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Inside Slant - 07/30/07

Discussion in 'San Diego Chargers Hall of Champions' started by robdog, Jul 30, 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://i2.chargers.com/assets/180/33313_699w393h.jpg" title="LT at training camp, Chargers.com Photo" alt="LT at training camp, Chargers.com Photo" align="right" height="201" width="193" /> These things have a certain ring to them: NFL MVP; NFL records for touchdowns (31) and rushing touchdowns (28) in a season; leading the NFL in rushing (1,815 yards).</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"> Those were just a few of the accomplishments by Chargers running back LaDainian Tomlinson last season. But when the Patriots chewed up and spit out the Chargers in the playoffs, all those jaw-dropping numbers lost some of their sizzle.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"> So what's at stake this year? Everything to Tomlinson.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"> What he wants is The Ring, the one going to the Super Bowl champions.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"> Tomlinson is making no bones about what is expected of the Chargers this season. Winning their second AFC West title in three years was keen last year, but the bar is much higher in 2007.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"> "Our expectations are to win the championship," Tomlinson said. "Realistically, we think we have a shot at it. Last year was kind of a year that was a little more shocking to all of us because of what we did in the regular season - 14-2.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"> "You never expect to go 14-2 in the regular season, so I think last year was kind of a situation where we expected to win but we didn't know how much."</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"> So much is expected of a team which returns all but four starters from a squad which produced the league's best regular-season mark in 2006.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"> "Now we realize we are an elite team," Tomlinson said. "We're one of five teams in the National Football League that really has an opportunity of winning the whole deal."</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"> That's the catch - anything less than kissing the Vince Lombardi Trophy come February will be seen as a lost season.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"> The Chargers are stacked to do just that. But, in sports nothing is guaranteed. And the Chargers - don't forget - haven't won a playoff game since the 1994 season.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"> Tomlinson is 0-2 in his two playoff appearances, one of the lone black marks on his stellar resume. But with those losses came a dose of education, he said.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"> "I think experience is the biggest teacher. You experience what happened, and you experience different things that happened during that big game and you make sure they don't happen again."</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"> Like coughing up a fourth-quarter lead. Like Tomlinson having but nine rushes in that fateful second half.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"> But what's not to like about a Chargers team which is not only talented but isn't long in the tooth at the key positions?</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"> "I think our team is young enough and we're just now in the window," Tomlinson said of the Chargers chance to be successful this season and in the near future. "We're still going to have some years left before that window closes."</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"> Last January, the Chargers' got smashed when that window came crashing down.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"><strong>NOTES, QUOTES</strong></p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-Coach Norv Turner was upbeat after three rookie practice which preceded the full-squad getting to work over the weekend. "It was real good for our staff," Turner said. "It gets you three days to get back into it and really focused again."</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-In a break from recent years, the team had all of its draft picks signed and in for the start of camp.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-WR Eric Parker's work has been limited because of a toe injury he suffered in the June minicamp.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-Veteran T Roman Oben was getting some extra early work with Shane Olivea battling an illness.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-To keep Pro Bowl DT Jamal Williams fresh, he will work only once on days when the team practices twice.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-Turner can tell in the early stages of the training camp that the offseason work was absorbed by the Chargers. "All the work we did in the offseason showed up. Our team is in very, very good condition."</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-The team has sold all its tickets for its eight home games and has started a waiting list for season tickets.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"><strong>QUOTE TO NOTE:</strong> "We don't have any pressure from the media, the fans or anybody. We have pressure from each other." - Pro Bowl OLB Shawne Merriman on dealing with the team's lofty expectations.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"><strong>STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL</strong></p>
    <p class="inside-copy"> While most of the team returned from last year, the two key spots to keep an eye on are the two inside linebacker positions.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"> Youth will be served at this spot, as the team let veterans Donnie Edwards and Randall Godfrey flee in the offseason.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-ILB Stephen Cooper is being asked to replace Godfrey. Cooper has always done well on special teams and saw limited action in spelling Godfrey the last couple of years. Now is his time to shine.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-ILB Matt Wilhelm is looked at to take Donnie Edwards' spot. Edwards wasn't a blow-up linebacker but he was dynamite in coverage. Wilhelm has held up well in spot play, but he isn't nearly as fluid as Edwards in pass coverage. Plus, Edwards paced the team in tackles in each of his five years with the squad.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-WR Vincent Jackson could be the heir apparent to Keenan McCardell. The team let McCardell go, thinking Jackson would be good enough in his third year to fill the void.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-WR Eric Parker is slowed by a toe injury. Many are anxious to see how Parker rebounds after a dismal showing in the playoff loss to the Patriots. He needs a good camp to remain one of the top two receivers.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-There were many reasons the team let starting SS Terrence Kiel go. Not only did he have off-the-field issues, but he wasn't much of a ball-hawk. The team hopes Clinton Hart can show the team it won't miss Kiel.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"> EXPECTED <strong>BATTLE OF THE WEEK:</strong> Clinton Hart vs. Eric Weddle for starting SS - Hart has made his mark in three years with the Chargers as always being around the ball. But he can't quite crack the starting lineup. He thought this would be his year, and then the Chargers gave up an impressive package to move up in the second round and take Utah safety Eric Weddle. Some think Weddle is a year away from starting and will get most of his action on special teams. But Weddle, an undersized player who has been told he has no chance before, is ready to battle Hart to start opposite Marlon McCree.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"><strong>OTHER BATTLE FRONTS:</strong> Drayton Florence vs. Antonio Cromartie for starting CB. Florence was able to hold off Cromartie last year. But now Cromartie has a year under his belt.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"> Michael Turner vs. Darren Sproles for KR. Turner averaged 26.5 yards on returns last year. Sproles had similar numbers 2005. But Sproles missed last year with a broken leg and is looking to get back his old job. Antonio Cromartie could also be in the mix.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"> Ryon Bingham vs. Brandon McKinney for backup DT. Bingham was able to give starter Jamal Williams some valuable downs off last season and held up well. McKinney is itching for more playing time.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"><strong>ROOKIE REPORT:</strong> WR Craig Davis is showing well, but has some work to do to move into the starting two spots. ... S Eric Weddle will be getting a long look at free safety. ... TE Scott Chandler is a good blocker, but has to overcome Kelly Griffeth to be the No. 3 player at that spot. ... ILB Anthony Waters said he is about 90 percent after a knee injury wiped out his year last season. Waters is currently running behind Stephen Cooper. ... ILB Brandon Siler is lined up behind Waters as the No. 3 player at that spot. ... CB Paul Oliver has yet to make a big impression.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"><strong>INJURY REPORT:</strong> WR Eric Parker (toe) will limit his practice time.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-LT Shane Olivea (illness) shouldn't be out long.</p>

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