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Inside Slant - 07/21/07

Discussion in 'San Diego Chargers Hall of Champions' started by robdog, Jul 22, 2007.

  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>
    <p class="inside-copy"><img src="http://site.steelcityauctions.com/ronmexico.jpg" title="Michael Vick" alt="Michael Vick" align="right" height="216" width="204" /> With the situation regarding the Falcons and star quarterback Michael Vick looking worse, the Chargers couldn't look better.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"> If not for a late trade on the eve of the 2001 draft, Vick was likely going to be a Charger. The Chargers, coming off a 1-15 season, held the No. 1 pick and everyone believed it would be Vick.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"> But the Chargers decided to pass on Vick. Then-general manager John Butler wasn't convinced, like everyone else, that Vick's skills would be as impressive at the NFL level.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"> And on top of that, the Chargers were reluctant to burn such a high pick on a quarterback. The aftermath of drafting Ryan Leaf - and the estimated $14 million he received for being a flop - was still fresh in the Chargers' minds.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"> So they rolled the dice and swapped first-round slots with the Falcons in a package in which the Chargers also got two later picks and return specialist Tim Dwight.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"> While Vick was hailed as a savior for the Falcons when selected, the Chargers held their breath to get the running back they felt would be the building block for their reclamation project: TCU's LaDainian Tomlinson.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"> Butler, along with his right-hand man and current general manager A.J. Smith, saw a familiar force in Tomlinson. They compared him to Thurman Thomas, who they drafted in Buffalo and saw how his impact spread across a roster that dominated the AFC.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"> But snagging Tomlinson, the 2006 NFL MVP, was no sure thing. With Vick off the board to the Falcons, the Cardinals skipped over Tomlinson - they were content with Michael Pittman - and took offensive lineman Leonard Davis. Cleveland, at No. 3, was the biggest concern. They needed a running back, but figured their defensive line was a bigger need so they went with Gerard Warren. The Bengals, at No. 4, already had running back Corey Dillon. So they went with defensive end Justin Smith.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"> With that, the player the Chargers really longed for - Tomlinson - fell into their lap at No. 5.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"> While Vick led his team to a conference title game - the Chargers have yet to even win a playoff game with Tomlinson - it's obvious the Chargers got the better of the deal.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"> Tomlinson is not only in the midst of a Pro Football Hall of Fame career, but he has become the face of a franchise that was a league-best 14-2 last year and has set season-ticket records this year.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"> Tomlinson's work off the field is such he was co-recipient of the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award this past season.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"><strong>CAMP CALENDAR:</strong> July 28, training camp starts at Chargers Park. Aug. 4, practice and FanFest at Qualcomm Stadium. Aug. 1, autograph session for fans starts at 6:30 p.m., with practice following at Chargers Park. Aug. 22, camp ends</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"><strong>NOTES, QUOTES</strong></p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-Heading into the last weekend before camp starts, the Chargers had six unsigned draft picks. Among them was S Eric Weddle, a second-round pick. "No one wants to hold out,'' Weddle said. "I don't want to hold out but that's how the business works.''</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"> Fourth-round pick Scott Chandler, a tight end from Iowa, is the only Chargers' draft pick under contract.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-CB Paul Oliver, who the Chargers drafted in the fourth round of the supplemental draft, is primed to show his skills. "I'm ready for it; I've been working to get in shape all summer,'' he said.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-The Chargers' rookies are to report on Tuesday, with the balance of the squad due in Friday. The first full-squad workout is the afternoon of July 28. Save one practice, all the workouts will be held at the team's facility at Chargers Park.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-Nothing new to report in the Chargers' quest to find a replacement for Qualcomm Stadium.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"><strong>QUOTE TO NOTE:</strong> "We're going to offer contracts to our likings, and I'd like to have everybody there the first day. If they're' not there the first day, then there's probably an issue on their part, and they'll express that and then we'll express it. Then whenever they decide to come in, they'll come in." - GM A. J. Smith on his unsigned draft picks.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"><strong>STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL</strong></p>
    <p class="inside-copy"> DRAFT CHOICES SIGNED</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-TE Scott Chandler: 4/129; 4 yrs, terms unknown.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">&nbsp;</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">UNIT-BY-UNIT ANALYSIS</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"> QUARTERBACKS: Starter - Philip Rivers. Backups - Billy Volek, Charlie Whitehurst.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"> Rivers, in his second year as a starter but his fourth in the league should benefit from the arrival of new head coach Norv Turner. Quarterbacks have usually flourished under Turner, the noted offensive guru. Turner is inheriting a quarterback who's coming off a Pro Bowl season and shows all the signs of being among the elite players at his position for years to come. In Volek, the Chargers have an experienced backup to run this team with Super Bowl aspirations should something happen to Rivers. In Whitehurst, they possess a young talent who could be used as a trade bait down the line as it's unlikely Rivers is going anywhere, any time soon.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"> RUNNING BACKS: Starters -- LaDainian Tomlinson, FB Lorenzo Neal. Backups - Michael Turner, Darren Sproles, FB Andrew Pinnock.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"> Tomlinson will have a tough time duplicating his MVP season of last year, but don't put it past the future Hall of Famer. With the punishing Neal leading the way and the front line intact, Tomlinson could pick up where he left off in setting the NFL single-season mark with 31 touchdowns. Turner gives the Chargers a dynamite backup and change of pace to Tomlinson's shifty style. Sproles lost last year to a broken leg and it remains to be seen if he will ever have a significant role in the offense.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"> TIGHT ENDS: Starter - Antonio Gates. Backups - Brandon Manumaleuna, Scott Chandler, Kelly Griffeth.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"> Gates continues to be the gold standard at this position with his reliable hands and his ability to shield defenders with his body. Gates led the Chargers in receptions, yards and touchdown receptions last season and there is no reason he shouldn't do it once again. Manumaleuna's biggest role is as a blocker, but teams can't go to sleep on him as he slipped out of early blocks to catch three touchdown passes last year.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"> WIDE RECEIVERS: Starters - Vincent Jackson, Craig Davis. Backups - Eric Parker, Malcom Floyd, Greg Camarillo, Kassim Osgood.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"> Jackson must prove he is up to the task of being a No. 1 guy. Now in his third year, Jackson has shown signs he could be a big-time contributor with his size (6-5) and decent speed. But sometimes he gets sloppy on routes and consistency is always something he is seeking. Davis came with the team's top pick last spring. The Chargers were impressed with his hands and his ability to gobble up yards after the catch. Parker is reliable at the No. 3 spot, although Chargers fans still can't shake the image of his dreadful showing in the playoff loss to New England. The 6-5 Floyd is worth watching as he is a great red-zone target and seems to have a good relationship with Rivers. Osgood is more of a special-teams demon.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"> OFFENSIVE LINE: Starters - LT Marcus McNeill, LG Kris Dielman, C Nick Hardwick, RG Mike Goff, RT Shane Olivea. Backups - LT Roman Oben, LG Scott Mruczkowski, C Cory Withrow, RG Scott Mruczkowski, RT Cory Lekkerkerker.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"> Look no farther than this unit in why the Chargers went 14-2 last year and led the NFL in points. The blocking was sensational, and it came with McNeill holding down the left tackle spot despite being a rookie and playing with two broken hands. Dielman was the team's key off-season move as he turned down more money from Seattle to stay put in San Diego. That was huge. Hardwick is a scrappy player coming off a Pro Bowl season and Goff delivers veteran leadership. Olivea can be streaky, but also delivers a nasty attitude that others thrive off of. Don't overlook the big uglies as an explanation as to why the Chargers are so good on offense.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"> DEFENSIVE LINE: Starters - LE Luis Castillo, NT Jamal Williams, RE Igor Olshansky. Backups - LE Jacques Cesaire, NT Ryon Bingham, NT Brandon McKinney, RE Jacques Cesaire, RE Derreck Robinson.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"> Williams has established himself as one of best at his position, clogging the middle to allow the linebackers to swoop in for the tackles and the glory. Castillo is eager for a full season after missing seven starts with an ankle injury - and he still had seven sacks. Olshansky is a force on the early downs, proving to be a difficult man to move at the point of attack. Cesaire is a capable backup on the edge; Robinson has also worked his way into the regular rotation. Williams doesn't come out often, but the Chargers are fairly comfortable with Bingham when he gets his shot.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"> LINEBACKERS: Starters - WLB Shaun Phillips, LILB Stephen Cooper, RILB Matt Wilhelm, SLB Shawne Merriman. Backups - OLB Marques Harris, ILB Tim Dobbins, ILB Anthony Waters, ILB Brandon Siler, OLB Carlos Polk,</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"> Merriman is more than a Pro Bowler - he can change the outcome of games with his dominating play, He missed four games last year with a suspension, and still paced the NFL with 17 sacks. Phillips isn't far behind Merriman in production, especially when teams focus so much on Merriman - Phillips's quickness gave him 11.5 sacks last season. The key here will be the play of Cooper and Wilhelm. Cooper is replacing the savvy Randall Godfrey and Wilhelm is asked to replace Donnie Edwards, the team's leading tackler in each of his five seasons in San Diego. The club is high on Dobbins as a run-stuffer and likes the potential of Waters and Siler.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"> DEFENSIVE BACKS: Starters - LCB Quentin Jammer, RCB Drayton Florence, SS Clinton Hart, FS Marlon McCree. Backups - LCB Cletis Gordon, RCB Drayton Florence, SS Eric Weddle, FS Bhawoh Jue, LCB Steven Gregory, RCB Paul Oliver.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"> Jammer and McCree will start - other than that, this unit will supply the most spirited competition during camp. Florence will try to hold off Cromartie, who made significant strides in his rookie season last year as the nickel back. And Hart will have to stiff-arm Weddle, the versatile safety from Utah who the Chargers acquired in a draft-day trade. Jammer is coming off his best season and McCree has been solid in communicating where everyone should be and when. For years the secondary has been the weak link of the defense, but there are signs of improvement as it benefits from playing behind one of the top pass-rushing teams in the league.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"> SPECIAL TEAMS: PK Nate Kaeding, P Mike Scifres, KR Michael Turner, PR Eric Parker, KR/PR Darren Sproles, LS David Binn.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"> Kaeding turned in a Pro Bowl season last year and even found extra distance on his kickoffs - their length had been a cause for concern. Scifres is solid and among the reasons Rivers was so good on third downs - he wouldn't force a pass knowing Scifres would deliver a good punt and Rivers would attack the defense on the next series. Turner can be electrifying as a returner as he is difficult to bring down. Parker is decent on punts, but the team always worries his slight body will not hold up from the punishment. Sproles could fill in as a kickoff returner, but has looked shaky on punts. Binn enters his 14th year and is as good as there is in the league.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">&nbsp;</p>

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