Charting the AFC West - San Diego Chargers

Throughout the year Broncos Update will be keeping a close eye on the AFC West. Today we cover the San Diego Chargers and where they stand heading into the 2005 NFL preseason.

While Chargers fans are eager to book rookie Shawne Merriman for a flight to the Pro Bowl and a bust in Canton, a certain veteran tells everyone to ease up.

Like the countless can't-miss prospects to land in the NFL, everyone is predicting grand things for the Chargers' top pick. But being a star in college is no guarantee for success in the NFL.

"He's got a lot of upside, a lot of potential," teammate Steve Foley said of Merriman, the draft's 12th overall pick.

"He's a strong, powerful guy but I think he needs some polishing up as far as his pass-rushing in particular. That is going to come."

Foley has taken Merriman under his wing, hoping the rookie can supply some pressure from the opposite side. Last year, Foley was the only reliable Charger to pester quarterbacks. Foley had 10 of the team's 29 sacks; only two NFL clubs had fewer.

"He's been the best as far as bringing me along," Merriman said of Foley. "He's been doing it for so long, and it did it so good last year, that he wants some pressure from the other side."

So Merriman and Foley are seldom apart. Foley spends time after practice schooling Merriman, who then gathers Foley's equipment and carts it inside.

"He's pretty much my bait right now, he's my little fish," Foley said. "I've got to make sure he's got the defense down because that is going to be big.

"We all know he is going to play, but how much he plays is up to him. (Defensive coordinator) Wade Phillips isn't going to put you out there if you don't know the defense. I'm trying to drill that into his head, but his eyes are as big as speakers."

Loud and clear, Foley is telling Merriman that he's got to prove himself.

"You haven't done anything at this level yet," Foley said he reminds Merriman. "It's totally different. Everybody is big and strong; you're not going to blow by everybody. This ain't college."

But Foley, an eight-year pro, likes what he sees so far.

"He has the right attitude coming in," Foley said. "He is very coachable -- not one of those guys that thinks he knows it all. That alone means a lot, to know that you got somebody that is eager and excited to get better."

Added Merriman: "Physically, everyone can play out here. But when you have guys that have been in the league a long time, they have the mental stuff."

NOTES

Still no sign of progress in the contract stalemate with Pro Bowl TE Antonio Gates. It's believed Gates is seeking a five-year pact averaging between $4-5 million per season.

--Coach Marty Schottenheimer is upbeat with the way camp is going, and his team is coming together. "I think as we continue to do the things we are capable of and work together the way we have shown, we are going to be a pretty good football team," he said. "There is a chemistry I think being formed him. They enjoy one another and enjoy working with one another."

--DL DeQuincy Scott has been seeing some time at the linebacker position, and has graded out well.
--LB Randall Godfrey has said he expects this to be his last season. He's been slowed with a balky knee this camp.
--Actress Pamela Anderson was a camp visitor at a recent night practice. She has a relationship with LS David Binn.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

--OLB/DE Shawne Merriman signed a five-year deal which could be worth $15 million. He receives $9 million in guaranteed money.
--With Pro Bowl Antonio Gates still missing in a contract hassle, backup Justin Peelle has been assuming his role. Peelle is usually utilized as a run-blocker.
--LB Randall Godfrey (knee) has had his practice time limited, which is giving backup Stephen Cooper more snaps.
--OLB Ben Leber had rebounded from a bone bruise, but now is out for another week after bone spurs were removed from his ankle. This doesn't help in his bid to retain his starting job over Shawne Merriman.
--DE Adell Duckett (knee) was put on IR.



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