San Diego Chargers Diagnosis: Sammy Davis

Despite the tough loss Sunday afternoon, the San Diego Chargers walked away with enough confidence knowing despite playing pitiful football for three quarters they were in a position to win the game. The contrast with the technically sound game last week is evident that inexperience still plagues this team. This inexperience was apparent in the play of Sammy Davis, the second year pro from Texas A&M University.

The Chargers have extremely high hopes for both their cover corners this season. If their young new defense is to have any success, the play at the corner position has to be more consistent. Still, despite the loss the defensive play was anything but prosaic. Coming into the season many knew the young defense would be prone to big plays early and often. To expect anything less from a bunch of second and third year players learning a new system would be unrealistic. One can hope, though, the new style of defense will lead to enough turnovers to offset this principle. In Sammy Davis' case, big plays where given up and the opportunities for turnovers were there, but never taken advantage of.

In the first defensive series, Davis was schooled by Jonathan Carter for a forty-six yard reception. Davis was playing too close to the line and was taken advantage of. It is vital for the defense to play containment in their first couple of series. The very last thing this team needs is to find themselves in a 14-0 hole, which is exactly where they were. Davis wisely backed up afterwards not allowing a receiver behind him for virtually the rest of the game.

Once the Chargers were able to make their defensive adjustments, the play from the corners improved tremendously. It is obvious Davis took to heart some of the criticisms of him last season. His tackling has improved, and Davis appears to be playing more physical. The key to Davis' success, though, is his ability to cover. Davis can be tougher, but the physical corner on the team will remain to be Quentin Jammer. The contrasts in style provide the Chargers with plenty of options when drawing up their weekly game plans.

After the kickoff return for a touchdown by Tim Dwight, the Chargers needed a key defensive stop as the momentum was starting to shift. The Jets tried exploiting Davis' side of the field with little success. Two passes to Curtis Martin going nowhere forced New York in a punting situation. Even though the Chargers were not able to capitalize offensively after the punt, this was the first of three consecutive stops keeping the team in the game going into half time.

Much like in the first quarter Davis got himself into trouble early on in the second. But the circumstances were very much different. Davis had great position on the receiver making an outstanding play batting the ball away. The play drew a flag from the line judge, but the replays show little or no contact, at least not enough to warrant the orange flag. With the obsession of the referees enforcing specific rules this year, Davis and the Chargers will have to get used to receiving nit-picky penalties such as that on occasion. No doubt when the team reviews the film early on in the week, the staff will tell him not to change a thing in his technique.

Though Davis was not without his faults, the majority of the Jets passing arsenal (aside from the forty-six yard pass in the first quarter) came on Quentin Jammer's side of the field. As many Charger fans will ponder all week, it was Jammer who blew his coverage on Santana Moss virtually putting the game out of reach. When passes were thrown to Davis' side he did an excellent job making quick tackles. Davis also had a couple of opportunities of getting turnovers at key moments. Davis should be given credit for putting himself in those types of situation, but if the Chargers want to overcome the woes of youth, and inexperience in the new system, he must learn to take advantage of such opportunities when they arrive.

Chad Pennington is a good quarterback and the New York receivers are not the easiest to cover in the league. The Jets will be one of the toughest offenses the Chargers play early on due to their incredible ability to maintain balance, the re-emergence of Curtis Martin, their improved offensive front, and their solid receiving core. If it was not for the turnovers, the defense would not have nearly given up as many points as they did. Once the adjustments came in after the first quarter, the defense did a solid job of keeping the Chargers in the game (until the end). The team did, however, miss some opportunities in making key interceptions, so the problems were not indigenous to just Davis.

Diagnosis for next week:

The Chargers face their toughest test to date next week when they travel a mile north of sea level to play the always tough Denver Broncos. If the Chargers have learned anything in the past two weeks it is they can play tough against solid opponents. If they can control the turnover battle they will have an opportunity at some time to maneuver for the all important "W". The hinge of the Charger's success will depend heavily on the corner play. Whether it be Ashley Lelie or Rod Smith, Davis has to make sure he does not let either receiver get behind him. The Chargers defense will give up the five to seven yard outs all day because they know Jake Plummer sooner or later will make a throw that could be intercepted. The Chargers defense, along with Davis, needs to eliminate the big play and be patient for turnover opportunities. Unlike against the Jets, however, they need to convert them when opportunities become available.

Diagnosis for year:

Wade Phillips has shown a lot in the first two games on how he is approaching each game defensively. In both the Houston and New York game, the Chargers opened with a very straight forward approach. They blitz very little, and consequently, had trouble each time defending the run and applying the pressure on the quarterback.. The difference between the two games is the defense against Houston played containment and held the opening drives to three points. The Jets, on the other hand, broke that containment with a forty-six yard pass that quickly resulted in a touchdown. Davis has to play smarter in the first quarter than he did against Jets. The coverage will mainly be "man", and Davis has to be more aware of the cushion (or lack there of) he gives up when challenging the receiver. The closer he plays the less room he has for error. It is up to him (and Jammer) to hold the opposing offense in check, and if this means giving up three points then so be it. Help will be on the way after the first couple of possessions when Phillips begins implementing various zone coverage schemes and blitz packages to counter the opposing offense.

Byran Martin can be reached at Byran@sandiegosports.net

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