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ARE THE CHARGERS DEEP? A.J. SMITH STRIKES AGAIN

Discussion in 'Chargers Fan Forum' started by Trumpet_Man, Jan 18, 2008.

  1. Trumpet_Man

    Trumpet_Man Well-Known Member

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    http://www.signonsandiego.com/sports/chargers/20080118-9999-1s18charger1.html

    Layers of players

    [​IMG]

    The Chargers' foundation for success has been evident here and there, but hit home in win over the Colts when the team's depth was on display


    By Kevin Acee
    UNION-TRIBUNE STAFF WRITER

    January 18, 2008

    It would be predictable if not for the fact he says it so much. It could be the answer to almost any question he is asked about his team. It should some day be carved on his tombstone.
    “Get the best players you can, line 'em up three deep,” Chargers General Manager A.J. Smith says, probably in his sleep.

    Smith and his personnel people have gotten much credit for their drafting of elite players. The Chargers' GM has made a jaw-dropping trade or two. The Chargers have more starters under contract through 2009 than any other franchise.

    But there is another, less-sexy component that has helped the Chargers to the playoffs for the second straight year. It is an aspect to team-building that Smith emphasizes as much as acquiring Pro Bowlers.

    It has played a gigantic role in the Chargers being in their first AFC Championship Game in 13 years. And if they are to halt history Sunday against the undefeated New England Patriots, this part of Smith's building plan will likely be a big reason.

    Because for the 10 Pro Bowlers last February and the eight headed to Hawaii next month, this is what has enabled the Chargers to go undefeated in the combined 17 games Luis Castillo and Shawne Merriman have missed over the past two seasons. This is what makes any potential loss of LaDainian Tomlinson less heart-stopping, the farewells of Donnie Edwards and Randall Godfrey less noticeable, Lorenzo Neal's broken leg less devastating and the demotion of Shane Olivea possible.

    “Layers,” Smith says so often and in so many situations.

    That is Smith-speak for depth.

    “It's a unique thing,” said Norv Turner, in his first season as head coach of the team Smith created. “We have good players. They've done a great job here.”

    The Chargers might not have won 11 regular-season games without Jeromey Clary stepping in so ably at right tackle in place of Olivea in November and Darren Sproles filling in sporadically at running back for the resting Tomlinson and injured Michael Turner in December. And they don't score 400 points in back-to-back seasons without tight end Brandon Manumaluena backing up and playing alongside Antonio Gates. And those (league-high) 103 sacks over the past two years don't happen without defensive ends Jacques Cesaire and Ryon Bingham filling in for Castillo or without linebackers Carlos Polk, Jyles Tucker and Marques Harris for Merriman.

    And, oh yeah, the Chargers don't win last Sunday's divisional playoff game at Indianapolis without Billy Volek, Turner and Legedu Naanee making plays on the winning drive in the fourth quarter.

    “I hate to think,” Smith said, “of going along in a playoff game, with all the time and effort put into building a playoff-caliber team, and you get wiped out on injuries, and I would have to look at myself in the mirror and say, 'I wish I hadn't assumed we'd have our best players and no injuries.' ”

    That could never happen.

    Not with this guy.

    Smith, who has planned pretty much everything but his meals for the next two or three years, including contingencies for contingencies, sits in his office on most days and can't help but see what he's got on his team.

    Below and to his right are the Chargers' practice fields. Behind him are pictures of the family. Directly in front of him is a magnetic board with every player on the roster affixed.

    Often standing in front of the board, he'll torture himself. And through the pain comes gain.

    Going into “negative mode,” he calls it.

    “OK, I like my starters, but what happens if this guy gets hurt or this guy gets hurt and this guy gets hurt,” Smith will say as he gazes at his depth chart.

    So he'll lift the magnetic strips with Quentin Jammer's name and see what his roster would look like. He'll lift the Kris Dielman strip and gulp, but he knows it has to be done.

    “It's a violent game,” Smith said. “It's a long season. Guys are going to be called upon at any time.”


    Cesaire knows. He has started 21 games since technically losing his starting job when Castillo was drafted in the first round in 2005.

    “It happens every season,” Cesaire said last month in the midst of making six starts in seven weeks in place of Castillo. “You have to be ready.”

    Castillo, a likely Pro Bowl defensive end if not for injuries, said of Bingham and Cesaire, “Those guys are starters on other teams.”

    For this reason, while it might go largely unnoticed among the populace, Smith gets almost as excited about signing Cesaire or Bingham to a long-term deal as he does about anything else.

    There are so many ways that depth excites Smith.

    Having good players behind starters breeds competition. Some backups (linebackers Stephen Cooper and Matt Wilhelm for Godfrey and Edwards) are groomed to start. Some (Bingham and Cesaire) are there for depth in a game and in case of emergency. Some (Sproles) are role players, special teams guys who get the occasional chance on offense or defense.

    “You have to have layers,” Smith said. “It's part of building a championship-caliber football team.”

    How much does Smith love depth? He spent $2.3 million of Dean Spanos' money and turned down a first-round draft pick to keep Michael Turner. He decided once and for all to not trade the running back on the second day of the draft and never considered it again.

    Turner barely carried the ball this season – when he made five times what he did in 2006. But when Tomlinson went down in the second quarter last week in Indianapolis, Turner carried a career-high 17 times for 71 yards as the Chargers beat the defending Super Bowl champion Colts and went further in the playoffs than most believed possible this season.

    “It gives you satisfaction,” Smith said of watching the depth pay off. “You want good players. Not everyone is going to start.”

    And then . . . wait for it . . .

    “Get the best players you can, line 'em up three deep.”

    Backup plan
    Here are some of the backups who have played key roles for the Chargers this season:


    [​IMG]
    Billy Volek, QB
    The eight-year veteran completed 3-of-4 passes for 48 yards and then scored the winning touchdown against Indianapolis on a sneak from the 1.

    Darren Sproles, RB
    The third-string back scored two touchdowns from scrimmage when No. 2 Michael Turner suffered shoulder and ankle injuries. That's in addition to his two return touchdowns.

    [​IMG]
    Ryon Bingham, DE
    Also plays a lot during games. He started once at end and once at tackle this season. He signed a four-year contract last month.

    Michael Turner, RB
    Kept as an insurance policy for $2.3 million and paid off Sunday when he ran 17 times for 71 yards in victory over Indianapolis.

    [​IMG]
    Jacques Cesaire, DE
    Has started 21 games the past three seasons in addition to playing significant number of snaps each game.
     
  2. Trumpet_Man

    Trumpet_Man Well-Known Member

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    http://www.nctimes.com/articles/2008/01/18/sports/professional/chargers/22_26_281_17_08.txt

    [​IMG]
    Chargers' LaDainian Tomlinson looks to break from the tackle of Titan's Albert Haynesworth during second quarter play.

    Opportunity rings

    By: MIKE SULLIVAN - Staff Writer

    Despite tons of accolades, L.T. craves Super Bowl ring

    SAN DIEGO ---- LaDainian Tomlinson is a certain Hall of Famer who has set numerous records in his seven-year NFL career. The back-to-back NFL rushing champion is the undisputed top running back in the game.

    Yet while records pile up and milestones are surpassed, the Chargers star has a lonely ring finger and a major hole on his resume.

    Tomlinson craves a Super Bowl ring and feels he needs to be part of an NFL championship team to validate his legacy.

    "I feel like I do," Tomlinson said earlier this week. "Since I was a kid, that's something I've always wanted to do ---- to win a Super Bowl.

    "We still have a shot to do that."

    The Chargers are one of four teams with a shot at winning Super Bowl XLII. But to get an invitation to the big game in Glendale, Ariz., they need to upset the New England Patriots in Sunday's AFC Championship Game in frigid Foxborough, Mass.

    The Chargers are two-touchdown underdogs against the unbeaten Patriots, making Tomlinson's run at the ring an incredible challenge. He's fully aware that it will be a monumental accomplishment if the Chargers beat the Patriots.

    Yet he's balancing any apprehension with a strong dose of exhilaration.

    "It's very exciting," Tomlinson said. "You know, I can't tell you how excited I am. Ever since I was a kid I've dreamed about playing in the Super Bowl and having the chance to win the championship.

    "It's a great feeling, but you know, we've got a tough task ahead of us. We're playing perhaps the greatest team to ever play football, and so we've got a heck of a task.

    "We just hope we don't get embarrassed."

    The Chargers were embarrassed by New England in September, when the Patriots steamrolled them 38-14 in a nationally televised Sunday night contest.

    There also is the memory of last year's playoff contest, in which the Patriots took advantage of some sloppy play by the Chargers to score the final 11 points of the contest and rally to a 24-21 victory at Qualcomm Stadium.

    Tomlinson took exception to the Patriots' on-field celebratory tactics after the contest and inferred that Patriots coach Bill Belichick lacked class.

    Twelve months later, Tomlinson says he no longer has animosity over what happened last season, despite the common belief that there remains a high amount of tension between the two teams.

    "I wouldn't say it's bad blood at all," Tomlinson said. "Last year, we kind of really didn't respect them. That has changed, obviously, because we haven't beaten them in the last few times we played them. So we have a lot of respect for them. There's no bad blood. It's just respect."

    Tomlinson certainly will be at less than full strength for Sunday's game. He hyperextended his left knee during last week's playoff victory over Indianapolis and returned to practice on Thursday.

    Tomlinson was a full practice participant and was encouraged afterwards over how the knee responded.

    "I feel pretty good," Tomlinson said. "I feel I was coming along fine. I tested it. I wanted to see where I was, and I was happy where I was today."

    Tomlinson has asserted that he will start Sunday's game. Reserves Michael Turner and Darren Sproles made tremendous contributions against the Colts, but Tomlinson's ferocious hate-to-lose competitiveness would definitely come in handy against the Patriots.

    "Every team has a guy that you kind of build around, and he's been that guy here," Chargers coach Norv Turner said. "He's persistent in his attitude and his leadership."

    And, of course, there's that dogged pursuit of a Super Bowl ring. The NFL MVP award is nice. The single-season touchdown record is memorable. And the rushing-yardage milestones that have led to him being mentioned along with the greatest backs in NFL history are impressive.

    But Tomlinson is consumed with doing all he can to assure that Sunday isn't the Chargers' final game of this season. He has spent all week visualizing what it would mean to stun the Patriots.

    "You can't help but to think about it," Tomlinson said. "It's a David-and-Goliath kind of match. Perhaps the greatest team ever against a team that no one expected to be at this point. You think about it and you dream about it. It's big for us."



    ........... I did not want to start another thread so .....
     
  3. Thread_Killer

    Thread_Killer Well-Known Member

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    Norv Turner deserves a huge amount of credit as well. The coaching staff has done a great job of preparing our reserves to come in and perform well when called upon. It is a delicate balance, giving backups enough practice reps during the week, while making sure that the starters stay sharp.
     
  4. Kwak

    Kwak ....

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    Never doubt the best GM we have EVER had. :bolt:

    We kept the right guy this time around.

    Let us also remember, Norv got the Bolts to the playoffs with a 1st place schedule.

    Something the previous coach did not.
     
  5. AnteaterCharger

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

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    norv won a playoff game, something the previous coach could not do
     
  6. wrbanwal

    wrbanwal Well-Known Member

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    two!!


    :abq2::abq1::abq2::abq1:



    with two to go!!!!


    :bolt::bolt::bolt:
     
  7. Trumpet_Man

    Trumpet_Man Well-Known Member

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    One of the announcers laid out a stat and I said "oh man - holy ****". :lol:

    It has been since 1982 that we had won a ROAD DIVISIONAL playoff game.
     
  8. BFISA

    BFISA Well-Known Member

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    Norv is a fuq'in Svengali.
     
  9. AnteaterCharger

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

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    its been nearly as long since the Pats lost at home in the playoffs
    some streaks are going to go down this weekend!
     
  10. wrbanwal

    wrbanwal Well-Known Member

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    aj is gawd
     
  11. SanDiegoRon

    SanDiegoRon BoltTalker

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    it must be nice, getting paid all that money for 8 games a season...

    "Cesaire knows. He has started 21 games since technically losing his starting job when Castillo was drafted in the first round in 2005.

    “It happens every season,” Cesaire said last month in the midst of making six starts in seven weeks in place of Castillo. “You have to be ready.”

    which guy am I talking about....:lol: draft a DE...
     

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