Challenges Ahead

Perhaps the greatest accomplishment for an undrafted player is to start in the NFL. Not only has Phil Bogle accomplished the feat, he is starting ahead of veterans and a third round pick from the same draft class, Courtney Van Buren. It doesn't matter whether he is playing guard or tackle, as long as he plays. <br><br> Now coming off the bye week, Bogle is looking to continue his learning curve and improve.

Phil Bogle took it easy during the bye week. He has been proving himself to the Chargers coaches for the past seven months, working hard this offseason to get to the position he is in. The break for him could prove to be refreshing and revitalizing.

"I got a lot of rest. Got away from football for a little bit. Basically just got some rest and refocused."

Sometimes a break like that is essential, especially for a rookie who is starting in the NFL despite the long odds.

New Haven Offensive Coordinator and Offensive Line Coach Bill Ianonne said, "I won't be surprised when he is a starter in this league."

So, the question was more a matter of when, as opposed to if.

"There is no such thing as too soon," said Bogle.

And as long as he is starting, he doesn't care where he is playing along the line.

"It doesn't really matter, I feel comfortable out there."

"He is strong," said Ianonne. "He has meat hooks for hands. He has tremendous power. Once he learned the Pro game, since it is obviously different then college, where the emphasis are and the number of quality players, I think he will be fine."

The learning curve. Bogle got his first action in Baltimore and has seen his playing time increase after a strong showing.

"I did pretty well when I stepped in at Baltimore in the fourth quarter. I did pretty well and held it down.

From the two-yard line, LaDainian Tomlinson ran the ball off right tackle and scored the Chargers only touchdown of the Baltimore game. Bogle was manning the right tackle position at the time. Tomlinson showed his leadership and faith in the next move he made.

"Basically he ran to my side and I made a pretty good block for him and it sprung him into the end zone. He was signaling me to come over and I was like, ‘what the hell is going on? What does he want me for?' He threw me the ball and said, ‘Go ahead and spike that.'

"That was a great feeling.

"In the Oakland game I did a real good job."

That may have been an understatement. Bogle, again manning the right tackle position helped anchor a line that did not give up a sack and paved the way for Tomlinson to gain 187 yards on the ground. It doesn't matter how many plays came to his side. When a back runs for that many yards, the whole line gets credit.

A week later, Bogle went into Jacksonville and had a tough time. In the first quarter, Tony Brackens ran circles around Bogle, beating him to the inside on two plays in a row.

"I kind of struggled in Jacksonville. I am kind of hard on myself so I know I can play a lot better.

"I was kind of thinking that my guard would be on the inside of me on some protections and I was kind of setting too far out. It was just one of those games."

How a young player responds to adversity will go a long way towards telling his future. Bogle came back after those mistakes and played well the rest of the game.

Bogle knows he cannot do it all by himself and looks to other linemen for leadership. None should come as a surprise. The line has faced its share of injuries over the last two years and even some of the young starters have needed to step up and begin asserting their leadership qualities.

"We have several leaders. Vaughn Parker was our big leader. Going into the season, he was basically our glue. When he went down, Kelvin Garmon and Cory Raymer, those guys are the older guys now and Jason Ball is definitely our quarterback of the offensive line. He keeps everybody on the same page."

Now he will face his next challenge and Jason Ball will be playing alongside him to keep him in line while veteran Solomon Page, who has played tackle and guard during his career, will be on the other side. Bogle will transition from tackle to guard, showing his versatility and the coaches faith in him.

"Coach said guard is a real good position for me. He thinks I will be better off inside. I agree with everything coach Houck says. He has got a lot of great players under his belt so I don't disagree with anything he says. If he says I will be a great guard -- that is what I will be."

"He moves really well," said Ianonne. "He changes direction unusually well for a guy that is 330 pounds. He just has such great balance and foot speed that he is able to adjust. He can flat out run too. He made a game saving tackle the first game of the year on an interception and ran him down on the sidelines. There are not many better athletes at that position.

At guard, Bogle will have to pull more often and provide blocking in space. With the energy and burst he has shown thus far, and veterans to either side of him, he should excel. His first test at guard will be Cleveland and the talented front four they possess.

The team's mentality heading into the game has come into question. Some have called it desperation at 0-5. Others have said it is a must win for a team with a fragile psyche. Bogle says it is just like the first game of the season.

"That is how it has been from day one (wanting to win every game). We are not changing anything we do as far as a team. We are going in with the same focus. We know what we got to get done as a team. We just have to all play together at the same time. We got so many different people coming in here at the same time now, different places. It is a team game, so once we all start to play as a team and play together a little bit, we are going to be fine."

The Chargers have not grasped the team game concept just yet. They still commit too many mental errors. Oddly enough, the rookie is not among those committing the bulk of the errors. Despite coming from a small school, where crowds never reached half the attendance of an NFL game, crowd noise has not been a problem for Bogle and he is not among those committing penalties on the line.

His only false start penalty thus far came in Oakland. Three plays later the Chargers scored, wiping out his potential drive killer.

"It doesn't play in that much once you are focused in on what you are doing. It can be distracting at times especially in those third down situations when you need to convert on a third down and the fans are screaming. We get pretty good practice at it during the week. We have this little simulation thing that we do for crowd noise. It is not that distracting."

His ritual for this coming week against Cleveland:

"Just always pray. I pray for myself to stay healthy, and my teammates and the other players team to stay healthy and just stick with me and give me the energy and strength to play hard to the best of my abilities."

Going up against the likes of Gerard Warren this week, he will need his prayers. The Chargers, Bogle included, are praying for a win so they can get the monkey off their backs. It is all well and good to start in the NFL, but a win will do wonders for the future of the youth on this team.

Denis Savage can be reached at safage@cox.net

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