Preseason: What to look for

From the City Council reaching an agreement with the San Diego Chargers to extend the negotiation period... to the absence of Kobe Bryant‚s wife at his initial trial, a lot is going on in the sports world these days. While these stories will dominate headlines, a professional football team, the San Diego Chargers, is quietly going about their business down in Carson...

As we prepare for the preseason opener there are many things to look for. Perhaps the most noted are the position battles and development of a revamped secondary.

It was reported the other day that Marty and AJ were seriously considering moving rookie Drayton Florence to free safety. This has since been retracted, as the Chargers will go with Florence as the nickel back...

By drafting three defensive backs with the first three picks in the draft, the Chargers not only added youth and talent, but have also created a stir of excitement amongst a unit that has long been a sore spot for the team...

Keep a close eye on the battle of Tay Cody vs. Sammy Davis for a starting cornerback spot. With the nickel back spot Drayton Florence‚s to lose, the runner up in this battle likely moves down the depth chart as the dime back. Either way the loser of this battle matches up very well against #4 wideouts.

There was once talk that the Chargers were looking to trade Cody, but with his solid play thus far, that seems highly unlikely.

Keep a closer eye on the middle linebacker battle. Zeke Moreno vs. Carlos Polk vs. Matt Wilhelm. With the middle linebacker making defensive calls and plugging the middle on run plays this position holds one of the keys to how well the defense performs...

Moreno is the playmaker, Polk is the physical enforcer, while Wilhelm is the intelligent rookie.

When Moreno is in, look to see if he can bring the physical play and run stuffing ability that Polk does.

When Polk is in, look to see if he can bring the playmaking ability that Moreno does.

When Wilhelm is in look to see if he knows the playbook well enough to be a factor. Coaches are high on this kid and talk about his size( 6/4-245), smarts and are surprised at his athleticism.

Another battle of interest is at wide receiver; with the first four spots locked up there is a dogfight for one or two more spots. The competition consists of Kassim Osgood (out with fractured finger 2-4weeks), Dondre Gilliam (nursing a sore knee) Terry Charles (looking good of late), Tim Baker (consistent performer and 6'5), Brian Sump (in the mix for punt returner as well), Grant Mattos (the best you never heard of), Onome Ojo (talented but inconsistent) and Jeremy McDaniel (the newcomer and most experienced of the bunch).

The bottom line for this group will be production during limited opportunities with the real bullets flying.

With all that talent and only one or two spots to hold it, look for a practice squad candidate for one or maybe even two of these guys.

Tight End also presents an interesting scenario for the Chargers. You would think, with Stephen Alexander, Josh Norman and Justin Peelle, that the tight end position is a non-issue... Along comes Antonio Gates, a former basketball star, with ideal tight end dimensions and skills (6/4-260).

While Gates is raw in terms of football (did not play it in college), his talent was so evident that the Chargers had to persist through a bidding war to obtain his services. Therein lies the problem...Gates cannot sit on the practice squad and go undetected. Someone will snatch him up. So there is no break-in period for Antonio Gates, he must prove that he can contribute sooner instead of later.

Gates is coached up more than any other player on the team and has responded to it very well. Wednesday was his best day yet, as he hauled in several receptions with a couple being big gainers.

Marty Schottenheimer has said that keeping four tight ends would be a "luxury". So this could turn into Peelle vs. Gates. Look for Gates to see extensive work in preseason games. The team probably feels that it knows what it has in Justin Peelle (decent blocker, average size and speed) but he does not possess the upside of Antonio Gates....

Keeping Gates and releasing Peelle would be a risky move as Alexander is an injury risk and Norman also missed time with an injury last year, while Peelle proved durable in his first season...

There are many things to watch along the offensive line with the main one being what happens when Toniu Fonoti returns from a triceps strain...

In a battle of the back-ups, Bob Hallen could be in a battle vs. Cory Raymer. Both are working at two positions (center and guard), and the Chargers might be hard pressed to retain both as they are relatively high paid for back-ups. Couple that with some good young talent along the line, and the writing could be on the wall for the loser of this battle.

Other Notes: A fan asked Charger WR coach (recent Hall of Fame inductee) James Lofton, if David Boston would gain 1500 yards this season...Lofton simply responded, "Is that all?"

Did you know? LaDainian Tomlinson has a lightning bolt tattoo on his left calf?

-Will Mortensen

Will can be reached at

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