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Inside Slant

Discussion in 'Latest Chargers News & Headlines' started by robdog, Sep 8, 2006.

  1. robdog

    robdog Code Monkey Staff Member Administrator

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    Source: <a target="_blank" href="http://www.usatoday.com/sports/football/nfl/chargers/home.htm">USA Today</a>
    <div class="inside-copy"><img align="left" alt="Philip Rivers" title="Philip Rivers" src="http://www.covers.com/images/2004/rivers_philip040531.jpg" /> There is no longer a gray area when eyeing Philip Rivers' career as a starting quarterback - the Black Hole awaits.</div>
    <p class="inside-copy">Rivers, a third-year pro, makes his NFL starting debut Monday night when the Chargers travel to Oakland to face the Raiders.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">Some thought this day would never come for Rivers - at least not with San Diego. Rivers was drafted fourth overall by the New York Giants, then peddled to the Chargers.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">But in front of him was Drew Brees, who earned Pro Bowl status and directed the Chargers to their first AFC West title since 1994 during the team years Rivers was relegated to a bench-warmer.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"> But those splinters - and Brees - are gone. Now all eyes are turned to Rivers, and what a place to get an NFL baptism - in front of some of the league's most vocal and rowdiest fans.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">Rivers, though, doesn't shy away from the challenge. In fact, he kind of embraces it as the Chargers start their journey that they hope leads to the playoffs for only the second time since 1995.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">"It'll be hostile and it will be crazy," Rivers said. "You can be poised and control the environment and thrive off of it. Or it can rattle you. I think this team, we'll be able to handle the situation."</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">The Chargers head for Oakland with a heavy heart.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">Starting outside linebacker Steve Foley was wounded by an off-duty police officer on Sunday morning, and has been lost for the year.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">The Chargers can't hide their sorrow. But they also can't hide the calendar and it shows it's time to play. Especially this week, which is known as Raider Week around here.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">"We got to start moving on," said Shaun Phillips, the linebacker replacing Foley. "Both those days off were tough because he is like a big brother to me. I just kept thinking about it over and over again.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">"As everything goes forward, it will get easier. Our prayers are still with him but we got to prepare for a long season. We can't keep dwelling on it or we will be 0-16.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">"The football season is here now. You can't run from it and when you are on the field that is all you can think about."</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">Coach Marty Schottenheimer said the football field could help ease the sorrow.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">"I really think the very best place to be is out there," he said.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">Rivers is just happy he's out there - even if that means dipping his NFL starting toe into the water just east of San Francisco Bay.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">"I think it is just how we would draw it up: it's a division opponent, it's a rival, it's Monday night. We couldn't really ask for a better setting and a better way to kick things off."</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"><strong>SERIES HISTORY:</strong> 94th meeting. The Raiders lead the series, 55-36-2, but the Chargers have won five in a row over the Raiders and six of the last eight. The Chargers haven't defeated the Raiders six straight times since the first six meeting back in 1960-62. The Chargers are also looking for their third straight win in Oakland.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"><strong>NOTES, QUOTES</strong></p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-OLB Steve Foley was put on the Non-Football Injury list, meaning he is out for the season and won't get his salary. His base salary was to be $775,000 this year and he also has $875,000 roster bonus. The Chargers won't pay the base and can ask for the bonus back. Foley was shot when being pulled over for suspected drunk driving by an off-duty policeman.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-LaDainian Tomlinson loves playing the Raiders and it shows. He has five 100-yard rushing games against the Raiders, the most he has against any opponent. Of his nine rushing touchdowns, one was a game-winner in overtime in 2002. "It's a California rivalry so obviously when you play another team from the state, you get excited about it," he said.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-Tomlinson needs but three touchdowns to tie Lance Alworth's team mark of 83.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-Speaking of Alworth, Raiders owner Al Davis was instrumental in Alworth coming to San Diego. Davis was a Chargers assistant coach at the time Alworth was leaving Arkansas and trying to decide between the AFL and the NFL.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-It may be Philip Rivers' first NFL start, but he's had success in the past on opening day. He never lost a season-opener in four starts at North Carolina State.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-Raiders coach Art Shell is impressed in what he sees from Chargers OLB Shawne Merriman: "He's tough; he presents problems. He's an outstanding football player. He plays with a lot of tenacity. He's a little bigger guy than say Junior Seau was I believe. You have to know where he is. He's good at blitzing and can play the run when he has to. He was an outstanding choice for them."</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-WR Keenan McCardell is two receptions shy of tying Larry Centers for No. 9 on the all-time list. Centers has 827 catches.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-A win Monday night lets Marty Schottenheimer pass Chuck Knox for seventh all-time. They both have won 186 games; neither reached the Super Bowl.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"><strong>BY THE NUMBERS:</strong> 25 - Number of victories Schottenheimer has over the Raiders, the most by any NFL coach.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"><strong>QUOTE TO NOTE:</strong> "He might not be here physically, but he is not going anywhere. Nobody is going to forget him around here." - OLB Shawne Merriman, on wounded teammate Steve Foley being sidelined for the season.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"><strong>STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL</strong></p>
    <p class="inside-copy">Shaun Phillips will replace Steve Foley as the outside linebacker on the weak side. Phillips is a dynamite pass-rusher, as he had seven sacks last year, which were second on the team.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">But Phillips has to prove himself as a run-stopper, which makes one think the Raiders will point LaMont Jordan in Phillips' direction on more than one occasion.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">Phillips' quickness is such that coach Marty Schottenheimer compares it to the burst he once saw in Kansas City when coaching the late Derrick Thomas. Still, what made Foley perfect was the 3-4 was that he could rush the passer but he also had a nasty streak that made him tough against the run and allowed him to play on every down. Phillips has to prove he can do the same thing.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">PLAYER PERSONNEL NOTES</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-PR Cletis Gordon was somewhat of a surprise to make the team; he was helped when Darren Sproles broke his leg in the preseason opener. But Gordon has been slowed by a tender hand, which might force Eric Parker into the punt-returner's role. LT Leander Jordan might not be able to spell rookie Marcus McNeill if called upon on Monday. Jordan suffered a stinger in the next-to-last exhibition game and has done little since.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-WR Vincent Jackson (chest) is eager to get back into the flow after getting hurt on Aug. 12. The Chargers are counting on him to be the No. 3 receiver, but he hasn't played in a game since getting hurt.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-CB Antonio Cromartie has earned a spot in the nickel package. The rookie will line up opposite Quentin Jammer, with Drayton Florence sliding into the slot position.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-ILB Donnie Edwards, who missed a month of training camp with a sore back, hasn't had any relapses and is coming off a good game in San Francisco. Edwards, the team's leading tackler in each of the past four years, remains on the trading block.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"><strong>GAME PLAN:</strong> The Chargers are hopeful they can establish their running game early, and with LaDainian Tomlinson being the focal point, that is always a good idea.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">But that's especially true this week, as the Chargers are breaking in a new quarterback, one that has never made an NFL start. If the Chargers can't get the running game in gear and quarterback Philip Rivers is forced into obvious passing situations, it will be extremely difficult for him and the team to be successful.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"><strong>MATCHUPS TO WATCH:</strong> Chargers LT Marcus McNeill, who is making his first NFL start, vs. Raiders DE Tyler Brayton. McNeill will get a great test in Oakland, especially with the Raider faithful in full voice after a full day of quenching their thirst. McNeill, to add another obstacle, is playing with a heavily wrapped left hand after a recent surgery to repair a fracture. Brayton is far from mans the other side - Derrick Burgess - but figures to give McNeill quite a battle. Look for a tight end to be assigned to McNeill's hip on passing downs to make sure Rivers has enough time to get off a pass.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-Chargers stingy run defense vs. the Raiders' running game, led by LaMont Jordan.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">The Chargers finished last year as the NFL's top-ranked run defense, allowing but 80 yards rushing per game. Right off the bat it gets tested by LaMont Jordan, the powerful Raiders back who many predict is in line for a breakout year. It will be interesting to see if the run defense can keep its stellar play going missing outside linebacker Steve Foley. On the other side, the Raiders' offensive line has been in flux for most of the summer and just how quickly it comes together could go a long way in determining if Jordan gets any running room.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-Chargers QB Philip Rivers vs. a Raiders pass rush led by DE Derrick Burgess.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">We know Rivers isn't responsible for blocking Burgess but he better make sure he is aware of where Burgess is at all times. Burgess, who had an NFL-high 16 sacks last year, will be looking to get off to a big start. What he has working in his favor is a first-year starting quarterback whose offensive line might be compromised by a loud Black Hole crowd. Rivers can't afford to look around too long before getting the ball out of there or will have meet Burgess up close and personal.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"><strong>INJURY IMPACT:</strong> LT Leander Jordan (shoulder; stinger), a backup, hasn't practice since getting hurt Aug. 26 and won't play.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">TE Aaron Shea (back), a backup, hasn't worked in a month and won't play.</p>
     

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