Chargers face toughest challenge to date

The Jacksonville Jaguars have gotten off to a 3-1 start for a reason. They have taken on the philosophy of their coach, Jack Del Rio, and formed a defense that is nearly impenetrable against the run. Low scoring affairs are the conditions they thrive under and the San Diego Chargers will be pressed hard at home come Sunday.

To a man, the Chargers' offensive players are saying they face their toughest challenge on Sunday when entertaining the Jacksonville Jaguars at Qualcomm Stadium.

"They are very disciplined in their assignments and they know what they are suppose to do," running back LaDainian Tomlinson said. "They get to the football and they got some talented players on that side of the ball."

Although coming off a loss, the Jaguars are riding high at 3-1. The Chargers are 2-2, which might not mean much in some NFL outposts. But one has to realize the Chargers have already won half as many games as they did all of last year at the season's quarter mark.

But here come the Jaguars, a team which, predictably, is built around defense. Think coach Jack Del Rio, a former NFL linebacker, would have it any other way? There are not many tricks coming from the Jacksonville defensive unit, which is ranked eight overall.

"They have a basic understanding of what they do," said left tackle Roman Oben. "They don't try to disguise things. That means they are really good and confident in what they do. This is the biggest challenge we have every faced."

The Chargers could offer something they've rarely done: a two-pronged offensive attack. With Drew Brees coming off one of his best games of his career -- an 80 percent completion rate and three touchdown passes -- and Tomlinson looking for revenge from last year -- restricted to 38 rushing yards.

In most games, rival defenses just load up the box and wait to attack Tomlinson. But that may not be the case on Sunday, with Brees showing so well last week.

Then again, can the inconsistent Brees do it two weeks in a row against such a stout defense? Hard to say. But what's easy to spit out is if the Chargers can master the Jacksonville defense, their turnaround might well be underway.

Drew Brees said when going against a defense like the Jaguars', patience leads to productivity. "We can't get too greedy," he said. "Just take what they give us and take first downs and march the ball down the field." Last year the Jaguars didn't get a full helping of LaDainian Tomlinson. This year, they will.

Tomlinson carried the ball but 10 times last season against the Jaguars, as the Chargers fell behind and went to the pass early. But after getting but 17 rushes last week in the win over the Titans, Tomlinson figures to hoist a heavy load come Sunday afternoon. Of course, that could change if his ailing groin acts up.

But after Drew Brees' big game last Sunday, it's likely the Jaguars will at least be aware of a passing threat. If so, that gives Tomlinson more room to rumble.

The Jaguars' run defense was tough last year, but been taking on water of late. The defense is ranked 8th overall, but only 16th against the run.

Matchups to watch:

The interior of the Chargers' offensive line -- center Jason Ball, guards Toniu Fonoti and Mike Goff -- vs. the interior of the Titans' defensive line -- tackles Marcus Stroud and John Henderson.

Few teams offer a more stout tandem in the middle than Stroud and Henderson. How well the Chargers' three linemen handle Stroud and Henderson will go a long way in determining how well Tomlinson fares. Plus, Ball is making his first start of the season, and making his first game appearance since Nov. 30.

The Chargers' shaky secondary vs. the Jaguars' passing game. San Diego is still trying to get it pass defense right -- it's ranked No. 29. In particular, CB Sammy Davis has been getting picked on for four straight games. The Jaguars' aren't deep at receivers, but Jimmy Smith, a four-time Pro Bowler, is still getting it done in his 12th year. The Chargers will try to get Quentin Jammer on him; he's their best cover corner. That being said, Jammer has been burnt for big plays in consecutive games. What would really help this secondary is a pass rush, which has yet to show up on a consistent basis.

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