7 Out Of 11

What do you get when you have seven players either new to a team or in new positions on an NFL defense?<br><br> The 0-2 San Diego Chargers...<br><br>

The Chargers are 0-2 and it's no secret why. Namely, defense. The defense hasn't kept them in games. Seven starters on defense either new to the team or in different positions. Is that why they look like they're defending France, instead of a football field? Is it that simple? Charger fans can only hope. Taking a closer look at the personnel of the defense may provide some answers....

It starts at the top.

Defensive Coordinator Dale Lindsey: In only his SECOND YEAR as an NFL defensive coordinator, Lindsey must accept his share of responsibility. Young players or not, offensive geniuses such as Al Saunders and Mike Shanahan have ran over, around and through Dale's defenses. Dating back to last year, at times Dale has been straight up out coordinated. True the players have to make the plays, but it's this man's job to put them in position to make plays. On the field this unit just does not appear to be well coached. While it's easy to point out the coaching shortcomings, it's only fair to look at the chess pieces in which he plays with....

1st YEAR STARTERS/NEW POSITION

Adrian Dingle is in his FIRST YEAR AS A STARTER at the Defensive end position. Dingle has been one of the bright spots on defense. A solid all around player. Can get to the quarterback(two sacks), is excellent against the run, and can move inside on pass downs. Nevertheless, containing outside runs is part of his responsibility and nobody deserves a passing grade in this regard.

Zeke Moreno is a FIRST YEAR STARTER at middle linebacker. After the first two games one has to dig deep to find anything positive to say regarding the play of the linebackers. Still learning, Zeke must show continuos improvement to keep his job. The question with Zeke is do his other qualities compensate enough for his lack of speed? He needs more time to answer this question, but needs to hurry. 0-2 can become 0-5 in the blink of an eye and Carlos Polk's strength is said to be his play against the run.

Donnie Edwards falls into the NEW POSITION category. Moving to the weakside from the middle lands Donnie on the list. While he has played this position before, this is another example of a change in the defense. All these changes effect the cohesiveness and overall play of the defense. Donnie has been relatively quiet thus far, but don't expect it to stay that way.

Quentin Jammer is in his FIRST YEAR AS A STARTER at cornerback. The highly touted 1st rounder from last year's draft is learning the nuances of playing corner in the NFL. Jammer was solid in the first game. His interception was really something. The Bronco game taught many lessons, as he struggled a bit. Pass-interference calls should help him to better understand what he can and can't get away with. Bronco quarterbacks intentionally threw behind receivers, many resulted in completions or P.I. calls. Jammer should be ready for this next time around. The talent is obvious but being a first year starter at cornerback in the NFL is no walk in the park, as #23 can attest.

Rookie Sammy Davis is also a FIRST YEAR STARTER at cornerback. On some plays he looks like an eight- year veteran, on others he looks like the rookie that he is. Sammy is going through many of the same things as Quentin Jammer, but growing pains are necessary. His talent is also not in question and together #23 and #22 may solidify the Charger cornerback positions for years to come. Unfortunately, the Chargers need these positions solidified now.

Kwamie Lassiter falls into the NEW POSITION category. While he does have experience at strong safety, he is in his first year with the Chargers. A solid veteran, Lassiter is still settling into his role as the captain of an inexperienced secondary.

Jerry Wilson is the free safety and he is a FIRST YEAR STARTER at a NEW POSITION. A safety in a corners body, Wilson brings coverage skills to the safety position. He's played as well as most could have expected, he is basically a rookie safety. Speaking of rookie safeties, Terence Kiel may claim this position before long. Wilson would become the third safety and back up cornerback. You may be thinking Kiel is a strong safety. He is, but in the NFL free safety may be his best position. Kiel can also cover but is only 5'11 and at free safety would draw less matchups with 6'4 tight ends. Look for Kiel to see more playing time soon.

7 of 11 possible starters are FIRST YEAR STARTERS or PLAYING A NEW POSITION. To top it off, 3 of the other 4 starters are coming off of injury seasons. Jason Fisk had a subpar 2002 season, due to injuries. Marcellus Wiley had abdominal surgery this offseason. Jamal Williams is coming off an achilles injury. That leaves SECOND YEAR MAN Ben Leber as the lone healthy holdover from a year ago. It's too early to judge, but some may be wandering about a sophomore slump.

Schedule makers obviously don't give a hoot how many new starters are on your defense. First Priest Holmes and his healthy hip/contract extension in Arrowhead. Then Clinton Portis and the Denver Broncos. Now Jamal and Ray Lewis come to town. Jamal Lewis' record setting performance against the Cleveland Browns and their three rookie linebackers could be the wake up call the Charger defense needs. It could also be another nightmare in waiting. With all the locker room material Lewis, Lewis, and company provide it will be interesting to see the Charger response on the football field.

Charger fans have heard it, probably too much. Patience is required. The defense will be better at the end of this season than it has been at the beginning of this season. How fast they progress will be the key. The Chargers get their bye in Week 6, which may work to their advantage. After this Sunday's game in Baltimore, it's a trip to Oakland followed by a trip to Jacksonville. Getting to the bye with a 2-3 record would have to be considered a success, considering the schedule and defensive struggles. Unfortunately, at this point, achieving that seems like a major feat.

Will can be reached at will.powered@verizon.net

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