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Inside Slant

Discussion in 'Latest Chargers News & Headlines' started by robdog, Nov 2, 2006.

  1. robdog

    robdog Code Monkey Staff Member Administrator

    Jun 29, 2009
    Source: <a target="_blank" href="http://www.usatoday.com/sports/football/nfl/chargers/home.htm">USA Today</a>
    <div class="inside-copy"><img width="241" height="192" align="left" alt="LaDainian Tomlinson runs against the Cleveland Browns" title="LaDainian Tomlinson runs against the Cleveland Browns" src="http://www.nctimes.com/content/articles/2004/12/20/front/photo_top1.jpg" /> Team Distraction tries to stiff-arm another incident once again.</div>
    <p class="inside-copy">The Chargers entertain the Cleveland Browns on Sunday, after a tumultuous week that saw their best defensive player suspended for four games.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">Pro Bowl linebacker Shawne Merriman will miss the first of his four games on Sunday. And the Chargers - who have had more than their share of off-the-field incidents - will slap on the blinders again and worry about the task at hand.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">This week, it's beating a Browns team that got a big lift by beating the Jets last week. Cleveland has a new coordinator in Jeff Davidson and is hoping to salvage a season that got off track early.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"> The Chargers should handle the 2-5 Browns with ease. But then again, it will come down to focusing on the opponent, and not what has been in the news all week.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">Coach Marty Schottenheimer can smell an NFL trap from miles away. That's why he has been harping on what the team's 5-2 mark and share of the AFC West lead means.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">"We haven't done anything yet," Schottenheimer said. "We've gone out and played well enough to win five games out of seven, but we've got more than half a season left."</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">The Chargers keep losing players left and right to suspensions, injuries and shootings. But Schottenheimer refuses to use those setbacks as an alibi and he told his players they need to be keen Sunday, regarding of the opponent.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">"I would like to think that our players understand that in this business, you're only as good as your next performance," Schottenheimer said. "Anything that you've done to this point really doesn't matter. It's irrelevant. We've worked hard to get to 5-2 and the midpoint of the season is at hand. We've got another game at home. We'll approach it on that basis."</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">So much for back-slapping and atta-boys. Those can wait.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">Although Schottenheimer did slip and allow that the Chargers' offense was humming in its win over the Rams. And, he would take another performance on Sunday.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">"I thought that offensively we were able to play a complete game," he said. "We threw it well and we ran it well. I thought that the offensive line did an excellent job in blocking in the running game. The offensive line was very, very solid in the protection phase. It may have been the best we've played in the line this season."</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">But he's trying to convince his players the best is yet to come.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"><strong>SERIES HISTORY:</strong> 21st meeting. The Chargers lead the series, 12-7-1, with no win being bigger than the one they got the last time they met in 2004. The Chargers battled a minus-10 wind chill in Cleveland in 2004 to clinch their first AFC West title since 1994. Since the new Browns were born in 1999, San Diego has won all three games.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"><strong>NOTES, QUOTES</strong></p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-The loss of Shawne Merriman, the NFL sack leader with 8 1/2, can't be minimized, especially with Shaun Phillips, the opposite starter, possibly out for the second straight week with a calf injury. Merriman, the NFL sack leader, maintains a tainted nutritional supplement led to his positive drug test. "It's hard to change everybody's mind on what happened," he said. "But what they have to know is that it can happen to anybody. It's hard to do anything illegal or doing anything against the rules nowadays because they're so strict already." Merriman dropped his appeal this week and will miss the next four games: Browns, at Cincinnati, at Denver and Raiders.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-Eyes will be on sixth-year linebacker Carlos Polk, who will replace Merriman. Polk has been slowed by injuries the past two years and hasn't started this year; he has with nine tackles. Polk is a run-stuffer and won't come close to delivering the pass rush which Merriman features.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-OLB Shaun Phillips is getting close to returning, but this week might be a stretch. He sat out last week with a strained calf. "I'm 75 percent, day-to-day," said Phillips, second to Merriman among Chargers with six sacks. "If I'm not good playing this week, it will be one more week. I think we will be OK because we got a good nucleus and we got good guys to take care of business."</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">Phillips speculates the defense will survive Merriman's absence. "We'll be OK," Phillips said. "Of course we won't be as good of a defense because he is one our the best, if not the best, defense player in the league. It's a step back, but we will overcome it."</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">"We're a good football team; I'm not going to be say we're a better team without Shawne. But what if he was hurt for those four games? Injuries take place over a course of a season and teams have to bounce back and be stronger."</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">Merriman, too, will survive, Phillips said.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">"He's upset but he is a man, he is a big boy and he will face any challenge, look any challenge in the eye," Phillips said. "That is the type of player he is.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-After the Rams piled up 412 yards, the Chargers no longer can claim being the No. 1 defense; that distinction belongs the Chicago Bears. The Chargers are No. 2.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-QB Philip Rivers, whose effective passing has helped Tomlinson's cause, laughed about those saying RB LaDainian Tomlinson was slower. "I was trying to find that step that everybody said he lost out there," Rivers said. "He was awesome, and that's the L.T. that we know we've had all year."</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-Tomlinson, who spoke to the media Monday while wearing a gorilla mask, is but 14 yards behind league-leader Larry Johnson for most yards from scrimmage with 959. Tomlinson the Gorilla said he didn't think Tomlinson the Running Back had lost a step.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-The Chargers' coordinators are riding high. Cam Cameron's offense is ranked third in total offense. Wade Phillips' defense is ranked second in the league. Both interviewed for head-coaching jobs last offseason and they could be hot commodities this offseason. It's believed they still want to be head coaches - the Chargers' policy doesn't allow assistants to speak with the media.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-Tomlinson said he noticed his front line was out to prove something last week. Tomlinson had rushed for 100 yards just once in the team's first six games.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">"They didn't apologize, but you knew they were pretty upset about not being able to run the ball effectively," Tomlinson said. "And that comes from just getting into a groove of running the football."</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-The Chargers wear their powder blue throwback jerseys on alumni weekend Sunday. The Bolts have won three of their last four games in the throwbacks, including a 23-13 win over Pittsburgh earlier this season.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"><strong>BY THE NUMBERS:</strong> 34:14 - Average time of possession for the Chargers in each game, which leads the NFL.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"><strong>QUOTE TO NOTE:</strong> "I'm not a cheater. I don't believe in cheating the game, I don't condone cheating the game, I have no reason to cheat the game." - OLB Shawne Merriman, on his positive steroid test which lead to a four-game suspension.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"><strong>STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL</strong></p>
    <p class="inside-copy">The Chargers need to hog the ball, like they have all year. That keeps their defense off the field. It's not that the Chargers are worried about their No. 2-ranked unit, but it is getting filled with backups.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">The linebacker situation on the outside is in disarray and defensive end Igor Olshansky's knee still isn't right.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">Polk and Harris will likely start on the outside for the first time this year for Merriman and Phillips. While Harris can get up field, Polk is a squared-up, run-plugged.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"></p>
    <p class="inside-copy">PLAYER NOTES</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-TE Antonio Gates will be eager to show he is the best player on the field at his position - never mind Kellen Winslow, Jr. Gates has a team-high 384 receiving yards and four receiving touchdowns.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-LT Marcus McNeill has answered nearly every challenge in his rookie year. McNeill is a big part of the reason why the Chargers have allowed but 10 sacks.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-DE Igor Olshansky (knee) has an outside shot of playing this week. But he didn't work Wednesday. If he can't go Jacques Cesaire fills in.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-LB Stephen Cooper has been seeing some action on early-downs, spelling veteran Randall Godfrey.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-QB Philip Rivers is coming off his third game of the season in which he had a passer rating of at least 100. He's the league's second-highest rated passer on third down with a rating of 109.4.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-P Mike Scifres could be headed to the Pro Bowl if he keeps up this pace. He leads the NFL in net punting average (43 yards), more than 2 yards better than the next punter.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"><strong>GAME PLAN:</strong> The Chargers got their machismo back when the running game got going again, with Tomlinson rushing for 183 yards and a couple of scores last week. So why not stick with it? The Browns can't stop the run and are allowing 136 rushing yards per game - No. 28 in the league. Watch Tomlinson pound away on the Browns, and don't be surprised if Michael Turner gets into the mix earlier this week.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"><strong>MATCHUPS TO WATCH:</strong> The Chargers' pass defense, with SS Terrence Kiel, vs. the Browns' passing game, led by TE Kellen Winslow. Kiel figures to have a full plate in trying to keep Winslow under wraps. Winslow has played well, leading the NFL with 40 receptions - the most by any tight end. And he will be pumped to have a big game in the same stadium where his father found stardom. Kiel has been OK this year - nothing more. And he has been missing tackles of late - more so two weeks ago in K.C. than last week. But the Browns will be eager to get Winslow going and it will be up to Kiel to make sure Winslow doesn't.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-The Chargers running game, led by Tomlinson and Turner vs. the Browns run defense, which isn't very good. Tomlinson got untracked last week and the offensive line played with a chip on its shoulder last week. The Chargers OL will make the Browns prove they are up to the task. That means Cleveland will need big games from linebackers Willie McGinest, Andra Davis, D'Qwell Jackson and rookie Kamerion Wimbley.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-The Chargers kickoff return coverage has been pretty stout, allowing but 21 yards per attempt. But the Browns return game is a big part of their offense, with it being ranked No. 3 with a 25.5-yard average. Joshua Cribbs paces the return game, averaging 27.7 yards with a long of 65. Plus, with some many second-string Chargers filling in for the defense, inexperience could hamper the production on special teams.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"><strong>INJURY IMPACT:</strong> OLB Shaun Phillips (calf) probably won't play as his game is speed - and the Chargers are reluctant to push him back when it could turn into a long-term injury.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-S Bhawoh Jue (knee) is still limited in his work but could go this week.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-DE Igor Olshansky (knee) could go, but he didn't practice on Wednesday. He'll be limited if he does go.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-S Clinton Hart (hip) should go on Sunday.</p>

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