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A Ball Watchers Guide to the Chargers 2009 Season

Discussion in 'Latest Chargers News & Headlines' started by robdog, Jul 24, 2009.

  1. robdog

    robdog Code Monkey Staff Member Administrator

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    By Curtis Egan
    <em>BoltTalk Staff Writer</em>
    <div id="post_message_541352"><strong>

    <div class="alignright"></strong><strong><a href="http://www4.pictures.gi.zimbio.com/Indianapolis+Colts+v+San+Diego+Chargers+-9WO8eLqEX9l.jpg"><img title="LaDainian Tomlinson" src="http://www4.pictures.gi.zimbio.com/Indianapolis+Colts+v+San+Diego+Chargers+-9WO8eLqEX9l.jpg" alt="LaDainian Tomlinson" width="231" height="177" /></a></strong></div>

    Put the Past behind you!
    The 2008 football season arrived in sunny San Diego California amid high expectations. The Chargers fans were ready to see their team rise to the top of the NFL. Then it happened, the Charger stumbled out of the gate, losing 8 of their first 12 games, including several heart breaking last minute loses. It doesn't matter what the reason was, the 2008 season left a sour taste in the mouths of many Chargers fans. It does not matter that the team collected themselves and managed to steal the division from Denver, who suffered a monumental breakdown to end their season. It was not the season we wanted, and that is now history.

    However, you can look back at last season and see some of the specters that led to the poor showing. Player Injuries the season before, players on the mend as camp rolled around, and slow starts. Then you look at this season. You will see something entirely different. The Chargers are retooled, reloaded, and ready to shock the NFL.

    In 2008, the pass defense was ranked 31st in the league, not what we expected from the break out unit of 2007 that led the league in interceptions. Again injuries hobbled the players as did the poor leadership from the coordinator position. That has been fixed now, Ron Rivera is now the Defensive Coordinator and he and the rest of the defensive coaching staff has put a lot of effort into making the defense more aggressive and more educated. No longer will the players be left on their own to guess at how they should react as a play develops, now the play book reportedly has more situational information, giving players the key to be able to read and react earlier, attacking rather than staying back and letting the play develop before making a move. The defense should be greatly improved, and that in my opinion is what is needed to make a Charger Championship.

    <strong>What Changed in 2009?</strong>
    <strong>Key Additions:</strong>
    ILB Kevin Burnett, DE/OLB Larry English, G Louis Vasquez, DT Vaughn Martin, G Tyronne Green, RB Gartrell Johnson, CB Brandon Hughes, SS Kevin Ellison, Demetrius Byrd.
    <strong>Key losses:</strong>
    G Mike Goff, C Jeremy Newberry, DE Igor Olshansky, DE/OLB Marques Harris, ILB Anthony Waters.

    The Chargers enter the training camp in 2009 with some serious questions to answer. Do they belong in the comparison of elite teams, or are they just a small market team that will be happy with a few division championships and playoff appearances. They have a chip on their shoulders and something to prove as they try for their fourth consecutive AFC West crown, and the NFL Championship.

    <strong>Looking Ahead:
    Defense: </strong>
    Everyone reportedly is coming into camp at 100%, healthy, excited and extremely motivated:

    <em>Jamal Williams:</em> a key defensive player and anchor of the 3-4 defensive line at Nose Tackle has said that he feels better coming into this camp than he has any camp in the last four years. Any Charger fan should know that as Jamal goes so goes the Defense. When he is healthy and on his game, very few offensive linemen can stop him one on one.

    <em>Shawne Merriman:</em> The disruptive force at Outside Linebacker is back, after missing most of the season last year. He is healthy and is looking chiseled. If his twitter shouts are correct, he is spending a lot of time and energy working out and getting ready to turn the LIGTHS OUT on every opposing Quarterback the Chargers face.

    <em>Antonio Cromartie:</em> The league leading interception master in 2007 dropped off the radar in 2008 while playing on a fractured hip. Antonio has mentioned via Twitter that he is healthy and ready for the season. With his hip healed, and the addition of a reinvigorated Chargers pass rush Antonio should return to his pass thieving ways.

    <em>Luis Castillo:</em> Do not discount how important this big man is to the defense of the Chargers. He has fast hands and feet, faster than one would anticipate for a man who is 6 foot 3 inches and almost 300 pounds. He has the strength to bull rush through offensive linemen as well as the finesse to use his hands to move them out of position. From all reports, Luis is working harder in this offseason and is hitting the ground ready put pressure on the Opposing Quarterbacks.

    <em>Ryon Bingham and Jacques Cesaire:</em> These two behemoths could very well have the battle of the camp. They will be striving to take the starting Defensive End spot vacated by Igor Olshansky, when he agreed to go play for Wade Philip s in Dallas. They will not have it easy though, as rookie Vaughn Martin at 6 foot 4 inches and 327 pounds could enter the mix before camp is over.

    <strong>Offense: </strong>

    Quarterback Philip Rivers came on like a legend in 2009 when he threw for 4009 yards, 34 touchdowns with only 11 interceptions. He tied for most touchdowns in the league, and had the highest passer rating of any starting Quarterback in the league last season. He is healthy, and will be playing behind a revamped offensive line. Again injuries, or more correctly, the lack there of will be an important factor here. LaDainian Tomlinson is coming into camp healthy, as is Antonio Gates and all the Receivers.

    <em>LaDainian Tomlinson:</em> Lets not kid ourselves, LT is aging, is he the same back as he was at 20, hell no. Did anyone expect him to be. Here is the moral of this story though- He is still an elite back! Last season, statistically was his worst as a pro. His worst season still saw him as a top 10 running back in the league with 1110 yards and 12 touchdowns. For lesser men, those are career numbers. That said, he is coming into camp at 100% on a new contract and with something to prove to everyone. Charger fans should sit back and enjoy it as LT shows the world why he isn't retired. Toss a heady does of Daren Sproles into the mix and the Chargers running game should be in great shape if the offensive line comes together as expected.

    <em>Buster ‘don't call me a bust' Davis:</em> Buster enters camp refreshed and needing to prove the Chargers were not wrong in spending a first round pick on him. His time might be getting short as there are already rumors flying that the Chargers have shopped him to other teams. Health has been the primary concern with him, his ability to prepare for the game and get on the field. Head Coach Norv Turner expressed frustration with Buster last season; reportedly the problem was that Buster would indicate that he would be able to play, only to recant on Game day.

    <strong>Keys to Success:</strong>
    Face it, the offense has been the bread and butter of the Chargers for a few seasons now. They are just two season removed from LT's record breaking season where he scored more touchdowns than anyone else in NFL history. However to get all the way to the promised land, and to hoist the Lombardi the Chargers are going to have to bring an intimidating, ‘smack you in the mouth and make your mama cry!' defense. They will have to be able to put points on the board against the good defenses and keep the good offenses from scoring.

    With a more aggressive defense, one that is better coached and has a renewed focus on rushing the passer I think we have the tools in place to provide just that. Castillo has said via Twitter that the Defense has high expectation and is setting their sights on a 40+ sack season. Go get them boys! Go get them and make us proud!

    Running consistency: No one is expecting LT to rush for five touchdowns and 300+ yards every game, but we are expecting a running attack to help balance out the offense and keep the defenses honest. The key here is the offensive line. The Chargers have had solid consistency from the line, though they did not have a stellar year last season. This season they will be working in a rookie Louis Vasquez, who has the size and strength to be a good guard, but they are lacking real depth. Jeromey Clarry, though not a fan favorite played to levels last season that makes the starting job his to lose.

    <strong>The Games:</strong>
    Some pundits say that the Chargers have one of the easiest schedules in the league, due solely to the fact that they get to play the other three AFC West teams twice each. However, the Chargers are facing 7 teams that were playoff teams last season, including the defending Superbowl Champions.
    <strong>Week 1 @Oakland, 9/14 MONDAY NIGHT:</strong>
    The Charger open on a Monday night, a great time to open, except for they have to share the evening with another game. Why the NFL has decided to put two games on Monday nights early in the season is beyond me. They start against an Oakland unit that could be the most improved team in the AFC West, their defense could be good this season. However it is not enough as their offense should still stink on ice. Chargers win. (1-0)
    <strong>Week 2 Baltimore, 9/20:</strong>
    The home opener should be a good one, this is one of the early gauges. The Baltimore defense is not the same as it was, but is still good. Their offense is improved and if they can maintain any consistency they should see the playoff in 09. If the Chargers defense can keep Flaco and co grounded the Chargers should win the game. (2-0).
    <strong>Week 3 Miami, 9/27:</strong>
    The Chargers have never beaten a team that Chad Pennington has Quarterbacked. However, the wildcat offense is no longer a surprise and the Chargers retooled defense should make the difference in this one. The Chargers win to start the season 3-0. (3-0).
    <strong>Week 4 @Pittsburgh, 10/04:</strong>
    This is the true measuring stick for the Chargers. Pittsburgh is an elite team that has really not lost much in the offseason and has improved itself. The Steelers have a misleading offense. They run at you and get you thinking they are doing one thing then hit you with a big play doing something else. Their defense is formidable as well. That said, even in the playoffs last season, injured and wore down the Chargers played Pittsburgh well. They do not have to win this game to have a great season, which is good because I think the Steelers, having a home field advantage take this one by a narrow margin. (3-1).
    <strong>Week 5 BYE, 10/11:</strong>
    A bit early for my taste, but just in time to deal with any retooling needs and any minor injuries.
    <strong>Week 6 Denver, 10/19 MONDAY NIGHT:</strong>
    The Broncos' come into San Diego after a tumultuous offseason that saw the coaching staff replaced, and their ‘star' quarterback pout his way to Chicago. The Broncos will not be the same team the Chargers have faced in the past, they will not be the team that is the one that could win the west. Chargers roll big time over a reeling division rival. (4-1).
    <strong>Week 7 @Kansas City, 10/25:</strong>
    Is there any place that is more hostile than playing in Arrowhead stadium, in front of a packed house of red? The Chargers have had success of late in Arrowhead, winning at Kansas City in back to back seasons for the first time this century. The Chargers facing a team that is switching to a new offensive and defensive scheme make it a three-peat in Kansas City. (5-1).
    <strong>Week 8 Oakland 11/01:</strong>
    As I said before, the Raiders defense will be improved, however the Chargers, or more accurately LT owns the Raiders. The Chargers win the game in overtime with an LT rush for a touchdown. (6-1).
    <strong>Week 9 @New York Giants, 11/08:</strong>
    Eli, remember the Chargers? Remember the team you spurned to go to the Giants? The team who's Jersey you nearly cried on while holding it up on draft day? They remember you. The Chargers and Giants will play a physical game, in a cold New York. The running game will be important and the Giants narrowly squeak out a win in front of their home crowd. (6-2).
    <strong>Week 10 Philadelphia, 11/15:</strong>
    The Eagles had a good offseason, but the Chargers are fired up after letting a game slip away from them on the east coast. The Chargers running game keeps McNabb and company off the field for much of the game. Chargers win moving to 7-2. (7-2).
    <strong>Week 11 @Denver, 11/22:</strong>
    Denver will not hold the power it used to, though the Broncos will be playing better football by this time of the season, they are not in the same class as the Chargers this season. Chargers win in Denver to secure a season sweep of the Broncos. (8-2).
    <strong>Week 12 Kansas City, 11/29:</strong>
    Kansas City will struggle this season with the new schemes. Unfortunately for them the Chargers are gearing up for the playoffs and win this one convincingly. (9-2).
    <strong>Week 13 @Cleveland, 12/06:</strong>
    Cleveland is COLD in December. There will be all sorts of talk about how the Chargers can't play in the cold, I think the Browns will but the Chargers prove that the cold does not slow them down. (10-2).
    <strong>Week 14@Dallas, 12/13:</strong>
    Igor Olshansky will be looking forward to this game. He wants to prove to the Chargers that they should have offered him a long term contract. The Cowboys are really good in December, and they will win a shoot out at home. (10-3).
    <strong>Week 15 Cincinnati, 12/20:</strong>
    Chad ‘Ochocinco' ran his mouth on Twitter about how he will school the Chargers, and they have not forgotten. The Chargers coming off of a loss in Dallas take out all their frustration on the hapless Bengals. (11-3).
    <strong>Week 16 Titans, 12/25 CHRISTMAS DAY:</strong>
    Merry Christmas Chargers. The Titans are still good, but without Fat Albert (Haynesworth) they are not the same defense. The fans of both teams get a Christmas gift in the form of an excellent game, but the Chargers win the game in the end. (12-3).
    <strong>Week 17 Washington, 01/03:</strong>
    Happy new year! Is it preseason already? The Chargers sit some starters and let this game slip as they gear up to make a run at the Lombardi. (12-4).

    Of course this is all speculation. While fun there is no scientific basis for this. However, the excitement I feel for this upcoming season is not like any I have felt before. I think the Chargers defense is going to be special, and that will make all the difference. Time will tell, but my expectations are higher than ever, and my challenge to every man on the Chargers is simple-</div>
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    <div><strong>BRING HOME THE LOMBARDI!!!!</strong></div>
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