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Rookies joined at the hip

Discussion in 'Latest Chargers News & Headlines' started by robdog, Nov 6, 2005.

  1. robdog

    robdog Code Monkey Staff Member Administrator

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    Source: <a href="http://www.pe.com/sports/football/stories/PE_Sports_Local_D_chargers_06.cf0f240.html" target="_blank">The Press-Enterprise</a>

    <img src="http://www.bolttalk.com/images/therookies01.jpg" alt="Shawne Merriman and Luis Castillo" />

    By Jim Alexander

    Shawne Merriman and Luis Castillo entered the NFL as a package of sorts, 1 and 1A, the Chargers' first-round picks last April.

    They're a pass-rushing tandem on the left side, Merriman at outside linebacker and Castillo at defensive end, and could be a ferocious defensive combination for years to come.

    They've teamed up in another way, too. Rookies stick together, after all.

    "We talk about it so much together," Castillo said. "We enjoy coming in here and being the new guys and being able to have a big impact, especially when you have a game like last Sunday (against Kansas City) where both of us were able to make the big plays when the team needed them.

    "We're having a great time: celebrating, enjoying being these two rookies that are making an impact on this team."

    They have drawn the notice of New York Jets coach Herman Edwards, whose 2-5 team attempts to rebound against the Chargers today in East Rutherford, N. J. Edwards favorably compared the Chargers' rookies to his own veteran pass rushing tandem, John Abraham and Shaun Ellis.

    "They're first-round picks, and they're playing like it," Edwards said on a conference call interview last week. "If you pick a guy that high, he obviously has talent. He has all the measurable skills, but you have to motivate them to play up to their talent level every week. I think those guys are doing that as young players."

    Castillo was a star at Northwestern who slipped down to the 28th pick in large part because of a positive steroids test at the draft combine, a transgression for which he wrote a letter of apology and regret to each NFL general manager. He has 18 tackles, 1"½ sacks and one pass deflection in the Chargers' first eight games, after taking Jacques Cesaire's starting spot at left end in Week 2.

    Merriman, selected with the No. 12 pick from Maryland acquired from the New York Giants in last year's Eli Manning deal, got a later start. He missed both mini-camps, reported to training camp late while his contract was being worked out and then suffered a knee injury in the preseason. But he cracked the starting lineup Oct. 23 at Philadelphia, replacing Ben Leber, and has come on with a rush with four sacks in the past four games.

    Both had monster games in last week's 28-20 victory over the Chiefs. Merriman had five tackles, two sacks and a forced fumble, Castillo five tackles and 1"½ sacks. Each had a critical sack of Kansas City quarterback Trent Green to derail a Chiefs drive deep in Chargers territory. And each got a game ball.

    Merriman expected to play early but felt he was held back by the injury.

    "I would have learned a lot more and gotten a chance to get a lot more reps," he said. "From this point on I've just got to do what they brought me in for, and that's to be a game-changer."

    Castillo was a little surprised that he got into the lineup as quickly as he did, though he'd expected to have some success early. But he had to get used to the veterans' little tricks -- "a little tug here, a little pull there, things the referee will never see," he said -- as well as learning the complexities of the NFL game.

    "We spend so much time studying the game, studying the opponent," he said. "As a rookie sometimes you spend more time on the field thinking, 'Well, I've got to come off the ball and take this step and hit this guy and make sure I stay in this gap,' instead of saying, 'They're lined up in this formation so I'm probably going to get this kind of block and I can do this.'

    "Once you see the big picture, that's when the change happens. It just kind of hit me this last game, and I was able to make some big plays."

    Their explosiveness brings an added dimension to San Diego's defense.

    "Obviously their youth" has an effect, head coach Marty Schottenheimer said. "But also their speed and power and athletic ability. In the (Kansas City) ballgame I thought (their) pressure on the quarterback was very good, against what I consider the best offensive line in football.

    "They're both ascending players."

    Reach Jim Alexander at (951) 368-9543 or jalexander@pe.com

    Chargers vs. Jets

    10a.m., Giants Stadium, East Rutherford, N. J.

    TV: Channel 2.

    Radio: 105.3 (San Diego), 1540 (Los Angeles), 103.3 (Inland Empire), 1010 (Palm Springs), 1420 (Spanish, San Diego).

    At stake: The Chargers again attempt to establish momentum. They're making another cross-country trip, their third in six weeks. And they're playing a team coming off a bye for the fourth time in five weeks. But this time they're favored against a hobbled Jets squad.

    What to expect: Following the week's talking points, Chargers players maintained that three straight losses to the Jets, and particularly last season's loss in a first-round playoff game, aren't a motivational factor. But you can bet that Marty Schottenheimer will bring it up in his pregame talk. More significantly, offensive coordinator Cam Cameron likely will make it a priority to get LaDainian Tomlinson more involved in the running game.

    Three keys for the Chargers:

    Get LT going early. Nine carries through three quarters for the best running back in the game (as in last week's game against the Chiefs) isn't nearly enough.

    Pressure the quarterback. The Jets are relying on Vinny Testaverde, who turns 42 next week and was plucked off his living room couch after injuries struck down starter Chad Pennington and backup Jay Fiedler.

    Slow down Curtis Martin, who has never lost to the Chargers and pounded away for 119 yards and two touchdowns in the teams' last regular-season meeting, in September 2004.

    Key matchup: Jets WR Laveranues Coles vs. Chargers' CB Quentin Jammer. Coles is averaging 11 yards per catch and is tied for seventh in the AFC in first-down receptions. Jammer is fourth on the Chargers in tackles and has seven deflections in eight games.

    Notes: Jets coach Herman Edwards, who got his first NFL job from Schottenheimer as Kansas City's scout and secondary coach in 1990, is 3-0 against the Chargers ... Martin's next touchdown will make him the 10th NFL running back to achieve 100 career touchdowns. He has 89 rushing and 10 receiving ... New York has experienced an injury siege that has included season-ending injuries to Pennington, Pro Bowl center Kevin Mawae and linebacker Eric Barton ... The Chargers have their own injury issues; eight starters missed practice time last week ... The San Diego offense is second in the league in efficiency inside the 20, scoring 20 touchdowns in 28 tries ... LB Shawne Merriman is tied for the NFL rookie lead in sacks with four, including two last week against Kansas City ... Since the start of the 2004 season, Drew Brees has 15 touchdowns and five interceptions in 12 road games ... LB Randall Godfrey will miss the game because of the funeral of his sister, slain last week in Valdosta, Ga.

    Key injuries: Chargers -- CB Drayton Florence (ankle), questionable; LB Steve Foley (abdominal strain), questionable; G Mike Goff (ankle), questionable; C Nick Hardwick (ankle), questionable; K Nate Kaeding (back), questionable; S Terrence Kiel (ankle/leg), questionable; OT Roman Oben (foot), questionable; WR Eric Parker (ankle), questionable. Jets -- RB Curtis Martin (knee) probable; WR Justin McCareins (Achilles'), probable; QB Vinny Testaverde (Achilles'), probable.
     

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