Chargers Have All Stars Snubbed

The Pro Bowl rosters have been released, and the San Diego Chargers as a team got snubbed. Well, at least snubbed as much as any 3-11 team can be snubbed in a talent based popularity contest such as the Pro Bowl. When the AFC lines up their forty five finest talents that February afternoon, not a single player will be sporting a lightning bolt on their helmet.

LaDainian Tomlinson has been described by Marty Schottenheimer as the best running back in the National Football League, and Marty is dead on with his assessment. Lorenzo Neal has sprung an unmatched string of thousand yard rushers behind his devastating blocks. And David Boston has the ability to dominate games like no other AFC Pro Bowl receiver save Marvin Harrison.

Donnie Edwards' stats indicate that he is one of the most consistent tackling machines in the NFL. Quentin Jammer has snagged an impressive four interceptions in his first season as a full time starter. And Marcellus Wiley has put up double digit sacks twice in his young career and has been awarded a Pro Bowl invite once for his efforts. Also, Stephen Alexander and Darren Bennett are players who have already been the Pro Bowl during careers.

Then the question is why, with so much individual talent, could the Chargers not place one player in football's all-star game? The answer is that despite all the individual talent, the players have not produced wins as a team. Wins, in football, are the only stat that matters.

Football is a team sport. If the Chargers players who feel they were snubbed via their lack of an invitation dare to seek a source of blame for their own short comings, they need look no further than their own teammates.

LaDainian Tomlinson would be a near lock not only for a pro bowl invitation, but for league MVP as well, were in not for running behind a line that this week could feature an undrafted rookie at right tackle, two street free agents at left tackle and right guard, and a back-up center with a broken hand.

Last off-season Atlanta traded their first round selection to Buffalo for wide receiver Peerless Price. The logic was to surround their best player (Michael Vick) with the best weapons possible so he could go win games for them. Much like a receiver is to a quarterback, an offensive lineman is to a running back. LaDainian Tomlinson is a franchise player. If the Chargers build their team around him, it will be a long time before they see a season as pathetic as this one again.

If the Chargers could find a wide receiver to compliment David Boston, he has all the ability in the world to exceed his career high 1,598 receiving yards from back in 2001 and find himself back in Hawaii. This would create the balanced, dynamic offense the Chargers desired at Boston's signing, and would produce the amount of wins it would take to keep Lorenzo Neal from being overlooked again for his performance as the best pure full back in the NFL today.

The Chargers are also lacking a productive pass rushing right defensive end. If the defensive line could apply pressure from the right side, it would take pressure of Marcellus Wiley, helping him come closer to his 2001 sack total of thirteen than his 2003 sack total of two.

This, of course, would improve the overall pass rush, allowing the secondary to cover for a shorter period of time. This would permit young players like Sammy Davis and Terrance Kiel to develop to the point where opponents can not throw away from Quentin Jammer, who is quickly developing into a dominant force. By doing this, Jammer's playmaking opportunities would increase, allowing this interception total to increase, thereby causing his likelihood of playing in Hawaii to skyrocket.

As defensive production increases, so does the amount of attention paid to a defensive unit. If the Chargers could get anyone to pay any attention to their defensive unit it would immediately become obvious that describing Donnie Edwards as merely a Pro Bowl caliber player is an egregious understatement.

As for Stephen Alexander and Darren Bennett? Well, Alexander is too injury prone to survive long enough into a season to put up Pro Bowl caliber numbers, and Darren Bennett is on the wrong side of thirty five.

The underlying point here is still valid however. There is Pro Bowl talent on this roster. The reason fans will not be witnessing that in Hawaii this February is not because of a snub or a case of blatant media neglect. The reason is that the Chargers have not built a talented enough team from top to bottom to properly utilize the talent they currently possess.

Marty Schottenheimer can talk all he wants about how LaDainian Tomlinson belongs in the Pro Bowl. The fact of the matter is that it is the poor job done by AJ Smith and Coach Schottenheimer himself which is the reason for the so-called snubs.

It is not the Chargers star players who will not be going to Hawaii that are the problem. It is the players not currently on the Chargers roster that are causing the problem. This team still needs to add talent and depth to their offensive and defensive lines, another wide receiver and a speedy middle linebacker.

Until these roster holes are filled, the Chargers star players will not be the only ones getting snubbed. So will Chargers fans everywhere, who want nothing more than to see their team win.

Michael Lombardo can be reached at ReneesGaydo@yahoo.com

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