On the Offensive

As the San Diego Chargers opened up training camp on Saturday, the anticipation level was as high as any viewed in San Diego, or should we say Los Angeles in many years. The excitement is not due to head coach Marty Schottenheimer suddenly falling in love with a wide-open passing offense, not is the excitement generated over a top-ranked defensive unit.

Despite some subtle knocks about the status of areas within the team, the San Diego Chargers are expected to be a much better team in the 2003 season.

With a significant amount of focus placed on the job done in the off-season by A.J. Smith, the Chargers have had the opportunity to add numerous players to key positions, that should make the Chargers a team to be dealt with for many seasons to come. Building for the future, while placing on emphasis on being competitive and winning now, Smith and Schottenheimer are conducting a very close talent evaluation process as training camp begins. The Chargers training camp will be disciplined, and the players returning from the 2002 team know what to expect in Camp Schottenheimer.

The team's 2003 draft selections are all in camp and producing, with the exception of defensive back Terrence Kiel who is recovering from gunshot wounds. Coming off a 2002 season in which the Chargers were terrible against the pass, youth and speed have been interjected into the defensive backfield. Add the veteran presence of safety Kwamie Lassiter and the Chargers have the making of an improving and potentially exciting secondary.

Heading into the 2003 season, the Chargers will again rely on the tremendous rushing talents of running back LaDainian Tomlinson to carry the load. Under Schottenheimer, the Chargers will not become a throwing team unless all the options have run their course. Not to say that the Chargers do not have the weaponry to be an explosive offensive team.

"We pretty much depend on our bread and butter here, we want to eliminate the opportunities to make mistakes, and play the game close to the vest," a team source said. "It is Marty's (Schottenheimer) to be more of a conservative type of coach, but when he is comfortable with the players he has, he does become aggressive. Without a doubt, if we have good health at key positions, we will become more of an offensive football team."

"Playing in the AFC West, we really don't have much of a choice but to play an offensive brand of football that can compete with the offensive units out here. Our defense will be improved, that will be a critical area for us."

Quarterback Drew Brees gained valuable experience in the 2002 season and is a player that generally will not hurt the team. While not having the physical attributes that a team likes to see in this day in the NFL, Brees provides the Chargers offense with a solid leadership base and knowledge of the system to have the ability to put the ball in his hands when the game is on the line.

In San Diego it will all come down to the supporting cast that surrounds Brees and AJ Smith has done a very good job in bringing new talent to the Chargers. No move in the off-season was bigger than inking wide receiver David Boston to a long-term contract.

"The David Boston signing should have a tremendous impact on the way the San Diego Chargers play in 2003," an AFC West scout said. "Last season, the options were limited for the Chargers, they really didn't have a go-to receiver, much less a receiver that is the threat Boston is. He will help open up an already solid rushing attack, those two offensive threats should provide (Drew) Brees many more options this season."

"Defensively, if the Chargers can find a way to keep them in the game, they could be dangerous."

San Diego has many unanswered questions as the team works in preparation for the 2003 season. Who will be the number-two wide receiver opposite David Boston? Will tight-end Stephen Alexander rise to the occasion and become the threat in the passing game that the Chargers are counting on? How about the youth in the defensive backfield, who will step-up and become a consistent contributor in the 2003 season?

Many questions, some to which we have insight from a member of the organization.

An anticipated battle for the number-two wide receiver has been ongoing since mini-camps, and definitely into the few days of training camp practice that has been conducted. The team would like to see second-year receiver Reche Caldwell make the necessary strides to play opposite of Boston. Caldwell had his ups and downs in his rookie season of 2002, but has been impressive this off-season. The team would like to utilize Tim Dwight as the third receiver and Eric Parker as the teams number four option.

Tight-end Stephen Alexander is still suffering from a groin injury, but he is expected to be on the practice field within the next ten days. Indications are that Alexander is in the best shape of his career and the Chargers are looking at him as a threat down the middle of the field.

Second-year cornerback Quentin Jammer looks to be a much different person and player this off-season. Appearing lost at times during the 2002 season, Jammer has worked hard this off-season on his technique, as well as regaining some of his lost confidence. Not accustomed to having the problems in coverage he did in 2002, Jammer is one player that has made the point known that he has something to prove in the 2003 season.

-Lane Adkins

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