Chargers defense faces tough task

While the San Diego Chargers are focusing on Curtis Martin, they can't forget the Jets have one of the better quarterbacks in the league. Making matters worse is the addition of Justin McCareins to the New York offense. They have weapons everywhere.

"There's going to be two great runners running in San Diego," coach Herman Edwards said. "That'll be something to see."

The truth rings out in that statement with Curtis Martin and LaDainian Tomlinson in their respective backfields. This game, however, will come down to the Chargers controlling the line of scrimmage and putting pressure on Chad Pennington.

"I'll do anything to help this team keep winning," DeQuincy Scott, the leading sack artist on the team a year ago, said. "There really is no other option for us and we are all putting in the extra work to change the course of this franchise."

Pennington signed a huge contract in the offseason and the Jets see him as a Championship caliber player. Many in the league agree.

Although he isn't blessed with a cannon arm, his poise and accuracy with the ball is what the Chargers hope to see from Drew Brees.

Martin is a threat but Pennington will be the difference. Laveranues Coles is gone but McCareins has been added in his place and Santana Moss, a Charger killer, is still with the team that pummeled the team back in '02.

The Chargers defense, according to Donnie Edwards, plans to take a simplistic approach.

"They can only do two things, run the ball and throw the ball," linebacker Donnie Edwards said.

It will start with tackling and end with pass coverage. That wasn't a strong suit of the team in game one.

"We are going to have to perform at a higher level," coach Marty Schottenheimer said. "We have to improve our tackling. Certainly have to get more efficient in our pass coverage."

If the Jets receivers are able to get open they could be running to the goal line all day long.

Santana Moss is a speedster who splits seams and is not afraid to take a hit. His yards after catch potential are scary. He is an asset that Pennington loves to use.

Then there is Justin McCareins to take care of. The Chargers secondary has a lot of talent to it but McCareins matches the physicality of Quentin Jammer and the speed and technicality of Sammy Davis.

"He's a physical receiver," running back Curtis Martin said.. "He's a receiver that doesn't have any fear of going across the middle and he'll beat you deep. I think he's a double or triple threat. There are few players who can come in on a team and make an instant impact. He's one of them."

The guy throwing the rock is therefore the key.

Without Pennington the Jets are not the same team. Look at how the team performed with former Jet and current Dallas starter Vinny Testaverde behind center. The team is not the same.

Pennington hasn't had a lot of time as the team's starter and has yet to have a full season at the helm but his smarts and his deft touch have landed him among the elite. The former Marshall signal caller commands the huddle and owns the respect of his teammates.

"He's one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL," Martin said. "I appreciate his work ethic. He's always the first one in and the last one gone. And he's as smart as any of the coaches. He knows the game."

"Opening day was the first time he has opened up the season for us," Jets coach Herm Edwards said. "He's a leader. He's a very smart, articulate guy. He understands football. When he does things on the field, it doesn't surprise me. He puts in the work to accomplish those things.

"I always tell players that the things you do in the dark, always come into the light, whether it's good or bad. He does a lot of things in the dark when nobody is around and there's not an audience."

The audience on Sunday will be San Diego. They may decide to take out Martin and that would be a mistake. Allowing Pennington to beat them will surely happen. Instead they must bring a lot of pressure on Pennington and hope the pass coverage is stronger than it was a week ago.

"We are going to make mistakes, but I guarantee you: we are going to be make tackles. We have got some athleticism."

The Chargers are hoping all the tackling comes outside of the end zone and not in it as the Jets are celebrating touchdowns.

Denis Savage can be reached at denis@sandiegosports.net

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