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Inside Slant - 11/4/08

Discussion in 'San Diego Chargers Hall of Champions' started by robdog, Nov 4, 2008.

  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>
    <div class="inside-copy"><a href="http://i1.chargers.com/assets/178/33103_600w600h.jpg"><img class="alignright" title="Chargers Helmet" src="http://i1.chargers.com/assets/178/33103_600w600h.jpg" alt="" width="267" height="175" /></a>The Chargers had one of the best byes they could imagine:</div>
    <p class="inside-copy">-Some of their key players were able to rest nagging injuries, which should help the cause moving forward.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-The embattled defense got extended time to get to know its new coordinator, Ron Rivera.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-The AFC West-leading Broncos lost a home game to the Dolphins, which cut their lead over the second-place Chargers to one game.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-Every team in the AFC West lost on the Sunday the Chargers were off.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">Not bad. And just maybe an omen for a second-half turnaround for one of the NFL's most disappointing teams?</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">"We're 3-5, that's the bottom line," quarterback Philip Rivers said.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">True, but 3-5 in the terrible AFC West is enough to almost start planning where the division winning banner will be hung. The Chargers are oh-so-fortunate they reside in the division that features so many NFL dregs.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">But Rivers is looking at his team rather than the others in the AFC West. He said the Chargers can fix what has gone wrong and then sprint toward the finish.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">"It's like a rough draft on paper," said Rivers, who despite his stellar play has seen the Chargers drop three of their last four games. "You get what grade it would be and then you get to make some corrections and hopefully turn in a better final draft. That's where we are - nobody's happy about where we are, or pleased. But we can certainly still have a chance with the end result."</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">The regular-season's end could very well have the Chargers heading to the playoffs for the third time in four seasons. That's not to say the season's first half hasn't left some scars on a roster many felt was among the most talented in the NFL.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">"It's disappointing," inside linebacker Stephen Cooper said. "We're bent, but we're not going to break. The second half of the season is a whole new season. We understand that now."</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">That message came through loud and clear when general manager A.J. Smith admitted his mistake in hiring old buddy Ted Cottrell to run the defense before last season.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">Despite the close friendship the two had formed from their days in Buffalo, Smith was all for kicking Cottrell to the curb.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">Right now the Chargers are zeroed in on flipping a season with an impressive second-half push - something they did last year when going 7-1 over the final eight weeks.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">"There are a lot of things we need to work on," coach Norv Turner said. "The biggest thing, obviously, is finishing games. Finishing plays and finishing games. Starting with our first two games and all the way through, we've been in position in the fourth quarter and haven't been in the position to finish games off the way we'd like to."</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">Thanks to being positioned in the dreadful AFC West, the Chargers' playoff hopes - despite being two games under .500 - remain very much alive.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"><strong>NOTES, QUOTES</strong></p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-Before the season, the Chargers were touted as a slam-dunk playoff participant. And while that still may ring true, the Chargers know it will take more than press clippings to secure an invitation.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">"You're not going to make the playoffs because you feel like you should," S Clinton Hart said. "You're going to make the playoffs because you go out and beat people week in and week out and you proved that you belong there."</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-CB Quentin Jammer, who is among the few Chargers defenders having a decent year, said if players don't want to get aboard the second half, they should be elsewhere. "There's got to be a sense of urgency," Jammer said. "If you don't have a sense of urgency around here now at 3-5, then obviously you don't love the game and you need to be somewhere else other than in the San Diego Chargers' locker room."</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-Of the Chargers' four remaining game against AFC West foes, three of them are at home.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-The Chargers catch a break when facing the Chiefs on Sunday. Kansas City will be minus standout RB Larry Johnson after he was suspended by the NFL.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"><strong>STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL</strong></p>
    <p class="inside-copy">PLAYER NOTES</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-RB LaDainian Tomlinson is the healthiest he has been since spraining his big right toe in the opener.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-TE Antonio Gates has rediscovered his cutting ability and is now able to get separation from defenders after being bothered by a sore toe and hip. Gates is coming off his best game of the season.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-CB Antonio Cromartie is being slowed by a tender hip that has cut into his production and practice time. The hope is the bye week was able to give it the required rest.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-DT Jamal Williams is looking to build on a string of solid games after he was slow out of the game following two offseason knee surgeries. Williams, a Pro Bowler, is the key to the Chargers' run defense in its 3-4 alignment.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-DE Igor Olshansky continues to disappear for long stretches during games - he had zero tackles in the last outing against the Saints. Look for DL Ryon Bingham to possible get some of his reps, especially with Jamal Williams' health improving.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"></p>
    <p class="inside-copy">REPORT CARD AFTER 8 GAMES</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">PASSING OFFENSE: B-plus - Philip Rivers continues to prove he deserves to be mentioned among the NFL's top quarterbacks. He finished the first half as the NFL's top-rated passer, and he leads the league in touchdown passes. He has been prone to turnovers at critical junctures the past two games, but that doesn't overshadow how well he is playing. The pass-blocking has been good this season, and that has allowed Rivers to spread the ball around to the numerous targets at his disposal: Antonio Gates, Chris Chambers, Vincent Jackson and Malcom Floyd. Gates is getting healthy, and the same goes for Chambers. Jackson continues to blossom, and Floyd took advantage of his playing time when subbing for Chambers. Not much wrong here.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">RUSHING OFFENSE: C - LaDainian Tomlinson, the key to the Chargers offense, has had a slow start. He has fewer rushing yards through eight games than at any time during his Hall of Fame career. The run-blocking has been spotty, but it has come on of late as the first-string unit is starting to round into shape after various injuries. Darren Sproles remains a capable option on third downs and on gadget plays, but he's not quite built to carry a heavy load of the rushing attack. Tomlinson is feeling chipper and again making moves that have put him among the all-time greats at his position.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">PASS DEFENSE: F - Terrible - no other way to spin it. With the pass rush a thing of the past with Shawne Merriman out for the year, opposing quarterbacks have carved up the Chargers and plopped them in dead last in stopping the pass. The hope is new defensive coordinator Ron Rivera will call more blitzes and be more aggressive - whether he has the personnel to pull it off remains to be seen. OLB Shaun Phillips (3 1/2 sacks this year) isn't nearly the same player without Merriman on the opposite side. And CB Antonio Cromartie, so far, has talked a good game but been unable to back it up. The play at safety with Clinton Hart and Eric Weddle has also been subpar - tackling here, as with the linebackers, has been a big issue.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">RUSH DEFENSE: C - Nothing special, and that's not how the Chargers run defense is usually described. The good news is DT Jamal Williams is moving better after two knee surgeries, and that allows him to gobble up two blockers while the linebackers swoop in for the tackles. But the inside linebackers' play has been inconsistent - Matt Wilhelm lost his job to Tim Dobbins, and Stephen Cooper missed four games with a suspension. Igor Olshansky and Luis Castillo, the defensive ends, have been non-factors this season.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">SPECIAL TEAMS: A - Sproles continues to be among the most dangerous return men in the NFL. P Mike Scifres is among the league leaders in key categories. The coverages? No complaints, as this unit, led by two-time special teams Pro Bowler Kassim Osgood, has been keen since opening day. K Nate Kaeding is having another solid year and has added distance to his kickoffs. Special teams coach Steve Crosby deserves to take a bow.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">COACHING: F - Norv Turner has been given the keys to this Ferrari, and it is running along like an old VW. To be fair, the offense he directs is humming just fine. But as the head coach, he allowed the defense to become passive and meek, and that has been the team's biggest problem. The Chargers blew out defensive coordinator Ted Cottrell at midseason - that tells you all you need to know about how badly it was playing. Turner also must prove the players will keep buying into his mantra that it's how you are playing at the end of the year instead of at the middle of it. That's true, but Turner has to be careful his disappointed players don't start tuning out his message. He is helped by showing them the standings, which reveal that despite their shoddy play, they are but one game off the AFC West lead.</p>

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