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San Diego presents problem or two

Discussion in 'San Diego Chargers Hall of Champions' started by robdog, Oct 2, 2005.

  1. robdog

    robdog Code Monkey Staff Member Administrator

    Jun 29, 2009
    Source: <a href="http://www.metrowestdailynews.com/sportsNews/view.bg?articleid=110490" target="_blank">MetroWest Daily News</a>

    By Albert Breer

    FOXBORO - It wasn't long ago that many a prognosticator opined that the San Diego Chargers fielded the worst roster in the National Football League.

    Before last season, the Chargers were coming off a 5-11 campaign, Drew Brees had regressed in his third year and a defense that was putrid in 2003 wasn't showing any sign of climbing out of its funk.

    Then, the games started. Brees was suddenly a Pro Bowler. Antonio Gates emerged as arguably the most dangerous tight end in the game. Keenan McCardell was added weeks into the season and hardly showed his age. Jamal Williams became an All-Pro at nose tackle, anchoring a defense that ranked third against the run.

    And the Chargers were the biggest surprise in the league at 12-4.

    ``They're tough, they're good, they're explosive,'' said Patriots coach Bill Belichick, making the statement before being asked any questions. ``We have a lot to get ready for. This is a good football team and they're ready to play every week.''

    It starts, as most good Marty Schottenheimer teams do, with the running game. Fifth-year tailback LaDainian Tomlinson (316 yards rushing, six touchdowns) is one of the best backs in the league.

    But he was never the problem. What's turned the team around is consistent play from Brees, who was more or less put out to pasture before breaking through.

    ``Last year, that organization had basically given up on Drew,'' said Patriots backup Doug Flutie, who served as a mentor of sorts to Brees in his four years as a Charger. ``They drafted Philip (Rivers), tried to trade Drew and if it weren't for Philip holding out of camp, Philip may have been the starter. So then all of the sudden, Drew had his back to the wall and said, `OK, I'm gonna show you,' and worked as hard as I've ever seen anybody work.''

    It paid off with 3,159 yards, a 65.5 percent completion rate, 27 touchdown passes and just seven picks. Brees, whose accuracy, field awareness and clutch play rank near the top, has 575 yards and a 65.0 completion percentage through three games and plenty of help from the ageless McCardell (17 catches, 257 yards, four touchdowns) and Gates (12, 172, one touchdown

    While Belichick called the skill players among the best in the league, the Chargers can be had up front. Before keeping the Giants at bay last week, Brees was sacked four times by the Broncos and Tomlinson fought for yards in each of the team's first two games.

    There's more of a problem on the defense that ranks 24th overall, 28th in pass defense. Guys like Williams and linebackers Donnie Edwards and Steve Foley ensured the run defense out of Wade Phillips' 3-4 is stout. Guys like corner Quentin Jammer ensure the pass defense isn't.

    Look for San Diego to use Shawne Merriman, the hybrid outside linebacker, in a expanded role in its nickel defense, and bring him off the edge to shorten the time the corners have to cover.

    Then there's Darren Sproles, a 5-foot-6 tailback who is averaging 31.9 yards per kick return.

    He'll present a challenge for Patriot coverage teams that rank 30th against punt returns and 22nd against kickoff returns.

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