Behind Enemy Lines: Bolts vs. Jags, Part I

Can Philip Rivers keep burning on this hot streak? Is Donald Brown in for another massive workload? Which tight end should the Jaguars be more worried about, Antonio Gates or Ladarius Green? To answer these and other questions, we turn to team experts Michael Lombardo and Charlie Bernstein in this back-and-forth discussion.

Charlie Bernstein: Philip Rivers is having a renaissance since being paired up with Mike McCoy. It's impossible to believe that Rivers somehow lost talent for a few seasons, so how big of a part do you attribute McCoy's scheme into Rivers playing so well?

Michael Lombardo: McCoy is a brilliant schematic coach -- he once made Tim Tebow look like a legitimate NFL quarterback -- and the scheme he has in place in San Diego suits Rivers perfectly. The most important aspects of the offense are: 1) the team gets to the line of scrimmage early, allowing Rivers to make adjustments based on what the defense shows; 2) Rivers gets rid of the ball quickly, masking his lack of mobility; and 3) there are multiple high-percentage options on each play, helping the offense stay in advantageous down-and-distance situations.

Of course, increased supporting talent also helps make any quarterback look better. Rivers began to regress after the losses of Darren Sproles and Vincent Jackson. And his renaissance has coincided with the arrivals of Keenan Allen and Danny Woodhead, as well as the development of Ladarius Green.

  CB: The Chargers are obviously thin at running back. The Jaguars haven't done a great job defending the run (or anything, really). How much Donald Brown do you believe we'll see on Sunday?

ML: Donald Brown will be a major part of the game plan -- it is realistic to think he will either run or catch the ball on approximately half of San Diego's snaps. He is not a dominant runner by any stretch of the imagination, but he is a do-it-all player who can run inside or outside, while also making an impact in the passing game.

The Chargers rely on the run game to help control the clock and keep the offense on schedule. And while some of that work will fall on undrafted rookie Branden Oliver and journeyman Shaun Draughn (signed on Tuesday), it is safe to say Brown will have to be a workhorse.

  CB: Rivers seems to thrive in the short passing game and Colts quarterback Andrew Luck "nickel and dimed" the Jaguars to death last weekend. That game plan worked well last year when San Diego won, 24-6. Should we expect to see something similar?

ML: Absolutely. The Chargers have a pair of elite run-after-the-catch receivers in Allen and Eddie Royal. Also, Antonio Gates, Green and Brown will play a big part in the passing game, helping the Chargers control the middle of the field. Rivers is extremely accurate -- he led the league in completion percentage last season (69.5) -- so this kind of approach makes perfect sense.

The Chargers will take a couple shots down the field, especially when Malcom Floyd is out there, but for the most part the team will try control the ball with low-risk passes and hopefully wear down the Jaguars defense.

  CB: There was a lot of talk about Jason Verrett during draft season. What have you seen out of him?

ML: When Verrett has been healthy, he has been sensational. I would go so far as to say he has been San Diego's best cornerback, even ahead of Pro Bowler Brandon Flowers. The problem -- which is really a team-wide issue at this point -- is health. Verrett missed most of the offseason with a shoulder injury. He made it back in time for Week 1, but is now dealing with a hamstring injury that kept him out of Wednesday's practice.

Verrett has sensational speed and instincts. He is a quick-twitch athlete with the ability to be a game-changer. He just needs to stay on the field to get some seasoning.

  CB: Are we beginning to see a transition from Antonio Gates to Green? Do the Chargers ever employ both tight ends on the field at the same time?

ML: To answer the second part of that question first, yes, they will spend 15-20 snaps on the field together in any given game. Both are versatile playmakers who can line up all over the field, so it makes for an easy pairing that puts a lot of pressure on opposing linebackers and safeties.

As for the proverbial passing of the baton, that's coming, but not as quickly as some people thought, Gates served notice with his three-touchdown outing against the Seattle Seahawks in Week 2 that he still has plenty in the tank. Gates is under contract for one more season after this one and I expect he will be the No. 1 tight end until his deal expires. After that -- if Green continues to polish his game and improve as a blocker -- the starting spot will be ready for the transition.



How has Coach McCoy reshaped the passing game? Discuss in the message boards.



Michael Lombardo is a long-time contributor to the Scout.com team. His analysis has been published by the NFL Network, Fox Sports and MySpace Sports. He has followed the Chargers for more than 18 years and covered the team since 2003. You can see more of his updates by following him on twitter.


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