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Inside Slant

Discussion in 'San Diego Chargers Hall of Champions' started by robdog, Jul 23, 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>

    <img alt="Vincent Jackson" title="Vincent Jackson" src="http://www.signonsandiego.com/sports/chargers/images/050805vincent_jackson.jpg" />
    <div class="intro-copy">Vincent Jackson has his chance for a do-over.</div>
    <p class="intro-copy">Many people thought the Chargers reached to draft Jackson in the second round last year. He was being asked to make the huge leap from Division I-A Northern Colorado, where he had experienced success in setting five team records for receiving and returns.</p>
    <p class="intro-copy">And Jackson certainly looks the part. He stands at 6-5, 241 pounds and his athleticism had some predicting great things for Jackson.</p>
    <p class="intro-copy"> But Jackson didn't get off on a good foot in training camp, where various injuries derailed valuable practice time. Then when the season got underway, he was brought along slowly - again because of nagging ailments he never could seem to vanquish.</p>
    <p class="intro-copy">So the final numbers of Jackson's rookie year were hardly stellar: three catches for 59 yards.</p>
    <p class="intro-copy">The Chargers, though, haven't given up on Jackson. Wide receivers coach James Lofton isn't allowed to speak with the media, but his body language reveals he's still upbeat about Jackson when asked about his pupil.</p>
    <p class="intro-copy">If Jackson can have a solid camp - and prove to one and all he can stay healthy - he has a real shot of being the team's No. 3 wide out. Keenan McCardell and Eric Parker are entrenched at the top two positions, but it's a wide-open competition for the roles behind them.</p>
    <p class="intro-copy">Jackson doesn't seem to lack in confidence and it doesn't seem as if the game is too big for this small-college alumnus. But the Chargers are eager to see more production - and Jackson's impressive body on the field more - and they try to shape a new passing attack under fresh quarterback Philip Rivers.</p>
    <p class="intro-copy">Can Jackson provide a few thrills this season? The Chargers, who declined to draft a wideout in the spring draft, are banking on it.</p>
    <p class="intro-copy">If Jackson doesn't respond - and others don't step up - it could put more pressure on Rivers. If defenses can zero in on the other wideouts and not be afraid of Jackson, Rivers could be asked to throw into more double coverages.</p>
    <p class="intro-copy"><strong>CAMP CALENDAR:</strong> July 24: Rookies report</p>
    <p class="intro-copy">July 25-27: Rookie practices (not open to the public)</p>
    <p class="intro-copy">July 28: Veterans report</p>
    <p class="intro-copy">July 29: First full squad workouts at 8:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m.</p>
    <p class="intro-copy">Aug. 3: Night practice</p>
    <p class="intro-copy">Aug. 9: Night practice</p>
    <p class="intro-copy">Aug. 22: Night practice</p>
    <p class="intro-copy">Aug. 5: Practice and Fanfest at Qualcomm Stadium</p>
    <p class="intro-copy">Aug. 11: Light workout on the USS Ronald Reagan</p>
    <p class="intro-copy">Aug. 25: Camp ends</p>
    <p class="intro-copy"><strong>NOTES, QUOTES</strong></p>
    <p class="intro-copy">-DE Luis Castillo and WR Robert Ortiz made a visit to nearby Tijuana, Mexico, to conduct a youth football clinic. "I always see a lot of Mexican and Dominican flags at Chargers games," Castillo said. "We have a huge following in the Hispanic community and it's very important that we promote our team through the international media."</p>
    <p class="intro-copy">-Ex-QB Drew Brees, now with the Saints, held a Goodbye San Diego party at Del Mar's opening day for the horse races. He also was present in the winner's circle after a race.</p>
    <p class="intro-copy">-Some 72 hours before the rookies were scheduled to report, the Chargers had yet to sign a draft pick. But it appeared they were close with top selection, CB Antonio Cromartie.</p>
    <p class="intro-copy">-The team is holding its training camp for the second straight year at its facility. The team is welcoming fans, but only to the morning practices as there are parking concerns.</p>
    <p class="intro-copy">-The Chargers haven't done a complete face-lift, even if trotting out a new QB Philip Rivers. But if they were, Rivers' mom has the perfect name for such an undertaking: Joan Rivers.</p>
    <p class="intro-copy">-National City, about 15 miles south of San Diego, is the latest San Diego County city to flirt with the idea of building the team a new stadium.</p>
    <p class="intro-copy"><strong>QUOTE TO NOTE:</strong> "He's the first person I call after practice. I'll say, 'we ran this play or you should have seen (Steve) Foley cutting up in stretching.' He gets a kick out of those stories and I enjoy passing them along - it is never ending." - QB Philip Rivers on sharing his occupational tales with his father, Steve, a former high school football coach.</p>
    <p class="intro-copy"><strong>STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL</strong></p>
    <p class="intro-copy">UNIT-BY-UNIT ANALYSIS</p>
    <p class="intro-copy">QUARTERBACKS: Starter - Philip Rivers. Backups - A.J. Feely, Charlie Whitehurst.</p>
    <p class="intro-copy">Mr. Rivers, it's time for your close-up. After waiting behind Drew Brees for two seasons, Rivers will finally be flipped the car keys to drive this unit toward the playoffs. Although, some doubt if Rivers can contribute with consistency right away with but 30 NFL passes and yet to start his first NFL game. Rivers, though, counters that this is his third year in the offense and he didn't waste his time being Brees' caddy. Rivers said he absorbed through Brees what it takes to prepare on a weekly basis and how to be a leader at this level. If Rivers stumbles, the Chargers could go with Feeley a starter with the Eagles and Dolphins. Whitehurst is seen as a project but should be the team's No. 3 quarterback.</p>
    <p class="intro-copy">RUNNING BACKS: Starters - RB LaDainian Tomlinson, FB Lorenzo Neal. Backups - Michael Turner, Darren Sproles, Andrew Pinnock.</p>
    <p class="intro-copy">Tomlinson is among the NFL's elite backs and his services will be needed more than ever as the Chargers try to break in a new quarterback. To lessen the pounding Tomlinson takes, he could be more involved in the passing game to give him some space to work with - in any capacity, Tomlinson is a versatile threat with few NFL peers. Neal is the workhorse opening holes for Tomlinson and doesn't show any signs of decline skills despite this being his 14th season. Turner's play last year, especially late, could result in seeing his role increase this season. Sproles never got comfortable in the base offense, although the Chargers are still looking for ways to get him the ball.</p>
    <p class="intro-copy">TIGHT ENDS: Starter - Antonio Gates. Backups - Aaron Shea, Brandon Manumaleuna.</p>
    <p class="intro-copy">Some will argue in Kansas City, but Gates has become the top player at his position. Gates could be leaned on even more this season as a safety value for Rivers. Shea and Manumaleuna were brought in as blockers and will seldom see a pass headed in their direction. It's the role of the sure-handed Gates in an offense with a new quarterback, which can't be minimized.</p>
    <p class="intro-copy">WIDE RECEIVERS: Starters - Keenan McCardell, Eric Parker. Backups - Vincent Jackson, Kassim Osgood, Rashaun Woods, Malcom Floyd.</p>
    <p class="intro-copy">McCardell's credentials are among the game's all-time best. But does a team with Super Bowl aspirations really want a 36-year-old receiver as its go-to wide out? Parker's numbers continue to rise. But what hasn't changed his is 6-foot, 180-pound frame which often gets battered by his acrobatic and fearless catches. Jackson managed but three catches last year in a rookie season plagued by minor injuries. Osgood has some upside, but blocking is his strength; Woods was a first-round bust in San Francisco and is hoping to resurrect his career.</p>
    <p class="intro-copy">OFFENSIVE LINE: Starters - LT Roman Oben, LG Kris Dielman, C Nick Hardwick, RG Mike Goff, LT Shane Olivea. Backups - Leander Jordan, Marcus McNeill, Scott Mruczkowski, Cory Lekkerkerker.</p>
    <p class="intro-copy">Oben, and not Rivers, could be the key to the offense. The 11-year veteran is trying to rebound from two foot surgeries. Dielman, a former defensive lineman, has grown into a reliable starter. Hardwick has grown in girth some 20 pounds to handle the massive nose tackle bodies he must wrestle with. Goff is solid if not spectacular; Olivea's play seemed to wane as last season wore on.</p>
    <p class="intro-copy">DEFENSIVE LINE: Starters -LE Luis Castillo, DT Jamal Williams, RE Igor Olshansky. Backups - Jacques Cesaire, Ryon Bingham, Derreck Robinson.</p>
    <p class="intro-copy">Williams finally earned his long overdue Pro Bowl berth last year. Castillo, in his second year, supplied production as a run-stopper and pass-rusher. Olshansky is usually seen just on the early downs; he's a big reason the run defense was No. 1 last year. Depth, though, could be a concern here, especially with the untested Bingham playing behind Williams.</p>
    <p class="intro-copy">LINEBACKERS: Starters - OLB Steve Foley, ILB Donnie Edwards, ILB Randall Godfrey, OLB Shawne Merriman, Backups - Shaun Phillips, Matt Wilhelm, Stephen Cooper, Marques Harris, Tim Dobbins, Carlos Polk.</p>
    <p class="intro-copy">Merriman, the NFL's Defensive Rookie of the Year, was a monster last season and should build on that foundation. Foley is returning from an abdominal strain which limited his production last year - those two, along with the speed-rusher Phillips - can cause opposing quarterback fits. The inside spots are solid with Edwards - the team's leading tackler in each of the past four years - and Godfrey - an 11-year pro who had 78 tackles and three fumble recoveries last year. Depth here is keen - Cooper and Wilhelm could possibly start elsewhere.</p>
    <p class="intro-copy">DEFENSIVE BACKS: Starters - LCB Quentin Jammer, RCB Drayton Florence, FS Marlon McCree, SS Terrence Kiel. Backups - Bhawoh Jue, Clinton Hart, Hanik Milligan, Antonio Cromartie, Markus Curry, Andre Lott.</p>
    <p class="intro-copy">Long the Achilles' heel of the defense, the secondary is hoping to improve with the addition of McCree and the drafting of Cromartie in the first round. Jammer is a lightning rod for criticism and for good reason - the former fifth overall pick has but two interceptions the past two years. Florence is up-and-down; he had but one pick last year, too. The free spot should be strong with McCree, although the team is still tinkering on where to play him. Kiel needs to rebound from an ankle injury and Jue had a complicated knee surgery over the offseason, but could be in the mix for Kiel's spot, along with Clinton Hart.</p>
    <p class="intro-copy">SPECIAL TEAMS: K Nick Kaeding, P Mike Scifres, LS David Binn, KR Darren Sproles, PR Eric Parker.</p>
    <p class="intro-copy">Kaeding has had a solid first two years; the team drafted Smith to possibly handle kickoffs. Scifres is a charitable bounce or two away from being a Pro Bowler. Sproles gives the team a burst on kickoffs; he's been shaky on punts, which forced Parker into that role. The team would rather keep Parker exclusively for the passing game, so Sproles will get another look. Another possibility is Cromartie and McCardell.</p>

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