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Inside Slant

Discussion in 'San Diego Chargers Hall of Champions' started by robdog, Jan 5, 2006.

  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>

    Just how big of a monkey wrench Drew Brees' injury throws into the Chargers' off-season plans will be known soon. Brees suffered a dislocated shoulder and a torn labrum in his right (throwing) arm in the season-ending loss to the Denver Broncos.

    The Chargers will better know Brees' future after he has his surgery. It's not expected that he has rotator cuff damage, so the procedure could be fairly simple, with him returning in time for the June minicamp.

    But until the doctors cut into and get a good look at Brees' damaged shoulder, the team is reserving judgment on how it will pursue a quarterback one year removed from the Pro Bowl.

    "I can't tell you now what we are going to do," general manager A.J. Smith said. "I don't have enough facts. When I find out exactly what his health is, we can move forward."

    When coach Marty Schottenheimer was asked Tuesday who his starting quarterback will be next season, he said: "Ask me in a couple of months."

    Does the Chargers' off-season include giving Brees the long-term contract he has long sought? Or will he be given the franchise tag again - at nearly $10 million - and brought back? Or will he be signed and traded?

    What doesn't help Brees' value is that he will be unable to prove to the doubters that his arm really is OK in a game situation. And without that, it's doubtful Smith would move him because it would lessen what the Chargers would get in return.

    Then there is Philip Rivers, who could be headed for his third straight year as a backup. Rivers has said in the past he would consider requesting a trade, because he fully believes it's time for his career to move on and for him to be a starter somewhere, if not with the Chargers.

    But Rivers recently hedged about asking to be traded, saying he was hopeful the off-season would work out for the Chargers, Brees and himself. With Brees' injury, Rivers might be reluctant to leave at this time.

    Time isn't on the Chargers' side. They must decide by Feb. 23 if they want to franchise Brees, which will be about six weeks after his surgery.

    Smith will be busy this off-season fixing holes in the offensive line and a secondary that cries for a playmaker.

    But first he must reach a verdict at the team's most important position. And having to possibly do it with the uncertainty of Brees' health is a position Smith doesn't enjoy being in.


    -Linebacker Shawne Merriman will be named the Associated Press' Defensive Rookie of the Year. Merriman, the first of the team's two first-round draft picks, led the Chargers with 10 sacks.

    -General manager A.J. Smith said any suspected rift between him and coach Marty Schottenheimer is hogwash. "We get along fine," Smith said.

    Schottenheimer agreed. "A.J. and I see eye to eye," he said. "We're after the same thing, to win a championship. We're doing fine, and that's a fact."

    -Pass-rushing linebacker Shaun Phillips had another solid year with six sacks, giving him 10 in two years. But the lack of team success trumps his year. "Finishing 9-7 doesn't cut it in this league," he said. "Though we may have improved on the defensive side, we're still going home without a playoff spot. We're just going to have to bounce back and learn from our mistakes this year."

    -Running back LaDainian Tomlinson's 1,462 rushing yards and 120 points scored were both the third-best in team history.

    -Receiver Keenan McCardell, with six catches in the season finale, is two receptions shy of tying Larry Centers for the No. 9 spot on the NFL's all-time list.

    -Quarterback Drew Brees passed for 3,576 yards, the sixth-most in team history. He is the only Charger other than Dan Fouts to pass for more than 3,500 yards in a season.

    -Pro Bowler Antonio Gates became the first Chargers tight end to eclipse 1,000 receiving yards since Kellen Winslow did it in 1983. With 13 touchdown catches in 2004 and 10 this year, Gates is the only tight end in NFL history with consecutive seasons with double-digit receiving touchdowns. His 23 scoring receptions the past two seasons are the most by a tight end in any two-season span.

    -How popular were the Chargers? They drew 634,154 fans in 10 home games to set a team record.

    -Don't overlook kicker Nate Kaeding's solid year. He converted 21 of 24 field goals and didn't miss any of his 49 extra points. His .875 field-goal conversion rate was the third-best in team history among kickers with at least 14 attempts.

    -Maybe the Chargers' quarterback situation isn't as strong as they think. This from Denver cornerback Champ Bailey, after the Broncos beat the Chargers on Saturday. "Drew Brees and Philip Rivers both looked the same to me," he said. "Neither one of them got it done."

    QUOTE TO NOTE: "Our No. 1 mistake in the beginning was believing the cards were going to fall in our favor. - Linebacker Steve Foley on the Chargers' attitude in a disappointing season.


    The Chargers head into the off-season intent on improving their play along the offensive line and in the secondary.

    The running game lost steam, especially in the final month. Too much inconsistency and too many times that RB LaDainian Tomlinson was met in the backfield by defenders. Tomlinson is great, but even he needs some room to roam.

    The secondary didn't improve, despite the Chargers nearly doubling their sack total from the previous year with 46 sacks. Quentin Jammer and Drayton Florence combined for two interceptions, and neither came until December.

    COACHING CAROUSEL: Coach Marty Schottenheimer is on solid ground, and why wouldn't he be? He's won 21 games in the past two years and has some $6 million guaranteed for the next two. People get worked up over Schottenheimer's conservatism and postseason shortcomings, but it's rare a coach who is winning and has big bucks coming his way is shown the door. And that certainly won't be the case here.

    Offensive coordinator Cam Cameron will meet with the Houston Texans regarding their head coaching opening. Defensive coordinator Wade Phillips, who is 10 games over .500 as an NFL head coach, also is expected to draw some interest, starting with the Packers.

    If Cameron goes and fired Rams coach Mike Martz isn't hired elsewhere, Martz could consider coming to San Diego, where he attended school and was a junior college coach. It remains to be seen, though, if Martz would be interested in working with Schottenheimer, and vice-versa.

    Another possibility is Norv Turner, the fired Raiders coach and former Chargers offensive coordinator.

    All of the assistants are under contract and are expected to return - although Schottenheimer left himself some wiggle room when asked about that.


    Unrestricted free agents:

    -QB Drew Brees (will be retained, likely with the franchise tag)

    -WR Reche Caldwell (isn't expected to be brought back)

    -TE Justin Peelle (team likes his blocking, but at the right price)

    -G Bob Hallen (was able to supply needed depth; could return depending on the draft)

    -DE DeQuincy Scott (solid backup and clubhouse guy; should return)

    -LB Ben Leber (he wants to start, and with Shawne Merriman in place, he won't do it in San Diego)

    -LB Carlos Polk (good special teams player but repeated injuries are a concern)

    -CB Jamar Fletcher (was decent as a nickel back; team looking to upgrade secondary but Fletcher could be a fall-back guy and return)

    Restricted free agents:

    -G Kris Dielman (will return)

    -T Courtney VanBuren (injuries hurt his stock, and team will likely look elsewhere)

    -WR Kassim Osgood (team wants him back for his special teams play)

    -FB Andrew Pinnock (with Pro Bowler Lorenzo Neal on roster, he's not a high priority)

    -DE Jacques Cesaire (team wants to retain him)

    -LB Matt Wilhelm (had a solid season as a backup and team is fond of him)

    -LB Stephen Cooper (will return; thought of as a possible starter, but if Randall Godfrey delays his retirement, Cooper again could be a key backup)

    -S Clinton Hart (at the right price, he returns)

    FEELING A DRAFT: GM A.J. Smith's work in the draft is among the reasons the Chargers have flipped their persona from losers to playoff contenders. The team has the 19th pick this year, and Smith likely will look to upgrade the offensive line and the wide receiver corps, likely with a speed receiver who can stretch the field.

    MEDICAL WATCH: QB Drew Brees will undergo surgery to repair a torn labrum in his right (throwing) shoulder. He is expected to be ready for the June minicamp. ... DE Luis Castillo will have arthroscopic knee surgery and isn't expected to miss any of the off-season workouts.

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