Asking Inexperience to Step Up

With David Boston out for the upcoming game between the San Diego Chargers and the Oakland Raiders, the team will look for big things from the always exciting Eric Parker. Hurting the Chargers even more is the continued absence of Stephen Alexander and Josh Norman. Coupled with the uncertainty of Tim Dwight getting back on the field, he was downgraded to doubtful yesterday, the all undrafted lineup doesn't scare anybody.

David Boston not only lost a few dollars, a chance to play this weekend and respect from fans, he also may have cost the Bolts a chance to win.

"He didn't play against us last year," Callahan said, referring to the Chargers' 27-21 overtime victory in Oakland last season. "We're respectful of the talent they have. They have enough of an arsenal to affect our coverage."

Curtis Conway is gone. Reche Caldwell out with an injury. Tim Dwight is hampered by a knee injury. Stephen Alexander and the saga of his groin. Josh Norman and his hamstring.

It is tough to see what arsenal coach Callahan speaks of.

The all undrafted lineup:

Eric Parker is a fearless receiver that will do whatever it takes to get the job done. He is open more than any other receiver and Drew Brees will have to find a way to get him the ball in space. Any ball sent his way can go the distance. Last week he had seven balls thrown his way and caught four. He leads the Chargers receivers in catches with 11, yards with 142 and touchdowns with two.

One situation to monitor is punt return duties. There is no doubt Parker is among the best, ranking eighth in the AFC in punt returns with a 10.1-yard average. With the injuries the Bots have suffered to its wide receiving corps, will they place Parker in harms way on punt returns?

In is Kassim Osgood, taking reps with the first team. Osgood had the first catch of his career last week against Baltimore. He appears to be back from breaking his thumb early in camp. His special teams play has been solid and last week he had no drops, but only two balls came his way. His first outing was rough with three dropped passes, including one in the end zone. One part of his game that hasn't suffered is his blocking.

Grant Mattos was on the field against Baltimore, had one ball thrown his way and that ball was intercepted by Ed Reed.

Marty Schottenheimer, without naming names, blamed Mattos for the interception saying, "a receiver who (Drew Brees) was counting on to run across a guys face, the guy slowed down and they intercept the ball on us. The receiver hesitated. It was a young receiver and he kind of wasn't sure and the ball was thrown in anticipation of him continuing across the defenders face and when he hesitated the defender had a clear path to the ball."

Rounding out the lineup is recently resigned Dondre Gilliam. Gilliam was excellent in training camp before undergoing arthroscopic surgery to repair his knee in early August. In mid-August, Gilliam was back on the field running routes with Cleo Lemon throwing the ball to him.

Antonio Gates will also see significant time at tight end. Gates has not had any balls thrown to him, but he is blocking well.

The only receiver that was drafted is tight end Justin Peelle. Peelle was the third string tight end entering the season and was mostly used for his blocking prowess. He has come on of late in a receiving role, but he does not stretch the field as Norman and Alexander did. He is more of a fullback running route in the flat right now. Peelle will again lineup in the backfield on occasion this week to block for Tomlinson and Brees.

"That's the National Football League," said Schottenheimer. "You have to find a way to fit the pieces together and some youngsters are going to get an opportunity to step up and show what they can do.

"I do see our football team improving," Schottenheimer stated. "You put up 390 yards of offense and have 35 minutes of possession against a pretty good defense, you'd like to think that there would be enough there to come up with a victory. We didn't do that."

390 yards may be a lot to ask of this ragtag offense. Drew Brees will tell you, "In this league guys get hurt, guys go down, guys get tired. It doesn't matter who is in the ballgame. I have thrown to all those guys before. I have all the confidence in the world in them. My thought is, I don't care who is in there; I have to hit him in the chest."

Brees better hope that he not only hits them square, but that they also catch the ball. Should the Chargers prove to not be able to pass the ball, it could be a long day.

Thus far this season, Brees has a 6.3 passer rating on third down. He has completed just 10-29 attempts for 105 yards and no touchdowns, but three interceptions.

Brees hopes the team is not behind in the fourth quarter either. Brees has a passer rating of just 51.3, going 26-50for 291 yards through three games this season. He has just one touchdown throw in the fourth and three interceptions.

Consider also, the right side of the offensive line is in shambles, and fans can see the pressure Brees will be under. It may not make much of a difference how well the receivers run routes if the Raiders overload the right side with blitzes. Brees better be ready to roll out, or the Bolts will be rolled over.

Denis Savage can be reached at safage@cox.net

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