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Inside Slant

Discussion in 'Latest Chargers News & Headlines' started by robdog, Mar 11, 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>

    <img width="252" height="171" alt="Philip Rivers" id="image2037" src="http://bolttalk.com/wp-content/uploads/2006/03/rivers01.jpg" />

    Philip Rivers, the stage is all yours.
    <p class="intro-copy">After two years of patiently waiting for his chance, Rivers will become the Chargers' starting quarterback next season, as the team declined to bring back Drew Brees.</p>
    <p class="intro-copy">Rivers, who was acquired from the New York Giants in a draft-day trade, has the credentials to be an NFL standout. He was the fourth overall pick after being the MVP of all five bowl games he played in at North Carolina State.</p>
    <p class="intro-copy"> But he has only 30 NFL passes to his credit, and some think the Chargers are whacky for turning over a team which is so close to the playoffs to such an inexperienced player.</p>
    <p class="intro-copy">General manager A.J. Smith, who made the decision to cut ties with Brees, is hopeful Rivers will be the player he envisions.</p>
    <p class="intro-copy">I feel the same way with his ability except that he's never played in the National Football League except a dabble in it," Smith said. "That's always a concern for all of us.</p>
    <p class="intro-copy">"Any time that a college player enters the NFL, it starts all over again. There are first-round busts and there are seventh-rounders who go to Honolulu every year. There are free agents that go to the Pro Bowl and in betweens. That's a judgment that we make as personnel people. You do the best job you can. You bring them in and when they cross over into that arena of the NFL, you just hope that you've made the right evaluation and you surround those people with a quality team. You hope for the best.</p>
    <p class="intro-copy">"I think the judgment is what kind of a player was he in college. You have plenty of examples of it over the years. The thing I always remind myself of, that I think the difference-maker is, not just the talent, but once I know someone has talent and I focus on the character, work ethic, leadership abilities and production - what have they done and what kind of person are they? The two years that Philip has been in our program, I think if he was ever given and opportunity whenever that comes, I believe that he'll be very, very successful."</p>
    <p class="intro-copy">The chance is now for Rivers, the young man with the Southern drawl and three-quarter delivery. Many think Rivers arrival as a starter would be less dicey if he had some additional playing time. And there certainly instances last year when the Chargers had commanding leads - or even in the regular-season finale in which San Diego was already eliminated from the playoffs - where Rivers could have taken some snaps.</p>
    <p class="intro-copy">But Smith, who has a less-than-robust relationship with coach Marty Schottenheimer, said those decisions aren't made by him.</p>
    <p class="intro-copy">"I'll leave that up to Coach Schottenheimer because he's the head coach of the football team," said Smith, who was recently summoned to a meeting with team president Dean Spanos regarding his dealings with Schottenheimer. "He decides who plays, who starts and what the roles are. That's his job.</p>
    <p class="intro-copy">"What I do is evaluate, make recommendations and study that situation and monitor it. Any comments along that I certainly wouldn't make right now in this form. I've made some to ownership along the way, but you're asking the wrong guy. That's the coach's area to do. That's his job to run that football team and go win a Super Bowl. That's the ultimate goal of all coaches."</p>
    <p class="intro-copy">The Chargers' immediate goal is to get Rivers up and running as fast as possible.</p>
    <p class="intro-copy"></p>
    <p class="intro-copy">-The Chargers' current top-three needs this offseason:</p>
    <p class="intro-copy">1. Cornerback: The Chargers were the top-ranked team against the run, but defending the pass they finished near the bottom once again at No. 28. The Chargers' brass once said the lack of production on the backend was because of a tepid pass rush - that's no longer the case. Despite having three first-rounders at this position - Quentin Jammer, Sammy Davis and Jamar Fletcher - the pass defense continues to be the team's Achilles heel. Something must be fixed here to give the unit some balance. Chargers corners had but three interceptions last year.</p>
    <p class="intro-copy">2. Offensive line: Despite finishing in the top 10 of every critical rushing category, the Chargers thought so little of their line play that they fired offensive line coach Carl Mauck with one year left on his contract. A great fit here might be Saints center LeCharles Bentley, a free agent with ties to new line coach Jack Henry; Henry was with the Saints last year. Bentley could play guard; GM A.J. Smith is also looking hard at adding depth at both tackle spots, especially the left side.</p>
    <p class="intro-copy">3. Wide receiver: Keenan McCardell heads into his 15th season and the team won't invite back Reche Caldwell, a second-round bust. There is hope for Vincent Jackson - if he can stay healthy - and Eric Parker has proven he can be a reliable No. 2 or No. 3 receiver. Keep an eye on Steelers free agent Antwaan Randle El. Not only could he help in the passing game, but the Chargers are also looking for a punt-returner, a role Randle El could fill. Plus, he's a familiar face to offensive coordinator Cam Cameron, as Randle El was his All-American quarterback at Indiana University when Cameron was the head coach there.</p>
    <p class="intro-copy"></p>
    <p class="intro-copy">DRAFT SCOUT SKINNY</p>
    <p class="intro-copy">Smith has made little secret of his plan to add some competition to the woeful secondary. If he does it through the draft, he could go with either a cornerback or safety with his first-round pick, which is 19th overall.</p>
    <p class="intro-copy">Among the cornerbacks likely still on the board will be Clemson's Ty Hill, Miami's Kelly Jennings and South Carolina's Johnathan Joseph.</p>
    <p class="intro-copy">At safety, the Chargers could be intrigued by Ohio State's Donte Whitner.</p>
    <p class="intro-copy">Although it's not their biggest need, the Chargers could erase the left tackle spot from their worry list by going with Southern California's Winston Justice. Smith is concerned about entering the year with veteran Roman Oben, who is coming off foot surgery.</p>
    <p class="intro-copy">Justice, though, could have some character issues - which Smith seldom overlooks. Plus, he has been blocking for a left-handed quarterback in college and not a right-hander, where protecting his blind side is more critical.</p>
    <p class="intro-copy"><strong>NOTES, QUOTES</strong></p>
    <p class="intro-copy">Team president Dean Spanos met with GM A.J. Smith and coach Marty Schottenheimer about their icy relationship. Smith and Schottenheimer were at odds during last season; Schottenheimer, who wasn't hired by Smith, blasted him from the Scouting Combine regarding the lack of communication between the two. That forced a meeting with their boss, and Spanos wasn't too happy about having to take both to his woodshed.</p>
    <p class="intro-copy">"I expect nothing less than the highest level of professionalism from both the coach and general manager," Spanos said in a statement. "I expect both of them to pull in the same direction at all times, toward a Super Bowl for the Chargers. The three of us left the meeting in agreement and we will now move forward, together, as an organization."</p>
    <p class="intro-copy">-Philip Rivers will become the third starting quarterback for the Chargers since Smith, and his predecessor, John Butler, arrived 2001. Rivers follows Drew Brees and Doug Flutie.</p>
    <p class="intro-copy">-Kicker Nate Kaeding has made 41 of 49 field-goal attempts in his first two seasons. His .837 percentage is better than the first two years of the team's top three kickers all-time: Rolf Benirschke (.778), John Carney (.760) and Dennis Partee (.593).</p>
    <p class="intro-copy">-Linebacker Shawne Merriman, the NFL's defensive rookie of the year, made a substantial contribution to keep a homeless shelter open in downtown San Diego. Merriman's play and his concern for those less fortunate - he grew up poor as well - could make him one of San Diego's most popular athletes.</p>
    <p class="intro-copy"><strong>QUOTE TO NOTE:</strong> "I told them in no uncertain terms that I don't pay them to be friends. I made it absolutely clear that I pay them to do their jobs." - Team president Dean Spanos, on what he stressed when dressing down GM A.J. Smith and coach Marty Schottenheimer regarding their strained relationship.</p>
    <p class="intro-copy"><strong>STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL</strong></p>
    <p class="intro-copy">FRANCHISE PLAYER: None.</p>
    <p class="intro-copy">TRANSITION PLAYER: None.</p>
    <p class="intro-copy">UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: QB Drew Brees; WR Reche Caldwell; CB Jamar Fletcher; OG Bob Hallen; LB Ben Leber; TE Justin Peelle; DE DeQuincy Scott.</p>
    <p class="intro-copy">RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: LB Stephen Cooper; OL Kris Dielman; OL Courtney VanBuren; LB Matt Wilhelm.</p>
    <p class="intro-copy">EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENTS: WR Drew Haddad; LB Howard Hodges; RB Calvin Murray.</p>
    <p class="intro-copy">PLAYERS RE-SIGNED: S Clinton Hart; WR Kassim Osgood; DE Jacques Cesaire; LB Carlos Polk; FB Andrew Pinnock.</p>
    <p class="intro-copy">PLAYERS ACQUIRED: None.</p>
    <p class="intro-copy">PLAYERS LOST: S Jerry Wilson.</p>
     

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