Chargers need answers against Indianapolis

Football is officially here and Saturday puts the punctuation mark on it for San Diego Chargers fans. With a home game that will black out viewers in the local area, the only way to see the game live is to be there. Right now, there are too many questions to bring out the halfhearted. The rookies and bubble players are the ones on showcase and the evaluations come to a head.

"I like when the pre-season gets here because, really, it means that the real season is getting closer and closer," Colts' quarterback Peyton Manning said. "It's always nice for you to see guys in game action. It's one thing to see them out here when it's not quite full contact, but you put the real pads on and you're going against somebody different, see a different defense–that's when you get some good evaluations of some players."

But for those wanting retribution against Manning for his name and the arrogance that is his brother, time is not on the Chargers side.

"We generally want to get 10 or 12 plays for the offense and really see if we can get something going in that amount of time," Indianapolis Head Coach Tony Dungy said. "The defense will get a little bit more than that."

"It'd be great to get a drive," Manning said. "They haven't told us quite how many plays yet, but it would be great to come out and get a drive. Maybe get some different situations and get a mix of the running game and be able to convert some third downs. It's always nice to face as many situations as you can."

The Chargers just hope they can keep Manning and the Colts out of the end zone on that first drive. Last year they were behind the eight ball in almost every game as teams racked up early points and the Chargers were left playing catch up, something they and Head Coach Marty Schottenheimer have never been comfortable with.

The 3-4 debuts against an actual team and that, in itself, bears watching. How they fare early on could determine the eventual success they will have in the regular season.

Then there is the constant evaluation in every other aspect of the team. With that comes potential answers and when the Chargers hit the field on Saturday at Qualcomm there will be plenty of questions.

"We have greater expectations than we had heading into the offseason," Marty Schottenheimer said of the wide receiving group. "There is no clear number one."

Despite signing Kevin Dyson this offseason, the Chargers have a motley group of number two's and number three's. Based on camp alone, Eric Parker would figure to be the early favorite but Schottenheimer still holds out hope that Reche Caldwell can emerge and justify the second round pick they spent on him in 2001.

While the depth chart has debuted, it is not set in stone. The coaching staff has high hopes for Igor Olshansky but he is still a raw product and they are unsure if he will start the season along the line or be part of a rotation.

"We are still rotating and evaluating players along the defensive line," Schottenheimer admitted.

And the offensive line will see a mix and match of personnel. Hudson Houck has done his best to get them prepared to date, but there will be an influx of personnel as the Chargers look to field the fab five.

"There will be lots of players rotating in and out on the offensive line during the preseason games," Schottenheimer said.

One player who won't see much action is LaDainian Tomlinson. The running back is in midseason form already and there is no need to watch him weaving through defenders when undisciplined players traverse the same paths.

"LaDainian Tomlinson is in the best condition of his life and is better mentally prepared for the challenges since he entered this league," Schottenheimer revealed, as if there was any doubt.

Besides Tomlinson and a few select players, many will see a lot of time on the field. Despite the injuries that are always knocking on the door, the only way for the team to gel as a team is to start playing together.

Dungy agrees with the philosophy. He believes the players need to play and get ready for the season while he also recognizes how important it is to build a bench that he is happy with.

"You really can't worry about getting hurt. You have to set up a schedule of what your guys need to get ready. Every individual is different but you figure out this guy needs six quarters, we want the first group to play ‘X' number of plays in the preseason and you go. Guys are going to get hurt in the preseason and they're going to get hurt during the regular season. That's why you have to develop a full roster. Injuries are a part of the game, but I think you run into trouble if you say all we have to do is stay healthy."

Saturday at 7 PM, the dust will be officially kicked off the cleats. It is the beginning of the preseason and a prelude to the regular season. Football is finally here.

SD Super Chargers Top Stories