The River Card

Texas Hold-Em is the game of choice these days and the San Diego Chargers have put their chips on the table. During a three day period they met with Philip Rivers, Ben Roethlisberger and Eli Manning. Having the first crack at the pot, the team has made a hefty raise, picking Manning no matter what. But is it all a ruse? A bluff to raise the trading stake on the first overall selection in the NFL Draft?

Make no mistake, the team is still interesting in reshuffling the deck. They don't want to pick number one overall. At the same token, they do not want to go "All In" without making sure the hand they will receive back is worthy.

There is talk of a rift in town and it would disappear if the team could trade down. The Chargers want Philip Rivers. Manning is just too glitzy to pass up. Their pair of aces face down on the table.

The team needs an offensive tackle. Oddly enough, the right decision all along will not be the selection. Robert Gallery will have to wait his turn.

But what about a new quarterback coming in? Could it be one of the reasons Manning has shunned them so?

Specifically, we went to Philip Rivers to question his feet and ability to move within the pocket.

"I am not going to beat you with my feet." Rivers admits. "But I can scramble and get five or six on a third down, but I am not going to beat you running. I think I move well in the pocket. I have a pretty good sense and knack to where people are coming from to find throwing lanes. While I may not look fundamentally, or perfect (in my) technique, that is my whole game – find a way to get it done."

The next question is rarely asked, but equally as important considering the gift Eli Manning has shown and the bloodlines possibly showing.

Was there a chance to audible out of plays at NC State? The reason this is vital is the need to throw opposing defenses off when the line needs obvious help and the odds are stacked against LaDainian Tomlinson.

"I had the freedom on every snap to change the play," Rivers said. "Now I didn't abuse that privilege. But if I got to the line and saw something, certainly. I would venture that a lot of that in the NFL is the same way. You have worked on it during the week, ‘If they give you this look and we have this play called, check to this play or this play,' depending on down and distance and those things. We did that also and if there was something I saw on first down or something that during the week I would let them know maybe what I was thinking or what if they do this? If I went out there and saw something, I had the authority to get us in a better play."

And last but not least is the ability to show a decent play fake. It is an underrated skill only Chad Pennington and Peyton Manning have displayed exceptional skill at.

"We did a lot more of that this year and I feel like that was an aspect of my game that really improved this year actually," Rivers said candidly. "We really worked on it a lot in practice. They have to respect the run a lot more with TA back there and once we got the run going the play-action-pass, that is where you get your big plays.

"That was one aspect that improved a lot this last year and that is one aspect at the next level that is big. You watch Peyton Manning and those guys, everything looks the same. And that is the thing for a linebacker – cause those linebackers are going to study the game just like we study the game and if they can see any hint or any giveaway than that could be the difference in a big play or a sack."

Rivers has no qualms about playing for San Diego. He is humble and believes it is an honor to play in the NFL – anywhere in the NFL.

The cards are about to be dealt. The Chargers appear to be ready to make a hard stand to select Eli Manning, barring a trade. They will look into the eyes of the competition and hope someone makes a move. One more chip in the pot will likely sweeten the deal enough to get something done.

Ultimately, we won't know until the (Philip) Rivers card is dealt. That day has come and by 9:15 AM PST the cards will officially be laid on the table. Who is left holding and who is left folding could be apparent at that time.

Denis Savage can be reached at

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