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Chargers hope to stay atop a changing division

Discussion in 'Chargers Fan Forum' started by Johnny Lightning, Mar 25, 2009.

  1. Johnny Lightning

    Johnny Lightning Go Bolts

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    Chargers.com

    DANA POINT, CALIF. – Chargers Head Coach Norv Turner was asked Tuesday morning about his team’s 2009 opener at Oakland, and his response could have been appropriate if he were talking about any of San Diego’s three AFC West foes.

    “It’s going to be a challenge for us because they’ve changed,” Turner said from the NFL’s annual spring meetings. “They’ve changed their defensive staff. I think they’ve made some changes offensively. They’re a talented young team, so we’re going to have to do a lot of preparation on them in terms of how much different they’re going to be.”

    As the Chargers pursue their fourth-consecutive division title in 2009, they’ll do so against a trio of teams that have each experienced sweeping coaching changes.

    The Broncos will be led by first-year Head Coach Josh McDaniels. He’ll call offensive plays, and Mike Nolan will lead Denver’s defense as they transition to a 3-4 scheme.

    In Kansas City, new boss Todd Haley kept 2008 offensive coordinator Chan Gailey on board, but Haley, who was the play-caller for the 2008 NFC Champion Cardinals, may make the calls. The Chiefs’ defense is certain to look different under new coordinator Clancy Pendergast, who followed Haley from Arizona.

    And in Oakland, Tom Cable had the interim head coach title removed and enters his first full season at the helm. The Raiders have a new defensive coordinator in John Marshall, formerly of the Seattle Seahawks, and former Chargers assistant Ted Tollner will serve as Cable’s passing-game coordinator.

    “The division is going to be different,” Turner said. “It’s going to be important for us to get a handle (on the division) quickly. All three teams have changed from a coaching standpoint. Oakland has a new defensive coordinator. They've made some changes in the offensive staff. Kansas City and Denver, they're both going to be completely different in what they do. We've got a lot of work to do.”

    As Turner pointed out and McDaniels concurred, AFC West head coaches don’t really know what to expect from the division’s newcomers, which adds some difficulty to their preparations, particularly for early-season games.

    “It’s hard to prepare for a team that you can’t watch on film and say, ‘That’s what they’re going to do,’” McDaniels said. “You’re watching Arizona’s offense or Arizona’s defense to try to figure out how Kansas City is going to play this year. That’s always a little bit of a challenge.”

    Added Haley: “There has been a lot of change, so that means there's a lot of unknown. That could mean opportunity for us, so it remains to be seen. San Diego didn't change. They’ve been a pretty good team here the last few years. The other guys … it’s no different than us.”

    The Chargers' success over the past three seasons has started in the division. They've gone 15-3 against AFC West opponents in the last three years, posting 5-1 marks against divisional foes in each of the last three seasons. While the Chargers hope to stave off their young divisional foes, they’ll do so with a bullseye on their backs.

    “You start with the Chargers,” McDaniels said. “They won the division. They’ve excelled now for a number of years. They’re physical. That’s one of the big challenges for us is to try to match that physicality, that size, that toughness that they play with. We’re all chasing those guys.”

    Turner sees each AFC West opponent as intriguing. The Raiders won their final two games of the season and carry some momentum into the new year. In the last nine weeks of the season, Kansas City lost six games by a touchdown or less, including a pair of one-point defeats to the Chargers. Denver spent the first 16 weeks of 2008 at the top of the AFC West standings before San Diego caught them in Week 17.

    “The Raiders gave us a tough game at their place early in the year and then had the strong finish,” Turner said. “Kansas City lost a lot of close games and when you look at a team like that, you say, ‘They’re really, really close.’ We’re all aware of the young, talented players on the Broncos roster and they’re going to get better. We have to improve on offense, on defense and on special teams and try to stay ahead of the curve.”
     

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