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Getting Offensive

Discussion in 'San Diego Chargers Hall of Champions' started by robdog, Jul 2, 2006.

  1. robdog

    robdog Code Monkey Staff Member Administrator

    Jun 29, 2009
    Source: <a target="_blank" href="http://croceonchargers.blogspot.com/2006/06/entry-5-getting-offensive-ben-croce.html">Croce on Chargers</a>

    By Ben Croce

    With less than three months to go in the off-season, football fans around the nation are more anxious than Ricky Williams awaiting his drug test results. For some fans, the off-season has seemed excruciatingly long, an inevitable feeling when their teams just missed the 2005 post-season.

    This feeling may be strongest in San Diego, where the Chargers were heralded league wide as the best team NOT to make the play-offs. More often than not, the team came so close to the sweet taste of victory, only to lose by one, two, three, maybe four points. Sometimes it seemed the Chargers couldn't have won with Rainman in Vegas. So what gives?

    I'll tell you what <a href="http://img282.imageshack.us/img282/1921/jmchargers249665x4x6757mb.jpg"><img border="0" style="margin: 0pt 10px 10px 0pt; float: left; cursor: pointer; width: 200px" src="http://img282.imageshack.us/img282/1921/jmchargers249665x4x6757mb.jpg" /></a>gives: the offensive line. Last year, the Chargers' line actually gave up 31 sacks for a total of 243 yards. Not the kind of giving for which a coach wants to see his team acknowledged. A huge factor in the line's giving nature turned on Roman Oben, chief protector of the QB's blindside, who missed the second half of 2005 with a plantar fasciitis injury. When Oben went down, Brees followed suit, going down on blindsided hits so often he may have considered becoming left-handed. With Oben's return to the team at the start of 2006 uncertain, the Chargers had toselect a competent OLT to protect Philip Rivers, their Golden Boy behind center.

    Not only does the OLT protect the QB, he generally finds himself matched up with the opponent's best pass rusher. In 2005, the Bolts saw a number of fierce pass rushers in the form of Jevon Kearse, Dwight Freeney, Jared Allen, and Jason Taylor. Without a strong OLT to battle these players in 2006, the Bolts might as well rock/paper/scissors their way through games. To avoid this problem, the Chargers drafted a rock, or more accurately, a mountain.

    OLT Marcus McNeil of Auburn University may be a rookie, but players don't learn size. At 6'8," 336 lbs., McNeil is a monster, and is also the most likely player to step in for Oben if he is unable to get healthy. Reports from Cam Cameron indicate that McNeil continues to grow stronger while developing his game, hoping to find his place in the Chargers' offensive scheme rock solid.

    Another significant move<a href="http://img234.imageshack.us/img234/7857/bram0pb.jpg"><img border="0" style="margin: 0pt 0pt 10px 10px; float: right; cursor: pointer; width: 190px" src="http://img234.imageshack.us/img234/7857/bram0pb.jpg" /></a> to the left side is Brandon Manumaleuna, brought to the "Left Coast" in a draft day trade for a Bolts fourth round pick. Manumaleuna may be more of a Dead End than Tight End for opposing LBs hoping to get past him. Weighing in at 288 lbs, Manumaleuna gives the Bolts a sixth offensive lineman to play opposite pass catcher extraordinaire, Antonio Gates. If Offensive Coordinator, Cam Cameron, can utilize Manu efficiently, Cameron will have him lining up in a plethora of offensive sets.

    In 2005, Cameron employed a multitude of sets, including the ever popular unbalanced line, which caught opponents off-guard (pun intended) more than once. Imagine a formation like the following:


    Brings new meaning to the term "strong side." With the offensive line improving the chinks in their armor, opposing defenses will see the Bolts consistently moving the chains downfield more efficiently.

    One weapon for chain movement will be the often forgotten fullback, Lorenzo Neal, who adds critical support to the offense without receiving many accolades. Neal may be just one of the many factors of the ridiculous success of fantasy-extraordinaire LaDainian Tomlinson. Nike may have foreseen the future, and if their new shoe, the Scream LT, is any indication, Tomlinson will spend 2006 illustrating why many think he is the best all-around RB since Marshall Faulk. With McNeil opening up holes on the left side, LT won't have to go Barry Sanders just to get back to the line of scrimmage. With new kicks bearing his name, maybe Tomlinson can stop slipping and sliding all over the field like he did toward the end of last season.

    Complementing <a href="http://img251.imageshack.us/img251/1738/smhchargerscolts1183zc.jpg"><img border="0" style="margin: 0pt 10px 10px 0pt; float: left; cursor: pointer; width: 200px" src="http://img251.imageshack.us/img251/1738/smhchargerscolts1183zc.jpg" /></a>LT like a fine wine is Michael Turner, not recommended for sensitive palettes. Known as "The Burner" in San Diego, Turner gives LT those much needed rests. In 2005, Turner averaged about five carries per game, his fresh legs churning out yardage thanks to his size, which allows him to take one, two, three, maybe four hits before finally hitting the ground. The Burner provides the team with a solid back-up for their premier back, LT, and if he and third string back, Darren Sproles, receive more touches per game this season, expect to see defenses caught unprepared, and more points on the Chargers board.

    While first time starting QB Rivers will have several options for hand offs, the team has also added more down-field targets to keep defenses honest. The Bolts may boast white lightning on their jerseys, but in contrast, the team does not feature a white-collar star. No, these Bolts bring blue collar depth to their line up. With veteran WR Keenan McCardell hoping to develop a strong relationship with Rivers much like the one he shared with Brees, Bolts fans may see him continue to increase his TD numbers, despite increasing his age. Slotted as the #2 receiver, Eric Parker may epitomize blue collar, the Derek Jeter of the NFL, pulling out clutch catches on crucial third down plays.

    Established veterans aside, Bolts fans seem most anxious to see second year player Vincent Jackson (6'5," 241 lbs.) develop into the homerun threat he was drafted to be. Many have their fingers crossed that his pure athleticism fully translates from the basketball court to the football field. The Chargers' largest WR by far, this second round draft pick hopes to establish himself in the Gold Zone and illustrate that WRs take time to develop in this league. If he performs on any level other than greatness, be ready to see fans calling for his head.

    Rashaun Woods may be an even bigger question mark than Jackson heading into the 2006 season. Acquired this off-season from the 49ers, Woods has seen little playing time in his two years in the league thanks to nagging injuries that have kept him on the bench. If the two-time All American can get healthy in Southern California, the hunger he has to prove himself could propel him to finally develop into a great player. Unfortunately, at this point, it seems equally as likely that he will reaffirm himself as a bust.

    Woods and Jackson<a href="http://img256.imageshack.us/img256/9039/153844185aeqthnph4be.jpg"><img border="0" style="margin: 0pt 0pt 10px 10px; float: right; cursor: pointer; width: 200px" src="http://img256.imageshack.us/img256/9039/153844185aeqthnph4be.jpg" /></a> will also be competing for playing time with Kassim "So Good" Osgood, the Chargers' second largest receiver. Osgood displays the ability to lockdown his man when blocking, key in contributing to additional yardard for LT on carries. Though Osgood re-signed with the Chargers in the off-season, he still has to show some improvements in order to make any headway on the depth chart. This chart provides plenty of targets for Rivers, and if the competition to obtain increased playing time drives these players to perform, expect to see the offense driving toward the goal line with more force and consistency than 2005. After all, what's the fun of flirting if you just can't score? Without some offensive improvement, the Chargers' chances of closing the deal in 2006 do not look good.

    Fortunately, the off-season provides the offense with plenty of time to solidify their game. Most importantly, the offense does not have to play 2006 alone. They have Merriman and Co. to lean on defensively, and if the reports from inside Chargers Park are true, the defense will need plenty of time to get ready. After all, those mohawks don't grow over night, you know.

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