Seven the Magic Number

Seven wins to get to the playoffs, not quite. The prospects of seven players on defense who will be manning a new position or first time starters are however very real for the San Diego Chargers.

With the probability high that the Chargers will have seven defensive positions seeing players that are in their first year at that particular position compared to this time last year, practices are important for players to get used to each other's tendencies.

They have the opportunity to familiarize themselves with each other over the next few weeks, then again starting in late July.

There will be a new middle linebacker in town and Ben Leber and Donnie Edwards are moving to new positions. The whole linebacking crew therefore will be playing new positions.

In the secondary, Quentin Jammer will start on one side and a slew of youngsters will vie for the spot opposite him.

Ryan McNeil moves to one safety spot, while Rogers Beckett slides to the other. Mix in some healthy competition for Beckett in the form of Terrence Kiel and seven players is the count.

The only sure thing, or is it so sure with Marty Schottenheimer running things, is the front four will remain largely intact. We may see some more shuffling along the interior on a per down basis, but it should remain about the same, with Wiley and Johnson manning the ends and a healthy Jamal Williams and Jason Fisk on the interior.

A look around the league shows varying success with such a bold move. The Jets defense last year really came together over the last 10 or so games of the season and led them to the playoffs. The Rams of two years ago had similar success. How do the Bolts have the same successes?

It starts in practice. With drills focusing on fundamentals, the defense can become a cohesive unit. Repetition, and in game practice is the key. Come preseason we may even see a little more of the starting defense in the game. Of course it will be minimized with injury concerns, but the goal is to gel quickly, not 6 games into the season.

There will be some growing pains with a youthful secondary, that is expected, but if they can start strong in their run defense it may bridge the gap.

Having to practice against the likes of David Boston can only help a young agile defensive secondary. Throw in speedy Tim Dwight and the rest of the core and the secondary has a slew of matchups to deal with. So far in camp the battles have been won by the offense. On Friday the defense finally came away with a victory on the day. It was a minor one however, as they have yet to intercept a pass this week, but they are slowly getting better. Maybe next time they go out there the balls will stick to their hands instead of going through them.

When looking at the 32nd ranked pass defense it could not be much worse, could it? Consider the defensive backfield only had nine interceptions last season and only one player is returning this season to the group, and he had a paltry single INT, this group does need some work.

Not likely, so the coaches are preparing a more attacking defense. Dale Lindsey now has full control of the defense and the resources available should give him plenty of room to operate. Last year after early success blitzing Ben Leber the plan was abandoned. This coming season we should expect more creative blitzes, and changing coverage schemes to confuse quarterbacks.

There is hope for this defense yet. The management sees the "playoff push" on the horizon and it starts with the defense.

Denis Savage can be reached at safage@cox.net or via the following link: Denis Savage

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