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Chargers Team Report - 01/28/09

Discussion in 'San Diego Chargers Hall of Champions' started by robdog, Jan 28, 2009.

  1. robdog

    robdog Code Monkey Staff Member Administrator

    Jun 29, 2009
    Source: <a href="http://www.usatoday.com/sports/football/nfl/chargers/home.htm" target="_blank">USA Today</a>
    <div class="inside-copy"><a href="http://img.fannation.com/upload/truth_rumor/photo_upload/226/34/full/ajsmithGettyImages.jpg"><img class="alignleft" title="GM A.J. Smith" src="http://img.fannation.com/upload/truth_rumor/photo_upload/226/34/full/ajsmithGettyImages.jpg" alt="" width="166" height="166" /></a>A truce, so it seems, has been called between Chargers general manager A.J. Smith and star running back LaDainian Tomlinson.</div>
    <p class="inside-copy">Smith drew the ire of Chargers fans - and Tomlinson - when recently mocking Tomlinson's statement on his website that he would like to remain a Charger.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">There has been chatter that Tomlinson would be moved, cut or asked to restructure his contract which will count some $8 million against the salary cap next season.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">But Tomlinson wanted to get the word out - on his website - that any decision regarding him leaving the Chargers is out of his hands.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">When presented with Tomlinson's remarks, the gruff Smith repeated Tomlinson's statement, nearly word-for-word, on how he wanted to remain with the Chargers as well.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">If it wasn't mocking one of the most celebrated and popular players in Chargers history, it sure came across that way.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">Smith would later call Tomlinson, claiming his remarks were misinterpreted.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">"He apologized for what came out and he sounded sincere," Tomlinson said, while in Tampa for the Super Bowl. "I accept his apology and there is no hard feelings. (But) I did kind of take it as him mocking me."</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">Smith has done much damage to his reputation - although he seeks one in which he is the ultimate hard-ball player.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">That said, Smith seemed to picked a fight with someone who has legions of fans - and rightly so, just two seasons removed from breaking the NFL touchdown mark and being the NFL's MVP.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">Smith? While building a team which has reached the playoffs three straight years, the prickly executive remains true to his nickname, "Lord of No Rings".</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">Tomlinson, though, is coming off his least productive season in his eight NFL years. Still, he ran for more than 1,100 yards and 11 touchdowns.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">But he is also closing fast on age 30, which is often the time elite backs see their statistics decline at an alarming rate.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">Tomlinson isn't ready to say he's on the decline. Not after toe and groin injuries derailed his season; not to mention an offensive line which had trouble run-blocking with any consistency.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">"My main concern is me being healthy next year," Tomlinson said. "So I can prove that I am still an elite player in the league."</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">Tomlinson has said "anything is negotiable" regarding taking another look at his rich contract. While the Chargers aren't overly eager to push Tomlinson out the door, on the horizon is completing contracts with three Pro Bowlers: quarterback Philip Rivers, outside linebacker Shawne Merriman and left tackle Marcus McNeill.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">"An organization makes decisions for business and what is best for them," Tomlinson said. "I'll do the exact same thing."</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">Tomlinson might look at another offense as being more attractive. Since Norv Turner took over for Marty Schottenheimer two years ago, the offense has transformed from a power-running attack to one more suited for Rivers' big arm.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">But what's clear is the Chargers' front office - again - created a big mess and it has been cleaning up since.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">Some speculate Smith was aiming his displeasure more at Tomlinson's agent, Tom Condon, than the best back in Chargers history.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"><strong>NOTES, QUOTES</strong></p>
    <p class="inside-copy">- The Chargers have signed a marketing agreement with a Los Angeles firm to promote the team in Orange County and L.A. The team is currently in a window in which it could claim it is leaving San Diego for another city, but team officials said the team is going nowhere - for now.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">- Don Johnson will become the club's new defensive line coach and Steve Wilks will coach the secondary. Both coaches are former Chicago Bears assistants and worked with defensive coordinator Ron Rivera.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">- Former All-Pro CBC Cris Dishman, who spent the 2008 offseason with the team's NFL's Minority Coaching Fellowship program, was hired as the assistant secondary coach and Greg Williams will be an assistant linebackers coach.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">- RB LaDainian Tomlinson is due to count $8.8 million against the 2009 salary cap, and there are indications the Chargers might be seeking to trade the eight-year veteran. Tomlinson, who will turn 30 in June, is under contract through 2011, but he has been slowed by injuries the past two years.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">Team president Dean Spanos addressed the growing rumors that Tomlinson might not be back with the team by telling the team's website that: "We can't let our emotions taint our decisions." Spanos and Tomlinson talked Thursday. "We talked about the situation and I just tried to explain everything that must be considered," Spanos told Chargers.com.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">"I told him we haven't even started our discussions and won't for awhile, so don't jump to any conclusions. And I told him I would call him personally to make sure he's aware of everything that's going on."</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-In a vote among Chargers, QB Philip Rivers and DT Jamal Williams were named the team's co-Most Valuable Players. Rivers was also the Offensive Player of the Year; Williams the top defender and lineman. RB/KR Darren Sproles took the special teams honor and CB Quentin Jammer was named the most inspirational.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-The Chargers' soon-to-be unrestricted free agents are RG Mike Goff, DE Igor Olshansky, OLs Jeremy Newberry and Kynan Forney, OLB Marques Harris and RB Darren Sproles. Olshansky was grumbling after the season that he wasn't used properly. Olshansky, a former second-round pick, isn't expected back. Same goes for Goff.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">The Chargers look to 2009 and hope to figure out why they consistently get off to slow starts, requiring a big push at the end to make the playoffs. "The last two years, September didn't go the way we'd hoped," s Eric Weddle said. "Doing it this way is tiring. We've got to be a complete team from day one next year."</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-ILB Stephen Cooper would have mixed emotions if the Chargers lost defensive coordinator Ron Rivera to one of the head-coaching vacancies around the league. "Guys would be sad but it's part of the business," he said. "Guys come and go, whether it's players or coaches. If it does happen, more power to him. He deserves a head-coaching job. He's a great coach and a great person."</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-The Chargers have the 16th overall selection in next spring's draft.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-QB Philip Rivers' offseason plans? "A whole lot of nothing," he said. "The first couple days are tough because you've been in such a routine and such a focus for ... 20 weeks now. All of the sudden it's over. It'll settle in and you kind of get away from it a little bit and then you gear up and go at it again."</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"><strong>QUOTE TO NOTE:</strong> "You are never surprised about anything. That is just something that goes along with the territory and the business we're in and something everyone must deal with." - LB LaDainian Tomlinson, on if he would be surprised if the Chargers don't bring him back.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"><strong>STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL</strong></p>
    <p class="inside-copy">In addition to the mystery of LaDainian Tomlinson's return, the Chargers must decide what to do with Darren Sproles.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">For the second straight offseason, a Charger fresh on the market appears to be one of the real key players of free agency. This year, it's Sproles, whose value skyrocketed when he filled in for Tomlinson this season. Last year, Michael Turner was the one seeking an opportunity and he paid off in a big way for his new team, the Falcons.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">Sproles is undersized, but you can't argue with his production as a back and returner. But do the Chargers want to entrust their running game to a 5-foot-6, 181-pound back? That's among the big personnel questions looking to be addressed.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">- The team signed LB Eric Bakhtiari, WR Gary Banks, RB Eldra Buckley, DE Andre Coleman, G Brandyn Dombrowski, CBs Grant Mason and DeJuan Tribble, and DT Ogemdi Nwagbuo.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"></p>
    <p class="inside-copy">UNIT-BY-UNIT ANALYSIS</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">QUARTERBACK: Starter - Philip Rivers. Backups - Billy Volek, Charlie Whitehurst.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">Rivers' third season as a starter resulted in a third AFC West title and he produced numbers not seen in San Diego since Dan Fouts was taking snaps. Rivers led the NFL with a 105.5 rating and broke Fouts' team mark with 34 touchdowns passes. Rivers is benefiting from being the trigger man in a pass-first offense. Don't expect any changes with the backups, as the club is satisfied with Volek and Whitehurst being ready.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">RUNNING BACKS: Starters - LaDainian Tomlinson, Jacob Hester. Backups - Darren Sproles, Mike Tolbert, Michael Bennett, Billy Latsko.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">Tomlinson rushed for the fewest yards of his remarkable career (1,110) while battling toe and groin injuries. He also fell victim to some shoddy run blocking. Hester was in over his head in many pass protections and he was no Lorenzo Neal - few are - on the lead blocks on running plays. Sproles was stellar, rushing for more than 100 yards in two of the final three games - including once in the playoffs. Bennett could be more than a backup next year, depending on what the team does with Tomlinson and Sproles.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">TIGHT ENDS: Starter - Antonio Gates. Backups - Brandon Manumaleuna, Kris Wilson. Injured reserve - Scott Chandler.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">Gates didn't get right until about midseason, coming off a serious toe injury. He turned in another solid year and should be only better next season - if his sprained ankle and sore Achilles get right over the offseason. Manumaleuna is asked to block in this offense, and he does his job well. Wilson was a standout on special teams. Chandler's foot injury is healing sufficiently.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">WIDE RECEIVERS: Starters - Chris Chambers, Vincent Jackson. Backups - Malcom Floyd, Legede Naanee, Kassim Osgood. Injured reserve - Craig Davis.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">Chambers' numbers were down; an ankle injury at near midseason played a part of that. But it was obvious Jackson became the go-to guy out wide in becoming the first Chargers wideout to reach 1,000 yards since Curtis Conway in 2001. Floyd continues to rise in the eyes of the coaches; a collapsed lung cost him the last month. Naanee is getting more looks; Osgood is anchored to the special teams. Davis should be fit for '09 after suffering a groin injury.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">OFFENSIVE LINE: Starters - LT Marcus McNeill, LG Kris Dielman, C Nick Hardwick, RG Mike Goff, RT Jeromey Clary. Backups - L.J. Shelton, Corey Clark, Jeremy Newberry, Scott Mruczkowski.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">This unit was as inconsistent as any other on the team. McNeill and Hardwick started the season hurt, which didn't help. But the line never got comfortable for extended periods of time in run-blocking. Maybe that was the pass-first mentality filtering down; for the most part the pass-protection was spot-on. Goff will likely leave as a free agent and the team could look to upgrade Clary's right tackle spot.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">DEFENSIVE LINE: Starters - E Igor Olshansky, NT Jamal Williams, E Luis Castillo. Backups - Ryon Bingham, Jacques Cesaire, Ian Scott.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">The play here was lacking at times, although it's tough to tell with these guys forming the anchor of the 3-4. What's more telling is the outside linebackers weren't able to get to the quarterback as often as liked, which tells you the line wasn't blowing its blocker well enough to allow it. That said, Williams had another Pro Bowl-worthy year in the middle and likely has at least one more year remaining. Olshansky and Castillo would disappear for long stretches during games; Olshansky is likely going to be allowed to leave as a free agent. The team is fine with Bingham and Cesaire as backups; they saw regular action in the rotation. Keith Grennan (knee) finished the year on IR, but should be ready for camp.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">LINEBACKERS: Starters - OLB Shaun Phillips, ILB Stephen Cooper, ILB Tim Dobbins, OLB Jyles Tucker. Backups - Marques Harris, Anthony Waters, Matt Wilhelm, Brandon Siler. Injured reserve - Shawne Merriman.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">This unit, as did the entire defense, missed the production and energy from Merriman. Merriman played all but one game before bowing out for knee surgery; he's on track to be ready for training camp. Phillips' production suffered, but he did finish as the team's leading sacker with 7.5 sacks. Tucker added 5.5, but wasn't seen as a threat from opposing offenses. Cooper had a solid year and was the team's leading tackler. Dobbins pushed Wilhelm - his stock has fallen greatly - from the starting lineup.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">DEFENSIVE BACKS: Starters - CB Quentin Jammer, CB Antonio Cromartie, S Steve Gregory, S Eric Weddle. Backups - Antoine Cason, Cletis Gordon, Clinton Hart, Paul Oliver.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">Jammer had a good year in run-support and was the team's best cover corner as well. Cromartie fell off his first year as a starter when he led the league with 10 interceptions; he had two in '08. Cromartie said he played the year with a fractured hip and next year he will be better. Gregory supplanted Hart from the starting lineup down the stretch and was OK; Hart may not be back. Weddle, in his first year as a starter, was often out of position in the game's biggest plays. He should be improved next year, although questions remain about his size.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">SPECIAL TEAMS: KR/PR Darren Sproles, K Nate Kaeding, P Mike Scifres, LS David Binn.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">Sproles was sensational this season, consistently giving the offense great field position with his returns. Kaeding had a decent year, although a groin injury cost him some distance down the stretch. Scifres was robbed of a Pro Bowl selection as his length and placement took a backseat to no one. Binn, who has played more games than any other Charger, should return for his 16th season.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"></p>


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