Senior Bowl Game Day: Chargers Edition

So many players are under the gun with scouts, GMs, and coaches watching the Senior Bowl. The week provided invaluable time in the trenches, but game time is when the money is made. The little things will separate the winners of the week from the losers. The San Diego Chargers have special interest in many players as they attempt to figure out what to do with the top pick in the draft and every round thereafter.

Some players have priced themselves out of San Diego with solid play this week, others have vaulted themselves into play, while others still have not been as impressive and could be steals if taken at the right time.

Remember, this is one week of play that will sometimes cause a coach or scout to be enamored with a player or dismiss them altogether.

On the sidelines of the Senior Bowl, it was interesting to see how much time Marty Schottenheimer spent talking to Darnell Dockett – having an unbelievable week in Mobile. Schottenheimer regularly praised his work and has been pleased with his play all week.

What was more interesting was Schottenheimer talking to Dockett as if he was the captain of the defense and giving him instructions for the rest of the defensive line.

Schottenheimer also spent time praising Chad Lavalais for his hustle and getting his hands up if he was unable to get pressure up front. More importantly is the fact that he took on double teams and was still a force up front.

Both players could be solid selections at the top of the second round with Dockett the front runner after an impressive showing this week and a bond he seems to have made with Schottenheimer.

Hudson Houck was very vocal with his offensive linemen on Saturday telling them to, "Make a statement out here today." And some did very well.

Houck gave accolades to Max Starks for his play at left tackle and laid into him later in the game for lunging at the point of attack in pass protection rather than shifting his feet and turning his man upfield. Starks, coincidentally, is the type of big man Houck tends to favor on his line. Starks may not be a left tackle in the NFL, but using him there this week may make Houck believe he can do it in the NFL and be snagged in the third round.

We asked Todd McShay of ESPN about his potential as a left tackle in the NFL:

What are your thoughts on Max Starks playing left tackle? More out of necessity or will he get a shot to play there in the NFL?

"I think it was more out of necessity in this game. But he played very well. Starks helped himself this week. There have been questions about his aggressiveness and toughness but he showed more nastiness throughout practice. From what I saw tonight, he was able to control the North DEs off the edge. I think Starks is a perfect fit on the right side because of his massive size and because of his upside, I think an NFL team will take a chance on him in the late 2nd or early 3rd round of the draft."

Sean Locklear also received a vote of confidence from Houck. Locklear has improved his status all week and it didn't hurt that he knows the nuances of Phillip Rivers at quarterback. Playing left guard he was solid at both the first and second level.

Jeb Terry also drew praise from several Charger coaches for his play. The key for Terry will be improving upon his strength in the next month leading up to the Combines.

The Chargers threw in a good portion of their style of offense in the game. Cam Cameron was using his reverses and fakes in hopes of opening things up. As is the case in many Senior Bowl games, it is not setup for the running backs. The good news is the Chargers got a good look at many of the second tier quarterbacks and one may have priced himself out of San Diego and well into the first round with his play.

Phillip Rivers was the driving force behind all of the South's 28 points. On a play where he handed the ball off, he had one of his biggest plays. Rivers took the snap from under center, handed off to Greg Jones inside and froze Antonio Smith of the north squad with a fake toss to the left – giving Jones the extra room he needed to break away and score from 18 yards out. He had an air of confidence when he came to the line and was on target with most of his throws. In the end, Rivers vaulted himself squarely into the first round with his dominance and quick decisions. He will now likely be the third quarterback chosen and leaves the Chargers brass with yet more tough choices.

JP Lossman was a little off on his timing and seems to throw a hard ball no matter what the play, but he shows immense potential. From the mouth of several our scouts, the Chargers are looking for a quarterback with a little more size and Schottenheimer was telling Lossman to calm down after several plays on the sidelines.

Nate Kaeding, despite slipping on a field goal attempt, did not hurt his draft status according to some scouts. He is still viewed as a third round pick, not good for the Chargers who hope he falls.

In the end it is still a muddled mass – this thing called the 2004 NFL Draft. Minds will be made up, then changed, and then reevaluated from now until April. So what happens today may be different from what goes down in a month or two.

One thing is certain. We plan on talking to as many of the top players as possible in the next three months to gauge their interest in the team, as well as the Chargers interest in them. Besides the top players, we will also talk with anyone who comes through in rumors, speculation or by any means in an effort to cover everyone from the drafted to undrafted as we try to sort out just who the Chargers will be taking.

Denis Savage can be reached at safage@cox.net

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