Getting better all the time

There is no blowing smoke when talking about the San Diego Chargers. They are a quality team playing well and running amok atop the AFC West. Wins are coming by the wagon full – just like the fans.

There are many reasons for the Chargers 8-3 record and it permeates throughout the entire team.

Now, staying on top is in the hands of the leadership that the veterans bring.

"I always said this," head coach Marty Schottenheimer began, "while certainly the leadership of the head coach is important, the best leadership you can have is from players." And complacency isn't something the Chargers can afford, especially with Denver coming to town on Sunday.

Until the game is played, talk is all we have. Perhaps it is as cheap as advertised but the Bolts have been singing the same tune for three weeks now. They have not accomplished anything – they are taking it one game at a time – they are right where they want to be ---

With a history of woes that makes the Bad News Bears look good, the Chargers can take nothing for granted.

The Chargers made a point of sprinkling in a few veterans that have had winning pasts.

Keenan McCardell and Roman Oben were on a Super Bowl winning team. They are molding the offense into a unit that knows it must keep the pressure on or lose the confidence inflation.

Oben is more than just a man of character, he also keeps the line level-headed. His demeanor exudes confidence and the younger guys on the line have latched on, particularly the big Samoan slotted next to him.

This year it has come together for Toniu Fonoti and part of the reason is the work that Oben puts in with him.

"Roman knows the ins and outs of this game," Fonoti said. "He teaches me as he goes along. I am still learning with him on my left side."

McCardell has proven he can bring the play of everyone up to another level just by being on the field and he realizes the importance of passing on information.

"Somebody taught me so I can pass that on to somebody else," he said. "Art Monk, Gary Clark. Andre Rison. Me and Jimmy Smith grew together. Now it is time for me to pass it on too."

Jamar Fletcher may not see the field as often as the vets on the offensive side of the ball but he knows about winning on a consistent basis and after being rescued from the demise of Miami has proven to be a capable leader off and on the field.

Teammates buzz about Fletcher handling his role like a professional and playing bigger than his size.

"I am very pleased with the way he has performed," head coach Marty Schottenheimer said of Fletcher.

Call it a sampler on the appetizer menu. There are countless other leaders that have emerged this season.

The best example of how they have touched lives can be seen in Antonio Gates' view of his play and what he needs to do to continue to be successful – work hard.

Raindrops eventually find a crevice to trickle down through and the success of the Chargers also begins up top. A.J. Smith believed he had given Schottenheimer the pieces to win and Schottenheimer has fit the puzzle together with nary a seam. Leadership has to begin somewhere and filter down.

The veterans picking up any slack the rope left helps too.

Denis Savage can be reached at

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