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Inside Slant - 03/20/08

Discussion in 'San Diego Chargers Hall of Champions' started by robdog, Mar 20, 2008.

  1. robdog

    robdog Code Monkey Staff Member Administrator

    Jun 29, 2009
    Source: <a href="http://sports.yahoo.com/nfl/news?slug=teamreports-2008-nfl-sdg&amp;prov=sportsxchange&amp;type=team_report" target="_blank">Yahoo Sports</a>

    <img src="http://sportswrap.berecruited.com/wp-content/uploads/2007/11/antonio%20cromartie%20pick%20ap%20chris%20park.jpg" alt="Antonio Cromartie" align="right" height="192" width="182" />Do the Chargers need help at cornerback?

    It's among the offseason questions the front office is considering as it prepares for next month's draft.

    That question seems odd on the surface.

    The Chargers have an emerging star in Pro Bowler Antonio Cromartie, who led the NFL with 10 interceptions last year.

    Opposite Cromartie is Quentin Jammer, who many feel is coming off his best season as a pro. While he has long struggled to live up to his billing as the fifth overall selection in the 2002 draft, Jammer is true in coverages and dynamite in run support.

    While those starting positions are set, what is behind Cromartie and Jammer? And is it enough to allow the Chargers to make another Super Bowl run in the pass-happy AFC?

    The void comes, in part, because of the loss of one-time starter Drayton Florence. Before losing his job to Cromartie last year, Florence was seen as nearly an equal to Jammer, although Florence always did battle consistency problems.

    But that's Jacksonville's worry now with Florence fleeing the Chargers as a free agent.

    The key is after Cromartie pushed Florence aside, he was an able and talented nickel back. He often played the slot receiver, which leaned on Florence's considerable coverage skills and ability to hit a slot receiver going over the middle.

    Now who fills that role left vacate by Florence's exit? Is it Paul Oliver?

    Paul who?


    Oliver is a product of the supplemental draft of last year, when the Chargers plucked him from the fourth round. So it would make sense Oliver, in his second year out of Georgia, would be ready to assume Florence's old job.

    But with the logjam at cornerback last season-and the critical games the Chargers were seemingly always playing in which allowed little experimenting-no one got a good feel for Oliver.

    He looked OK in practice, but the Chargers were never able to judge him in a game situation. His next game appearance will be his first while not taking a snap last year when it counted.

    The Chargers have other candidates, with Cletis Gordon the frontrunner after he got his feet wet on a few occasions last season. There is also Steve Gregory, who was recently brought back as an exclusive rights free agent. But he saw most his work last year on special teams.

    But with any of those three be good enough to solidify a pass defense which has made strides-thanks in part to a great pass rush-in recent seasons?

    That's hard to say. But the Chargers will likely tip their hand on how they view it when the draft rolls around. If the Chargers reach for another cornerback, you will know the answer.

    Notes, Quotes

    • Could it be the luck of the Irish will help the Chargers next season? Just in case, the usually private A.J. Smith, the team's general manager, accepted an invitation to be the grand marshal in San Diego's St. Patrick's Day parade.

    • LB Jyles Tucker gave a USA football all-star team headed to Japan to compete some words of advice at a recent practice at University of San Diego.

    "You've got to work hard and don't let anyone tell you that you can't go where you want to go," Tucker told the teenagers. "Don't be playing video games when you can be doing your school work or practicing. If you don't take care of school, you can't play in high school and college." Tucker, an undrafted free agent, had 3.5 sacks in his rookie year.

    • QB Philip Rivers has a 25-7 starting mark (regular season). His .781 winning percentage is the second highest by a starting quarterback in the Super Bowl era, second only to New England's Tom Brady (86-24; .782).

    • Ex-Charger Wayne Davis, 44, died after battling Lou Gehrig's Disease.

    Quote To Note:" "  "Hopefully I'll get to the big one. Hopefully I'll have a long enough career to get there at least once. But I've got to keep working hard."-LB Jyles Tucker, on what he hopes to accomplish in his career and a solid rookie season.

    Strategy And Personnel


    The Chargers don't need much, the benefit of having a youthful team that advanced to the AFC Championship Game. Still, every team needs something and that includes the Chargers.

    With backup running back Michael Turner fleeing to the Falcons as a free agent, the Chargers need someone to caddy for LaDainian Tomlinson. The Chargers have Andrew Pinnock in the backfield now, but he is seen more as a fullback.

    So the Chargers could go in that direction in the draft at some point.

    They also need to look hard at both lines-on the interior on the defensive side and at the tackles on the offensive side.

    The Chargers also must decide if they want to package some later draft picks or future ones to have more play on the draft's first day. As of now, the team has but one pick in the first three rounds.

    They burned their second-round pick when trading for wide receiver Chris Chambers last year. Their third-rounder was part of the package to move up last year to draft safety Eric Weddle in the second round.

    1. Running back: The Chargers got spoiled with Turner, who would have been starting on many teams that didn't include an MVP in Tomlinson. But the Chargers don't figure to spend their first-round pick here.

    2. Defensive tackle: Jamal Williams is a Pro Bowler and a complete stud in the middle of the team's 3-4 alignment. But after 10 years in the NFL, his body is starting to show its age. The Chargers have two decent backups in Ryon Bingham and Brandon McKinney, but they could definitely upgrade there.

    3. Tackle: Shane Olivea was a former starter who was let go and the job has been turned over to Jeromey Clary, who graded well when taking over for Olivea last year. But the team seeks something more here.

    MEDICAL WATCH; No updates.




    UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS (not tendered offers)

    • RB Tyronne Gross (not tendered as ERFA).


    • LB Marques Harris (tendered at $1.47M with 2nd-round pick as compensation) played in 15 games last year and started twice. He had 1.5 sacks while supplying depth behind Shawne Merriman and Shaun Phillips.


    • RT Jeromey Clary stepped in and started the final six games, including all three in the playoffs. When Shane Olivea's play became inconsistent, Clary stepped in and the line had some of its best games of the season. He'll be back.

    • WR Malcom Floyd is probably not coming back as it seems his window of opportunity with the club has expired. He had a hard time being active on Sundays and with Craig Davis, Chris Chambers and Eric Parker expected back next year, Floyd will likely to be elsewhere.

    • CB Cletis Gordon saw some action in occasional dime packages with mixed results. But with Florence going and Gordon able to return punts in a pinch, he'll probably stay.

    • DT Brandon McKinney had some decent spurts when filling in in the rotation of Jamal Williams, Ryon Bingham and himself. Considering Williams' age and health status, McKinney should be back.


    • LB Derek Smith: FA 49ers; 2 yrs, terms unknown.


    • CB Steve Gregory: ERFA; terms unknown.

    • G Scott Mruczkowski: Potential RFA; 3 yrs, terms unknown.

    • QB Billy Volek: UFA; $9M/3 yrs, $3M SB.


    • CB Drayton Florence: UFA Jaguars; $36M/6 yrs, $12M SB.

    • S Marlon McCree (released).

    • FB Lorenzo Neal (released).

    • OT Shane Olivea (released).

    • K Dave Rayner: Not tendered as RFA/Dolphins; terms unknown.

    • RB Michael Turner: UFA Falcons; $34.5M/6 yrs, $15M guaranteed.

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