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Nobody has more talent than the Chargers

Discussion in 'American Football' started by RaptorKC, Aug 8, 2008.

  1. RaptorKC

    RaptorKC BoltTalker

    Aug 6, 2008
    Pretty good read:


    SAN DIEGO -- Sporting News is hitting the road this summer to attend every NFL training camp. Today, we check in with the San Diego Chargers.

    The atmosphere

    Though this remains a young team, Chargers camp has a professional and efficient feel, set on the team's campus, Chargers Park, in the Mission Valley section of San Diego. Coach Norv Turner has pushed his team but with a preseason game less than 48 hours away, the club goes through a pair of light workouts on this day.

    The buzzword around here: Caution. A dozen Chargers, nine of them starters, underwent offseason surgeries and -- after the way last season ended, with Antonio Gates, Philip Rivers and LaDainian Tomlinson seriously slowed by injury -- there's no attempt to push the wounded back on the field. Gates, still on the PUP list after February surgery on his toe, says he could play in a game now, but the coaches would rather have him at 100 percent when the games count.

    "We know how important it was when we got to the playoffs and guys were hurting," Gates said Thursday. "We can't let that happen, we've got to try to avoid that as much as we can. Doesn't mean it won't happen, but when you make a conscious effort in being healthy and being rested, it's a little bit different when you get to the postseason."

    Facts are facts: The Chargers have long had a Super Bowl-caliber roster. But only now, they believe, do they fully understand what it'll take to get there. The idea is they're all grown up after inching closer last year. And that doesn't mean they're already looking ahead to the playoffs. Rather, it's that they understand sprinting through warm-ups for a marathon is less than advised. Part of that is staying healthy, and another is a mature approach.

    "Last year in the summer, everyone's talking about the Super Bowl," says Rivers, coming off his own offseason surgery. "Now, we're just focused in, 'Hey, let's worry about Carolina, and then let's worry about Denver. Let's just play.' We hope what comes down the road is great. Let's give ourselves a chance though. Don't worry about it now, we can't do it today."

    The hot topics

    • Live and learn. This is a supremely confident team. Need proof? A lot of people thought the Chargers were the NFL's best in 2006 before they were upset in the divisional round of the playoffs. But no one believed it last year -- there was a team that went 16-0 -- except the Chargers themselves.

    "We just had injuries and miscues on some plays we should've made," said cornerback Antonio Cromartie, referencing the 21-12 AFC title game loss to New England. "Other than that, we feel like we were the better team."

    Rivers was a bit more measured, saying, "I think very briefly, you think, 'Man, I'd have loved to have all of us to have been healthy.' But then I quickly remember, quickly, Week 2 (against the Patriots), when it was 35-0 at one point of the game."

    There's a message in there. The Week 2 reference was Rivers' emphasis that the club had better start quicker than last year, when they lost three of their first four games and were 5-5 after 10 games. By putting itself in a bind in 2007, the Chargers expended a ton of energy in rallying to win eight straight. An exhausted team went to New England for the AFC title game. A better start might've helped the team avoid that.

    • Is Rivers right? The QB is now six months out from his surgery and has told anyone who will listen that he has a clean bill of health. I wrote for the magazine, with the counsel of doctors, that there's a two-month period of mental rehab that can't begin until a signal-caller gets into live situations. And I brought all of that up to him Thursday.

    "I'm anxious to get out there and go," he said Thursday. "But do I think I need more reps? I understand the live bullets and that you've got contact around you, but I feel like I'm towards the end of that two-month window. I know I haven't gotten hit, but I'm going and guys have been around me (when I throw)."

    The trend is that quarterbacks tend to get sacked more -- it takes time to regain their pocket presence -- and have a tougher time trusting their protection in Year 1 off ACL surgery. One thing Rivers did bring up was that since it was his plant leg that was injured, the repaired wheel is less exposed to hits and, as a result, there's less worry.

    "At least (that leg) is behind you," he said. "It's not out there so much, exposed. We'll see, but I honestly haven't even thought about it and how it's going to hold up."

    • LT and Gates have help. No one has been more impressive in camp than Vincent Jackson, a 6-foot-5, 241-pound monster of a receiver. And Chris Chambers, who came in right before trade deadline in October last year, is only now really getting settled in the offense. Plus, 2007 first-round pick Buster Davis is coming along.

    Only two San Diego receivers, Keenan McCardell and Curtis Conway, have had 70-catch seasons since 1997. The last San Diego wideout to catch 75 balls was ... wait for it ... Tony Martin, who caught 85 in 1996. Point being, Jackson, Chambers and Davis, if they keep going where they've seemed to be heading this offseason. And you can only imagine how difficult that would make LT and Gates to defend.

    "Experience helps, but having as many guys that can impact a game as you can have, that's what really helps," Turner said. "We have some young guys that can impact our games. You saw Vincent Jackson in the last half of our season impact every game, Chris Chambers impacting games.

    "We've got young receivers we can add to the group. The guys that have had the big impact on our games, offensively, were Gates and LT. We got them some help."

    The heated battle

    Ummmmmm ... Third corner? Backup running tailback? Those get you going?

    The Chargers are so loaded all over the place that there just aren't positions to fight for, so I'll give you one that's open by circumstance -- at San Diego's "Mo" linebacker spot, on the inside at the weak side of the formation. Starter Stephen Cooper is suspended for the season's first four games, for violating the league's substance abuse policy, and veteran free-agent addition Derek Smith, a starter in all 11 of his NFL seasons, has slid into his spot.

    But keep a close eye on second-year pro Anthony Waters. The 2007 third-round pick out of Clemson had a first-round grade before tearing his ACL and missing most of his senior year. He was inactive for all 16 games last year, but the coaches are sky high on him. He had his knee scoped again in late June, returned to practice this week and the expectation is he'll take playing time from Smith and eventually push Cooper and Matt Wilhelm for their starting jobs.

    Outside of that, it'll be interesting to see how reps are divided between Darren Sproles and rookie Jacob Hester behind Tomlinson -- the idea, it seems, is that Hester slides into Michael Turner's old role -- and some moving pieces in the secondary still need to shake themselves out, with Antoine Cason likely to become the third corner and 2007 supplemental pick Paul Oliver being considered for a move to safety.

    The hot rookie

    CB Antoine Cason. In its final two games of last year, the Chargers defense recorded five interceptions against Peyton Manning and Tom Brady. And already fortified with Cromartie and Quentin Jammer at corner, the club selected the instinctive Cason -- who had 15 interceptions as a four-year starter at Arizona -- in the first round.

    The club let Drayton Florence, who displaced in the starting lineup by Cromartie in midseason last year, go in free agency. Cason could well be an upgrade, and make a unit that boasts one of the NFL's most feared pass rushes even more difficult to throw on.

    The Turk alert

    LB Carlos Polk. This is another category with a bland answer. The eighth-year vet has battled injuries throughout his career and has served as a core special teamer for the Chargers. But with the logjam at inside linebacker, he might be the odd man out.

    More so, the lack of "names" on the chopping block is a testament to the job GM A.J. Smith has done putting the roster together. The Chargers just don't strike out a lot in acquiring talent.

    The water cooler

    At the turn of the century, the Buccaneers were the team that couldn't get over the hump. Then, it was the Colts. These Chargers look at those two clubs as examples of teams knocking at the door, before finally kicking it down. The way they see it, they're next.

    "We've had opportunities the last couple years," Tomlinson said. "And it hasn't happened, but that's what happens. If you look through history, teams that have won championships, (few teams) have just won it by getting there. They'll get in the playoffs and lose in the first round, get to the championship game and lose, lose in the divisional game.

    "That's the way it happens, and then eventually, boom, you're there."

    The Chargers think they're there. A big reason why is the adversity they fought through last year, with the slow start early and the injuries late. While the focus remains on what's in front of them, most of the players seem to now have a better idea of how to approach the season as a whole. And how to handle the tough times that hit every team.

    "We won't blink," Rivers said. "We didn't blink last year, but it was so unexpected because of all the hype in the summer. We won't blink this time. We want to keep on rolling. You hope you don't have that start again, that's the focus here right now, to get off to a good start."
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  2. TheBeast

    TheBeast BoltTalker

    Dec 17, 2007
    Nice read, i'm liking River's confidence. Can't wait for the season to start :icon_toast:

    BOLTS4LIFE Banned Banned

    Oct 13, 2006
    IT'S NOW OR NEVER!!!! :bolt: :bolt:

    :yes: :bolt: :flag:
  4. WonderSlug

    WonderSlug Well-Known Member

    Sep 1, 2005
    Florida in February!
  5. foober

    foober BoltTalker

    Aug 17, 2006
    Its all gonna come down to the o-line. They block well and the chargers will destroy opposing teams this year. They have trouble like last year and the team will have a harder time winning games.
  6. Retired Catholic

    Retired Catholic BoltTalker

    Aug 3, 2006
    That is precisely why we have the advantage over Oakland, Denver and KC. McNeill is eager to redeem himself, Dielman is aces, Hardwick should be back for the core of the schedule, Goff is steady and Clary has another year of maturity, added strength, improved technique and experience. We have to stay healthy, just like everyone else in the league.

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