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Chargers needs are painfully clear

Discussion in 'Latest Chargers News & Headlines' started by robdog, Apr 26, 2006.

  1. robdog

    robdog Code Monkey Staff Member Administrator

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    Source: <a target="_blank" href="http://www.signonsandiego.com/sports/chargers/20060426-0054-fbn-draft-chargers.html">Associated Press</a>

    By Bernie Wilson

    SAN DIEGO – The San Diego Chargers don't have to look far to see where they need help through the NFL draft.

    After running Drew Brees out of town, general manager A.J. Smith would like to keep quarterback Philip Rivers in one piece, so a good left tackle to protect his blind side would help.

    The secondary is as leaky as ever, so maybe Smith will take yet another shot at cornerback.

    Wide receiver is on the list, too, because Keenan McCardell turns 37 in January.

    Smith has some big decisions to make as he tries to prop up a team that collapsed in December and missed the playoffs for the ninth time in 10 seasons.

    The Chargers own the 19th pick overall in Saturday's draft. Smith could be tempted to try to trade up and pick tackle Winston Justice of Southern California, who should be long gone by the 19th pick. Smith has nine picks total, and has dangled inside linebacker Donnie Edwards as trade bait.

    "If you're up top, you get a marquee player through about 10 or 11," Smith said. "If you're in the middle of the pack, you'll miss out on that unless you go up."

    Then again, Smith likes to stockpile draft picks, so he might be content to stay at No. 19 and hope that one of his desired players is still there.

    It's tough to nail down Smith's targeted players. He doesn't fall in love with a certain player, but identifies clusters of four of five players that he and his staff think could still be on the board when the Chargers make each of their picks.

    If the Chargers don't move up, be assured that Smith's first cluster will have an offensive tackle, a cornerback and a wide receiver.

    After Justice, the top tackles would be Marcus McNeill of Auburn and Eric Winston of Miami. Should it be a corner, it could be Tye Hill of Clemson or Jimmy Williams of Virginia Tech. Wide receiver Santonio Holmes of Ohio State could be in the group, too.

    The Chargers' situation at left tackle could best be described as worrisome. Roman Oben missed the last half of 2005 with a foot injury, then had offseason surgery. Leander Jordan replaced him, but still hasn't started the equivalent of a full season. He made one start at right tackle for San Diego in 2005 and five starts at right guard with Carolina in 2001.

    The only other left tackle on the depth chart is Cory Lekkerkerker, who didn't play as an undrafted rookie.

    "We need some help there," Smith said. "Roman Oben has had surgery. He's fine medically, but when he's out there playing is when I get comfortable. When a player gets fixed in the offseason, I worry. We're thin."

    And that's a huge issue considering that Rivers is untested.

    San Diego's protection was so poor in the meaningless season finale that Denver safety John Lynch helped knock Brees out of the game with a dislocated shoulder, then forced Rivers to fumble in the end zone, resulting in a safety.

    Brees needed surgery, which led Smith to conclude that he was damaged goods. Brees was allowed to leave as a free agent and signed with New Orleans.

    San Diego's cornerbacks are worrisome, too. They had only three interceptions last year. Sammy Davis, a first-round pick in Smith's first draft as GM in 2003, was traded to San Francisco for receiver Rashaun Woods, another disappointing first-round pick.

    Smith is the first to recognize that his defensive backs aren't making the trip to Honolulu for the Pro Bowl.

    Then again, Smith could have had safety Troy Polamalu in 2003. Instead, he traded down, from 15th to 30th, to get Davis. Polamalu went to the Pittsburgh Steelers with the 16th pick and became a Pro Bowler and a Super Bowl champion.

    The Chargers likely will add a quarterback in the draft, as well as an inside linebacker. Of the four inside linebackers on their roster, none are under contract beyond 2006.
     

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