Gaither Gets Another Look
Brandyn Dombrowski (ankle) is back at practice this week but Norv Turner made it clear he is leaning heavily towards giving waiver-wire pickup Jared Gaither another start. Gaither played well in his Chargers debut, sparking talk he could be part of the long-term fix on San Diego's offensive line. The team needs to see more of him before making that decision, preferably against a better opponent -- one not missing its two best pass rushers.
Gaither is not a typical street free agent. He was a supplemental pick of the Ravens in 2007 and started 26 games in Baltimore between 2008-2009. He was seen as a building block before succumbing to ankle and back injuries. He reports being 100 percent fit this season and now gets a chance to prove he can stay that way.
The Chargers have question marks at both tackle positions. LT Marcus McNeill is on injured-reserve with a neck injury and there are questions as to whether his lingering neck/back problems will allow him to play again. RT Jeromey Clary is finishing up the first year of a four-year, $20 million deal, but his problems against speedy edge rushers make him a constant target for fan discontent.
Welcome Back, Flo'
Drayton Florence comes back to face the Chargers this week as a member of the Bills. After spending the 2003-2007 seasons in San Diego, Florence was made expendable by the emergence of Antonio Cromartie. The landscape is different now, with Cromartie playing for the Jets and San Diego's No. 2 cornerback position in a state of flux.
Antoine Cason had a nice game on Monday, breaking up an apparent TD and tipping a ball that resulted in Eric Weddle's sixth INT. But his third season has been mostly a disappointment. He was replaced for two games by rookie Marcus Gilchrist, who was equally overwhelmed. Fellow rookie Shareece Wright has yet to crack the defensive rotation.
While the Chargers look for solutions at the corner spot opposite Quentin Jammer, Jammer's former wingman comes back to town with six interceptions in his last 19 games. He will look to add to that total against Philip Rivers, who leads the NFL with 17 interceptions, despite not having thrown one in the last two games.
The Next Butler
Donald Butler was one of the stars on Monday night, finishing with eight tackles despite playing limited snaps due to a foot injury endured in the game. On a defense utterly devoid of playmakers, he is an emerging player the unit can build around.
Looking ahead, the Chargers hope 2011 second-rounder Jonas Mouton can follow Butler's path to success. Butler missed his entire rookie season with an ACL injury before returning as a sophomore to be an every-game starter. Butler starts next to Takeo Spikes, who offers leadership and run-stopping skills but little else.
Ideally, Mouton -- who was inactive for the first two games of the season before going on injured-reserve with a shoulder injury -- can bounce back in 2012 and win the starting job next to Butler. If nothing else, he can rotate with Spikes and give the defense a much-needed dose of athleticism.
Can the Chargers still win the AFC West? Discuss inside the message boards.
Michael Lombardo is a long-time contributor to the Scout.com network. His analysis has been published by the NFL Network, Fox Sports and MySpace Sports. He has followed the Chargers for more than 16 years and covered the team since 2003. You can see more of his updates by following him on twitter.
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