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Inside Slant - 07/18/08

Discussion in 'Latest Chargers News & Headlines' started by robdog, Jul 18, 2008.

  1. robdog

    robdog Code Monkey Staff Member Administrator

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    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 class="alignright" title="Norv Turner" src="http://i2.chargers.com/assets/177/32901_699w393h.jpg" alt="Norv turner" width="163" height="197" />

    The Chargers' training camp is right around the corner and coach Norv Turner feels the team is right on schedule.

    Before leaving to take some time off before the season gets underway, Turner, set to start his second year with the team after replacing Marty Schottenheimer and taking the team to only its fourth AFC Championship Game in franchise history, said the team met offseason expectations.

    The team fell short in that contest against the New England Patriots, but it's no stretch to say it anticipates being in a similar situation come January.

    The Chargers are confident they can compete with the elite teams in the AFC and hitting training camp in stride will help them reach that goal of their second Super Bowl appearance.

    "The biggest thing for me is the young guys be prepared to compete when we go to training camp," Turner said. "The next thing for us is to get them healthy and we are on schedule to get healthy."

    Among the walking wounded who remain the biggest concerns are tight end Antonio Gates (toe), center Nick Hardwick (toe). Both underwent offseason surgeries; Gates is farther along than Hardwick in his rehabilitation.

    Quarterback Philip Rivers had his knee rebuilt but took part in virtually all of the offseason workouts. Running back LaDainian Tomlinson, who sprained his knee in that loss to New England was able to avoid surgery and the injury healed with offseason rest.

    Turner said two players he expects to see continue to improve-based on the offseason work-are linebackers Jyles Tucker and Anthony Water

    "I think they have had a great opportunity to get better during the offseason," Turner said.

    Waters is especially worth watching as his rookie year never got untracked last year as he was still coming back from a serious knee injury and was inactive for all 16 games.

    "He's healthy and I'm not sure he was ever 100 percent last year," Turner said of the third-round pick from Clemson.

    Turner went on to say he is pleased in the manner rookie cornerback Antoine Cason has picked up the nickel role, covering receivers in the slot.

    He also had praise for rookie Jacob Hester, who has seen snaps at fullback and tailback.

    "Jacob has moved around all over; he is a versatile player," Turner said. "I believe he is going to be a real good player and a good blocker when we get the pads on."

    That time is near with rookies such as Hester reporting to Chargers Park on July 20.

    Camp Calendar:" "  Rookies and selected veterans report July 20. The full squad reports July 24 with a full-squad workout the next day. The Chargers hold a night practice on Aug. 6 and break camp on Aug. 23.

    Notes, Quotes

    • The club announced that Fred Dean will be inducted into its Hall of Fame this season. Dean, 56, who played for the Chargers from 1975-81, is the 34th player to be so honored. Dean will also go into the Pro Football Hall of Fame this summer-his career really took off when later playing for the 49ers. "Fred could be off the wall sometimes," said former teammate Louie Kelcher said, "But he always gave you 180 percent."

    • President Dean Spanos announced that A.G. Spanos, his 30-year-old son and the team's director of marketing programs and business development for the past five years, has been elevated to executive vice president-executive officer.

    • The Chargers signed their fifth- and seventh-round draft picks, running back Marcus Thomas and tackle Corey Clark, both to four-year contracts.

    • LT Marcus McNeill has made the Pro Bowl in each of his first two seasons. But last year he didn't have the consistency he had his rookie year. The Chargers did see encouraging signs from McNeill in the offseason. Coach Norv Turner said he was among the players showing the most progress in the offseason.

    • The team is halting its season-ticket sales for the second straight year to save some individual game tickets for fans. It marks the second straight year the Chargers have started a season-ticket waiting list.

    • Nothing new to report on the team's quest to build a stadium in Chula Vista, about 15 miles south of Qualcomm Stadium. There continues to be rumblings the team could consider moving to Los Angeles if Ed Roski follows through with his proposal to build a complex not far from Los Angeles.

    Quote To Note:" "  "Shawne Merriman has had an outstanding offseason and I think he is going to start real fast this year. He didn't start as fast as we would have liked last year."-Coach Norv Turner on his Pro Bowl outside linebacker.

    Strategy And Personnel

    DRAFT CHOICES SIGNED

    • RB Marcus Thomas (5/166): 4 yrs, terms unknown.

    • OT Corey Clark (7/234): 4 yrs, terms unknown.

    DRAFT CHOICES UNSIGNED

    • CB Antoine Cason (1/27).

    • RB Jacob Hester (3/69).

    • CB DeJuan Tribble (6/192).

    UNIT-BY-UNIT ANALYSIS

    Quarterback:" "  Starter-Philip Rivers. Backups-Billy Volek, Charlie Whitehurst.

    The Chargers will take the Rivers who did so well in last season's second half, thank you very much. Rivers experienced a bit of a sophomore slump in his second year as a starter early on, then came on down the stretch. In the eight-game winning streak which led to the AFC Championship Game, Rivers threw for 14 touchdowns and only five interceptions. Volek turned down offers to compete for a starting job elsewhere to return as the backup. The team remains high on Whitehurst and likely would have been comfortable with him backing up Rivers if Volek would have exited.

    Running Backs:" "  Starter-LaDainian Tomlinson. Backups-Andrew Pinnock, Jacob Hester.

    Tomlinson is healthy and entering the season with a chip on his shoulder-bad news for opposing defenses. Tomlinson, who is aiming for this third straight NFL rushing title, was piled on pretty good when getting hurt in the AFC title tilt. Many thought he did try hard enough to enter the game; his strained knee told him otherwise. But he is fit and motivated, knowing the window for him and the Chargers closer to being shut than flung wide open. The team will miss Michael Turner, Tomlinson's stellar backup. They hope Pinnock can fill the void, but he is coming off a serious knee operation. Lorenzo Neal, the Pro Bowl fullback, wasn't brought back. His role figures to be filled by Pinnock and Hester, a rookie.

    Tight Ends:" "  Starters-Antonio Gates, Brandon Manumaleuna. Backups-Scott Chandler.

    This area is usually one of strength for the Chargers but the uncertainty over Gates' toe injury raises a red flag. Gates is a tough guy, but it might be asking too much even for him to rebound in time for the opener. That could give Manumaleuna more chances at catching the football instead of blasting open lanes for Tomlinson. Chandler is in his second year and seems capable, but he is unproven.

    Wide Receivers:" "  Starters-Chris Chambers, Vincent Jackson. Backups-Craig Davis, Legedu Naanee, Malcom Floyd, Eric Parker.

    Chambers gave the offense a huge lift when he came over last year from the Dolphins. He has the ability to stretch the defense, which gives Tomlinson and Gates more room to run on the rushes and underneath routes. Jackson was among the benefactors as well with defenses leaning their coverage toward Chambers, which gave Jackson more opportunities. Davis is battling consistency problems, but figures to be in the mix as well. Keep an eye on the versatile Naanee as Norv Turner has him lining up at various spots to take advantage of his considerable skills. Floyd's time is now or never; Parker could be moved before training camp, caught in a numbers crunch.

    Offensive Line:" "  Starters-LT Marcus McNeill, LG Kris Dielman, C Nick Hardwick, RG Mike Goff, RT Jeromey Clary. Backups-Jeremy Newberry, L.J. Shelton, Cory Withrow, Scott Mruczkowski.

    Hardwick is critical to the line and the offense. The team elected to wait until the offseason was well underway to have his toe surgery; it had hoped rest would cure it. So with Hardwick's availability unknown, the team could trot out Newberry on opening day. The team was pleased with the way Clary came on when starter Shane Olivea fizzled last year, but it is protecting itself by snagging the veteran Shelton. Dielman has been a monster in the weight room this offseason and could be headed for a Pro Bowl season. Goff could be in his final year with the Chargers, but his experience can't be overlooked. McNeill has made two Pro Bowls in two years-enough said.

    Defensive Line:" "  Starters-LE Igor Olshansky, NT Jamal Williams, RE Luis Castillo. Backups-T Ryon Bingham, T Brandon McKinney, E Jacques Cesaire.

    Williams is the key here as rival lines can't dedicate just one man to block him-he is too strong. So with so much attention paid to Williams, Olshansky and Castillo are able to provide a solid push off the edges; Olshansky is more of a run-stuffer while Castillo's quickness allows him to reach the pocket. But Williams' is getting long in the tooth, so expect to see plenty of Bingham and McKinney in a rotation to try and keep Williams fresh. Jacques Cesaire often comes in on passing downs and is an able fill-in when Castillo-he has a tough time staying on the field-gets hurt.

    Linebackers:" "  Starters-OLB Shaun Phillips, ILB Stephen Cooper, ILB Matt Wilhelm, OLB Shawne Merriman. Backups-Derek Smith, Marques Harris, Carlos Polk, Brandon Siler, Tim Dobbins, Anthony Waters, Jyles Tucker.

    Merriman and Phillips give the Chargers a 1-2 pass-rush combination that is among the league's best. Merriman gets most the headlines-rightfully so-but don't overlook Phillips. Both of them often end up in the pocket, where they combined for 21 sacks. Cooper is out the first month serving a suspension, so Smith will hold down his spot. Wilhelm is solid and is developing into a team leader. Harris and Tucker can be forces on passing downs and the Chargers aren't shy about using them.

    Defensive Backs:" "  Starters-LCB Quentin Jammer, RCB Antonio Cromartie, SS Clinton Hart, FS Eric Weddle. Backups-CB Antoine Cason, CB Steve Gregory, CB Cletis Gordon, Paul Oliver.

    Cromartie had a breakthrough season last year, leading the NFL with 10 interceptions and scoring touchdowns in three different ways. He should only get better, although teams might be more reluctant to throw his way. Jammer is coming off his second consecutive solid season; he's not reluctant to give plenty of help in the run support as well. Hart is entering his second season as a starter after setting career highs in numbers categories last year. The team is high on Weddle, who they traded up to snag in the second round two years ago. Weddle is a smart player not prone to many mental mistakes. Cason could be tested as the nickel back and there are some depth concerns here. But the starters-especially on the corners-are spot-on.

    Special Teams:" "  Starters-K Nate Kaeding, P Mike Scifres, LS David Binn, PR/KR Darren Sproles.

    Kaeding is consistent and healthy going into the season after his plant leg was fractured late last year. Scifres is always among the NFL's leaders in net-average return and he's among the reasons the Chargers are so good on third downs. If a play isn't there for a first down, Rivers knows he doesn't have to force something: just let Scifres punt it away, get the field position back and play on. Sproles is electric with his quickness and had two returns for touchdowns last year. Binn is long in the tooth, but he's an institution for the Chargers, missing just one game-in 1998-having played in 223 regular-season games with San Diego.
     

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