Zeke Moreno battling it out

Former USC product Zeke Moreno stepped into the starter's role for the San Diego Chargers after Junior Seau was jettisoned to Miami. He was pitted against Carlos Polk and the jury was swayed with the fans on who to start. A year later he is attempting to hold off newcomer Randall Godfrey and perhaps a surprise entry. His NFL career has been ripe with rewards but does the tale go on?

Since entering the league as a fifth round pick in 2001, Moreno has had an uphill battle. With Junior Seau ahead of him on the depth chart, Moreno had to make his mark on special teams.

The 6-foot-2 linebacker made the most of the rare opportunities he had in games. He started three games in 2002 and amassed 32 tackles. His preseason play was the stuff of legends as he routinely found the ball and made a game changing play.

When the call came, Moreno was ready. He turned in a solid, if unspectacular year in 2003. He had 96 tackles playing in all 16 games as the starting middle linebacker.

"It's gone by so fast," Moreno says as he looks to the horizon. "Every year is a blessing. It keeps getting better."

So far that has held true. He went from bench player to starter. But this year the Chargers brought in Randall Godfrey from Seattle. Many had penciled the free agent acquisition in as a starter, but Moreno has had his say.

When the first preseason game opened up, Moreno was in the starting lineup while Godfrey ran second team.

But this week in camp, things have changed. Moreno and Godfrey were in the starting lineup as Donnie Edwards remains in recovery. Stephen Cooper, meanwhile, has not lost his hold on backing up Edwards but his role has been expanded. He is running second team and working on the opposite inside linebacker position – the one held by Moreno and Godfrey.

Moreno maintains that he is not worried about who is vying for what has been his job over the last year.

"There is always competition," Moreno said. "You have to take it upon yourself and can't worry about what the coaches decide later on, take it play by play and do your best.

"Everybody is out here, especially this first day, to earn a spot on this team. Everybody has to fight for a job. Marty is serious about this year. He wants to win."

Heading into the game with Arizona on Saturday, Moreno can see the difference in the defense. There is a definitive aura surrounding their play and coming out swarming in preseason game one has given them a swagger that the team has not known before.

Moreno was enthusiastic about the teams efforts and came to a realization at the same time.

"We are still learning and we will keep getting better," Moreno said with a hint of giddiness. "Progressing as we get into these preseason games and hopefully by the end of August we will reach our peak."

The end of August is just two weeks away and the regular season beckons shortly thereafter. The defense may be improved, but Marty Schottenheimer must decide if that means Moreno is one of his four starting linebackers or perhaps they will move in another direction.

Denis Savage can be reached at denis@sandiegosports.net

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