Chargers enter phase three

The San Diego Chargers believe if they win two out of the three phases they will have a great shot at winning a game. Offense, defense and special teams. The changes on offense are not many from the outset. They will rely on lots of LaDainian Tomlinson. The defense has changed to the 3-4 and their emergence could be huge. Special teams was controllable and the Bolts made cuts accordingly.

The offense will be as good as the quarterback, offensive line and receivers. There is no questioning how good LaDainian Tomlinson will be. With lackluster receivers, however, there was no control over how good or bad the offense will inevitably be.

The defense has so many changes that it may be a year before they truly know the nuances of the game. They have looked good in preseason and if they can create turnovers and cause havoc in the backfield – something they haven't done in years – it will be vastly improved.

Special teams is an area they do have some control over. Last year they were dreadful. Mike Scifres has proved to be a more than capable replacement for the departed Darren Bennett. Scifres had one punt returned during the preseason. One out of 15.

The jury is out on Nate Kaeding but given his history it will be hard to imagine Kaeding not being better than Steve Christie. Kaeding has, at the very least, been able to boot kickoffs longer even if it has been an inconsistent area.

Then there is the return game. Wes Welker makes the squad and will be used as the primary returner. His inclusion on the team helps them two-fold. He not only can return kicks and punts but it saves the Chargers from using their best and often injured receivers, Tim Dwight and Eric Parker.

That will help the team.

"Making people miss after I catch the ball," Welker replied when asked why he thought he made the team.

Welker went on to say he was still in a state of shock and euphoria over being on an NFL team.

"It came down to somebody we thought could help us in the kicking game," Schottenheimer said, also referencing the trickle down effect.

The Chargers could ill afford to have the Dwight's and Parker's getting hammered on special teams. Who would Brees – er Rivers – er to be announced Monday – throw to?

"We wanted to keep players who would help us in the kicking game," Schottenheimer reiterated. "We made progress in our kicking game and I think it is important we continue to move in that direction, younger players with speed, that have an opportunity to be active and be involved in what we are doing in every phase of the kicking game."

The strength of the kicking game was to the tune of three scores. Welker had one, the departed Luke Powell had one and Kaeding ran a fake in. Sure they had one blocked but that was Mackenzie Hoambrecker kicking. They also recovered a muff and the coverage units were fantastic from top to bottom.

Special teams is one-third of the game. Teams rarely treat it that way.

It took Schottenheimer and the Chargers too long to figure it out.

Lightning quicks:

  • The Chargers will announce their starting quarterback for the Houston game on Sunday. Barring an upset, Drew Brees will open the season. The thinking is it will be easier to justify pulling him in favor of Philip Rivers for the long haul rather than put in Rivers and wonder if they should pull him to get wins.

  • The Bolts will name their eight man practice squad on Monday. Practice squad eligible players will make a healthy $4,350 a week.

  • En-lightning news:

    Did you know Domanick Davis was as good as LaDainian Tomlinson? Me neither. But Houston Chronicle reporter John McClain deems it so, "Davis is a terrific runner and receiver — just like Tomlinson." While there may be truth in his statement, let's wait until the second year player shows a history before comparing Davis to the elite.

    Do I get credit for Kevin Dyson getting cut? I hope not. Just reporting the facts. He never looked good as a member of the Chargers. Forget the talk of special teams players. He wasn't worth the likes of even a Reche Caldwell. He looked that good – or bad. Ouch!

    Denis Savage can be reached at

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