, 2006.

  1. WonderSlug

    WonderSlug New Member

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    TRAINING CAMP GOALS

    —Build Philip Rivers' confidence: Everyone within the Chargers is certain — publicly, anyway — that Philip Rivers will slide into the starting quarterback role for the first time and off the Chargers will go.

    But NFL observers know that any first-time starter at this position will go through some growing pains. And Rivers will, too.

    What the Chargers need to do is supply Rivers with a playbook that is maybe not as thick as the one he'll be toting around at midseason. What needs to be done is get Rivers playing with the confidence he'll need to overcome the expected bumps and obstacles.

    So the staff will seek to find his comfort level with a package of plays he and his offense can execute with authority.

    It's doubtful Rivers would stumble so much that backup A.J. Feeley would be asked to step in. That's why it's critical Rivers isn't asked to do too much right away.

    Not only does Rivers have to be at ease, but it's important he shows his teammates he's up to the task as well. That allows the team to solidify its confidence in someone with 30 NFL pass attempts and three fewer touchdown completions than running back LaDainian Tomlinson.

    Rivers' teammates have been effusive in their praise of his leadership abilities and skills. But talk is cheap this time of the year — Rivers needs to prove he can be the Top Gun, and this camp will provide him ample opportunities to do just that.

    —Find a left tackle: While most point to the quarterback position as the offense's most critical spot, an argument could be made that it's really left tackle. Does it really matter if the quarterback has the potential to lead a team if he keeps getting creamed by blind side hits?

    That's why the Chargers need to determine if veteran Roman Oben, journeyman Leander Jordan or rookie Marcus McNeill is the left tackle.

    The Chargers pray it is the savvy Oben. But he is being asked to rebound from two surgeries on his left foot, and after 10 NFL seasons, that is no slam dunk.

    Jordan would be next in line, but his inconsistency has some Chargers insiders closing their eyes when their quarterback drifts back to pass. The prospect of having Jordan play every down in every game made the Chargers so squeamish they drafted McNeill in the second round.

    McNeill, at 6-feet-7, 337 pounds, has the measurables. What he lacks is the experience and asking him to protect a first-year starting quarterback against the NFL's top speed rushers is a path the Chargers don't want to take right now.

    —Shore up the secondary: The Chargers spent a No. 1 pick on a cornerback with one NCAA start. That reveals what the Chargers think of their current batch of cornerbacks, with the selection of Florida State's Antonio Cromartie.

    Expecting the raw Cromartie to contribute immediately is but a pipe dream. Instead, Quentin Jammer and Drayton Florence will return on the corners, with a new face playing behind them.

    Marlon McCree was the highest profile free agent the Chargers snagged over the offseason. He will likely play the strong safety spot; Terrence Kiel is the incumbent but is far from spectacular. Bhawoh Jue and Clinton Hart will possibly be squaring off for the free safety position. But Jue is coming off micro fracture knee surgery and Hart has never been a full-time starter.

    CAMP CALENDAR: July 24: Rookies report. July 25-27: Rookie practices (not open to the public). July 28: Veterans report. July 29: First full squad workouts at 8:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. Aug. 3: Night practice. Aug. 9: Night practice. Aug. 22: Night practice. Aug. 5: Practice and Fanfest at Qualcomm Stadium. Aug. 11: Light workout on the USS Ronald Reagan. Aug. 25 Camp ends.

    NOTES, QUOTES

    —RB LaDainian Tomlinson was nominated for an ESPY as the best NFL player.

    —The majority of training camp practices will be open to the public at the team's facility. Among the camp highlights is the FanFest, which is held on Aug. 5 at Qualcomm Stadium. Fans can see the Chargers work out and also get autographs.

    —New Chargers TE Aaron Shea is boning up regarding the offense: "I'm working hard to get this offense down so I've got my wife with note cards quizzing me at night," he said. "This is my fourth offense in seven NFL seasons, so picking up a new one is something I'm used to. It's still a challenge. Just the little things that help, that's what I'm trying to do."

    —Chargers owner Alex Spanos again funded the San Diego High School All-Star football game named in his honor.

    —Chula Vista and National City, two suburbs south of San Diego, are in discussions with the team about relocating from Qualcomm Stadium. On Jan. 1, the Chargers are free to speak to any city regarding relocating. The earliest the team can flee San Diego is following the 2008 season.

    —ILB Donnie Edwards remains on the trading block, but there seems to be little market for someone who has led his team in tackles in each of the past four seasons.

    QUOTE TO NOTE: "There's some good competition back there. Those guys are really pushing each other, which is what you love to see." — Coach Marty Schottenheimer on the spirited battles in the secondary.

    STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

    The Chargers were bragging this time last summer that they were returning all 22 starters. After finishing at 9-7 and in third place in the AFC West, the team made some changes.

    Nowhere is that more evident than the quarterback position. Despite pacing the Chargers to 20 wins as a starter the past two years, Pro Bowler Drew Brees - who is recovering from shoulder surgery - was allowed to leave for New Orleans. That opened the door for third-year pro Philip Rivers.

    The secondary was also tweaked, as the team signed free agent safety Marlon McCree and drafted cornerback Antonio Cromartie with its first pick.

    McCree should help right away on a pass defense that ranked No. 28 last year. Cromartie's athletic skills are evident, but he needs much coaching and practice time before he is ready to jump in after missing last year at Florida State with a serious knee injury.

    The offensive line is also a question mark, as left tackle Roman Oben is mending after two foot surgeries. Plus, the unit will be playing for its third positional coach in three years as Jack Henry was brought in to replace Carl Mauck.

    (continued)
     
  2. WonderSlug

    WonderSlug New Member

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    (continued)

    UNIT-BY-UNIT ANALYSIS

    QUARTERBACKS: Starter - Philip Rivers. Backups - A.J. Feely, Charlie Whitehurst.

    Mr. Rivers, it's time for your close-up. After waiting behind Drew Brees for two seasons, Rivers will finally be flipped the car keys to drive this unit toward the playoffs. Although, some doubt if Rivers can contribute with consistency right away with but 30 NFL passes and yet to start his first NFL game. Rivers, though, counters that this is his third year in the offense and he didn't waste his time being Brees' caddy. Rivers said he absorbed through Brees what it takes to prepare on a weekly basis and how to be a leader at this level. If Rivers stumbles, the Chargers could go with Feeley a starter with the Eagles and Dolphins. Whitehurst is seen as a project but should be the team's No. 3 quarterback.

    RUNNING BACKS: Starters - RB LaDainian Tomlinson, FB Lorenzo Neal. Backups - Michael Turner, Darren Sproles, Andrew Pinnock.

    Tomlinson is among the NFL's elite backs and his services will be needed more than ever as the Chargers try to break in a new quarterback. To lessen the pounding Tomlinson takes, he could be more involved in the passing game to give him some space to work with - in any capacity, Tomlinson is a versatile threat with few NFL peers. Neal is the workhorse opening holes for Tomlinson and doesn't show any signs of decline skills despite this being his 14th season. Turner's play last year, especially late, could result in seeing his role increase this season. Sproles never got comfortable in the base offense, although the Chargers are still looking for ways to get him the ball.

    TIGHT ENDS: Starter - Antonio Gates. Backups - Aaron Shea, Brandon Manumaleuna.

    Some will argue in Kansas City, but Gates has become the top player at his position. Gates could be leaned on even more this season as a safety value for Rivers. Shea and Manumaleuna were brought in as blockers and will seldom see a pass headed in their direction. It's the role of the sure-handed Gates in an offense with a new quarterback, which can't be minimized.

    WIDE RECEIVERS: Starters - Keenan McCardell, Eric Parker. Backups - Vincent Jackson, Kassim Osgood, Rashaun Woods, Malcom Floyd.

    McCardell's credentials are among the game's all-time best. But does a team with Super Bowl aspirations really want a 36-year-old receiver as its go-to wide out? Parker's numbers continue to rise. But what hasn't changed his is 6-foot, 180-pound frame which often gets battered by his acrobatic and fearless catches. Jackson managed but three catches last year in a rookie season plagued by minor injuries. Osgood has some upside, but blocking is his strength; Woods was a first-round bust in San Francisco and is hoping to resurrect his career.

    OFFENSIVE LINE: Starters - LT Roman Oben, LG Kris Dielman, C Nick Hardwick, RG Mike Goff, LT Shane Olivea. Backups - Leander Jordan, Marcus McNeill, Scott Mruczkowski, Cory Lekkerkerker.

    Oben, and not Rivers, could be the key to the offense. The 11-year veteran is trying to rebound from two foot surgeries. Dielman, a former defensive lineman, has grown into a reliable starter. Hardwick has grown in girth some 20 pounds to handle the massive nose tackle bodies he must wrestle with. Goff is solid if not spectacular; Olivea's play seemed to wane as last season wore on.

    DEFENSIVE LINE: Starters -LE Luis Castillo, DT Jamal Williams, RE Igor Olshansky. Backups - Jacques Cesaire, Ryon Bingham, Derreck Robinson.

    Williams finally earned his long overdue Pro Bowl berth last year. Castillo, in his second year, supplied production as a run-stopper and pass-rusher. Olshansky is usually seen just on the early downs; he's a big reason the run defense was No. 1 last year. Depth, though, could be a concern here, especially with the untested Bingham playing behind Williams.

    LINEBACKERS: Starters - OLB Steve Foley, ILB Donnie Edwards, ILB Randall Godfrey, OLB Shawne Merriman, Backups - Shaun Phillips, Matt Wilhelm, Stephen Cooper, Marques Harris, Tim Dobbins, Carlos Polk.

    Merriman, the NFL's Defensive Rookie of the Year, was a monster last season and should build on that foundation. Foley is returning from an abdominal strain which limited his production last year - those two, along with the speed-rusher Phillips - can cause opposing quarterback fits. The inside spots are solid with Edwards - the team's leading tackler in each of the past four years - and Godfrey - an 11-year pro who had 78 tackles and three fumble recoveries last year. Depth here is keen - Cooper and Wilhelm could possibly start elsewhere.

    DEFENSIVE BACKS: Starters - LCB Quentin Jammer, RCB Drayton Florence, FS Marlon McCree, SS Terrence Kiel. Backups - Bhawoh Jue, Clinton Hart, Hanik Milligan, Antonio Cromartie, Markus Curry, Andre Lott.

    Long the Achilles' heel of the defense, the secondary is hoping to improve with the addition of McCree and the drafting of Cromartie in the first round. Jammer is a lightning rod for criticism and for good reason - the former fifth overall pick has but two interceptions the past two years. Florence is up-and-down; he had but one pick last year, too. The free spot should be strong with McCree, although the team is still tinkering on where to play him. Kiel needs to rebound from an ankle injury and Jue had a complicated knee surgery over the offseason, but could be in the mix for Kiel's spot, along with Clinton Hart.

    SPECIAL TEAMS: K Nick Kaeding, P Mike Scifres, LS David Binn, KR Darren Sproles, PR Eric Parker.

    Kaeding has had a solid first two years; the team drafted Smith to possibly handle kickoffs. Scifres is a charitable bounce or two away from being a Pro Bowler. Sproles gives the team a burst on kickoffs; he's been shaky on punts, which forced Parker into that role. The team would rather keep Parker exclusively for the passing game, so Sproles will get another look. Another possibility is Cromartie and McCardell.
     
  3. WonderSlug

    WonderSlug New Member

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    Well, apart from his saying Luis Castillo became a force in his SECOND year..... :icon_wink:
     
  4. Trumpet_Man

    Trumpet_Man New Member

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    I called Marlon McCree at SS before anybody and these awipes are jumping on my coat tails?

    Hart will start at FS and has started at FS with the Eagles when Dawkins went down.
     
  5. Concudan

    Concudan Caffeinated Commando

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    Guys remember when posting articles and copyrighted material, just post a few paragraphs and a link unless you have the authors permission, please.

    Thanks.
     
  6. Trumpet_Man

    Trumpet_Man New Member

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    Man I am real bad at that since I did it with impunity at the UT boards. :icon_eek:

    I will try to be better so we don't get any shiit from legal. :icon_mrgreen:
     
  7. Trumpet_Man

    Trumpet_Man New Member

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    Hey guys, the reason I called McCree as our SS vs. our FS is the guys build. His physique. He is more of a banger.

    Hart is a tall rangy lanky guy better suited to read and react at FS. He does not have the banger build that McCree has.

    I am not sure if USA Today took my stuff as no one on the Chargers boards has predicted this move other than me to my knowledge.

    Oh well .... fuc it. :icon_mrgreen:
     
  8. Trumpet_Man

    Trumpet_Man New Member

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    Bow wow Jues Microfracture knee surgery is tricky tricky stuff. I would not be surprised to see him on IR or a very very non factor this year....even a Jerry Wilson type of liability. :yes:
     
  9. AnteaterCharger

    AnteaterCharger Calibrating Bolttalk, Podcast by Podcast Staff Member Super Moderator Podcaster

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    I've heard constantly that he'll be the FS and that he's got the banger build but with really good cover skills. Hart is a hybrid, Jue's a cover and Kiel's a hitter. I think they just went with where Mcree played last year (SS) when he was brought in to be FS
     
  10. Buttmunch

    Buttmunch New Member

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    I didn't even realize that! :icon_eek:
     

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