Chargers Game Day Primer

Home has been kind to the San Diego Chargers. Although officially they are 1-3 at home this season, one of those games was held in Arizona. Therefore, they are 1-2 at home and have a chance to hit .500 – at home – sorta – too bad they are 2-8 on the season, it almost sounded promising. Cincinnati, meanwhile, is playing .500 ball on the season at 5-5.

Look for the Chargers to lean more on their zone packages in the pass coverages, with Lassiter out at strong safety.

With Terrence Kiel, another rookie, taking his spot, the Chargers won't have the confidence of playing in front of a veteran safety. That last stand of pass defense will be absent; although some say it's been that way all season.

Still, the kids had a sense of security back there with Lassiter getting them in the right spots even if he wasn't. That will be missing for the rest of the year.

"When the secondary is young, that's scary to me," said Bengals quarterback Jon Kitna. "I would rather play against a veteran secondary. Somebody you know, somebody you can predict what they're going to do. These guys, when they're trying to make a name for themselves, they can do unpredictable things."

Kiel, who's absorbed some rookie lumps, has had his ups and downs, but does have two interceptions, may get picked on early. On July 4, Kiel was shot in a carjacking attempt, missed camp, and has been playing catch-up since.

The Chargers' pass defense will face a Bengals passing game that is led by a resurgent Kitna. The situation at ends is ugly for the Bolts with starter Adrian Dingle trying to play through a sore knee. His backup, Raylee Johnson, is out again this week. So if the Chargers can't get much pressure on Kitna (15 TDs, 9 INTs) -- a sack from Marcellus Wiley's right side would be a surprise -- he can pick on a secondary that added another fresh face at strong safety in Kiel, a rookie. The Bengals have two first-rounders at tackle in Willie Anderson and Levi Jones, and could give Kitna ample time, especially if Dingle's knee gets fatigued. In the five Bengals victories, Kitna has 11 touchdown passes and just one interception.

The Bengals figure to come in with a balanced offense, and the game could see the debut of a two-back package featuring big tailbacks Rudi Johnson and Corey Dillon.

"No question I think Rudi deserves an opportunity to play, as well as ... obviously Corey is our starter. We'll look at that down the road, too," said Bengals Head Coach Marvin Lewis.

Dillon is off the injury report for the first time since Week 2, and he and Johnson could pound San Diego's poor run defense (27th at 134.1 yards a game) until it is stopped. The linebacking crew will have its hands full trying to tail these two backs and if both are in the lineup a screen to either side becomes a matchup problem for the Bolts.

Forget the Flutie Magic for a half and get back to pounding LaDainian Tomlinson. He remains the team's best weapon, but is often overlooked for reasons sometimes not as obvious as one would think. The Bengals' run defense is poor, and doesn't offer much of a resistance. Tomlinson has fresh legs after getting but nine carries last week. And, he's miffed that his team is so bad. He could have a big game.

"He's got great speed, great awareness, great feet," Lewis said. "He has fumbled the ball quite a bit this year though. We have to get after him."

Tomlinson has but one fumble this year and another that should have been linked to him. That is fumbling a lot? Tell that to Tiki Barber.

Look for Lewis and defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier to use the "buzzard" package that worked well against Baltimore and running back Jamal Lewis. The formation puts a fourth linebacker, Dwayne Levels, on the field and removes a safety. The Bengals will be looking to stop San Diego's primary offensive threat, LaDainian Tomlinson.

Bengals SS Rogers Beckett was cut loose in June by the Chargers, heading into the final year of a four-year contract, and claimed off waivers by the Bengals. He has become one of the key players in Cincinnati's improved defense. He has three sacks and might be the one defender asked to keep the closest eye (spy) on the mobile, fast Flutie.

"You have to go in and punish people," Beckett said. "You have to make them notice you and make them respect you. That's what I'm working for."

The Bengals will try to keep Flutie in the pocket and beat them with his arm.

"From his rookie year, (Flutie's) still got it," Lewis said. "He still has the ability to get people in the air, and run around and do things. His three touchdowns the other week, on one of them, he dropped the snap and raced it for a touchdown. The other one, he was about to get hit, and he turned sideways and the guy must have shut his eyes, and he fell into the end-zone. He's done a very good job. They'll move him quite a bit in their offense. We have to be conscious of that. The guy is a competitive player."

David Boston could prove to be a matchup problem in the secondary if the Chargers offensive line provides Flutie with enough time. Tory James figures to draw Boston and he leads the Bengals in interceptions with three. The Chargers are very familiar with the way he plays -- having been with Oakland previously -- and they could choose to pick on him.

Tim Dwight is out. Without another receiver taking pressure off Boston, it could be ugly for San Diego.


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