Chargers Game Day Primer

The talk is turnovers. Drew Brees enters a game for the first time in six weeks for the San Diego Chargers. He must be on his best behavior or the team will be crushed by a potent offense ranked sixth in the league.

There are so many things to watch out for from the Green Bay Packers it is a mystery they are 7-6.

"They are a very solid defensive football team," Marty Schottenheimer said. "Of course the offense generally gets all the focus."

The Packers pass defense is ranked 25th in the league, but do have a mix of solid players at cornerback that will test Drew Brees with their ability to create turnovers.

Green Bay has been talking all week about creating more turnovers, specifically improving their pressure in the pocket to make it happen. That is a bad sign for the Chargers.

"We have not caused a turnover in the pocket by the quarterback," Sherman said. "The quarterback in the pocket is the glaring (deficiency)."

In 2002, the Packers forced 13 fumbles by quarterbacks on pass plays and recovered six. In 13 games this season they have forced one fumble by a quarterback in the pocket, which didn't come until Thanksgiving Day on a sack by Aaron Kampman. Detroit recovered.

"It is absolutely not luck," defensive coordinator Ed Donatell said. "More fumbles happen in the pocket than anywhere else in football. That's what we want to do in these last four games."

Last year, Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila and Vonnie Holliday led the team with three fumble-forcing sacks in the pocket. This year, Gbaja-Biamila has stripped two quarterbacks on scrambles up the middle.

Is Donatell disappointed in Gbaja-Biamila's production?

"Well, he and our staff have a higher vision for him," Donatell said. "His goals are much higher than that, and they're still attainable. He's a sudden, explosive guy who sees himself back there on the quarterback. So do I."

"We talk about it (forcing fumbles) just about every single meeting," Sherman said. "Our players do go after the football. But this year we've taken a step back."

The Packers game plan against Drew Brees will be confusion. They will throw a myriad of looks his way to see if he can make the appropriate adjustments.

Of course, the key will be keeping LaDainian Tomlinson in reasonable check. Tomlinson is running behind a makeshift offensive with an all-rookie right side of guard Phil Bogle and tackle Courtney Van Buren. Credit veteran offensive line coach Hudson Houck with keeping the Chargers competitive.

The Packers haven't faced a back this good since Kansas City's Priest Holmes in Week 6. Tomlinson is more elusive than Ahman Green and just as fast.

Look for the Packers to double-team David Boston whenever possible. If Boston gets matched up against Al Harris the Chargers will have the edge.

Speaking of defense, the Chargers have their hands full this week with Jamal Williams ailing in the middle of the defense and Ahman Green coming to town.

Even if Williams does go, he's coming back from recent knee surgery and could easily become fatigued as the game wears on. The run defense was much improved last week, but the Packers and Lions running games are hardly duplicates, and that goes triple for the quarterbacks, when comparing the passing threat of Green Bay's Brett Favre and Detroit's Joey Harrington.

With the focus on the middle of the line and the over pursuing along the edge, don't be surprised if Driver is used on a reverse, because the young Chargers secondary have had opposing WRs carry the ball a league-high seven times for 51 yards against them.

Schottenheimer surmises the team is getting better in all facets of the defense and admits it has taken quite a bit longer than he anticipated.

"The process of teaching, in my mind, takes longer right now than it did some years ago. I'm not sure why that is. I remember coaching young players in Kansas City and it seemed like we were able to accelerate that learning curve. We haven't been able to do that here.

"I'm not sure if it isn't the product of 32 teams now, and all the different players. It may be a product of where they are now when they arrive in the NFL. There is a volume of information they need to become an accomplished player and you can absorb only so much in a certain span of time.

"But it's part of the process and I'm enjoying that part of it. We've got a lot of young players. We had a group of rookies together today at the end of practice and I think I counted 14 of them."

The youth on the team has not amounted to wins and now it will have to wait until next season before it has a chance to taste success.

"We got so many players that are new to this defense," said Schottenheimer. "We've got six players who have never been together before and, frankly, we have struggled on defense because of that lack of continuity."

Among those struggles has been the lackluster pass rush. The Chargers will need the ends to perform this weekend to harass Brett Favre into his wild ways.

Chad Clifton will be matched against Adrian Dingle and should be in good shape to control him. Mark Tauscher will try to take the upfield stuff away from Marcellus Wiley. That's what he goes for most of the time. Wiley hasn't shown much ability to dip under inside.

Denis Savage can be reached at safage@cox.net

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