San Diego Charger Diagnosis: The Backups

Many fans were not able to watch their favorite superstars Sunday against the Kansas City Chiefs, but got several glimpses into the future of potential stardom. The San Diego Chargers walked away with a victory, rebounding from a heart-breaking and an inexcusable loss.

Many feared San Diego would be heading into the playoffs with a two game losing streak, but some of the "young-guns" were more than happy to get a chance to prove their worth and were not going to lay down for anyone.

Diagnosis for Michael Turner: Nick-named "the burner" in college, Turner has transcended his game to the NFL rather nicely. The few roles Turner has had to fill, he has done so adequately and has shown why so many thought he was a steal in the fifth round. As he displayed against Kansas City, Turner runs incredible hard. He whips through arm tackles as if they were nagging limbs hanging off a tree. Turner also shows he has the ability to be effective down field and once he reaches his top speed he is an incredibly dangerous runner.

Even though he has very good top speed, Turner did not display a five yard burst in the same manner as other top running backs in the NFL. He showed a good ability to find the hole, but seemed hesitant at times. Turner also has difficulty cutting and shifting. He is a straight line runner and once he picks a direction he is full throttle. And consequently, Turner has a problem running into his own blockers sometimes. As Turner gets more reps his instincts will get better. When this happens, he might land himself a starting position one day.

"Michael Turner did a nice job," head coach Marty Schottenheimer said.

Diagnosis for Ryan Krause: If anyone stole the show Sunday afternoon it was Krause. Krause showed Antonio Gates-type ability by consistently beating his coverage man and displaying glue-like hands. Even though he was drafted as an over-sized wide out, he has found a home at the TE/H-Back position. What is impressive is how Krause plays his new position with the finesse of a wide out but the toughness of a tight end. After displaying soft hands on a third and long he pummels defensive backs as he runs down the field.

At a critical point in the game Krause was able to step up for his quarterback. He made a circus catch giving Philip Rivers some much needed confidence. Rivers was able to lead the offense more efficiently after this moment. Krause will be going into the off-season expecting to play a more essential role in the offense next year. It is obvious Krause poses mismatches with his athletic ability, but he must be able to work the zone coverage if he wants to be a permanent fixture in the Charger arsenal. If he can do this the sky is the limit for the type of numbers the San Diego offense can put up next season.

"I really had to prepare for the game," Krause said afterwards. "I got everything down and it started to click. I told myself that the Chiefs play a lot of zone and that I had to find the hole and catch the ball."

Diagnosis for Malcom Floyd: There is an ongoing debate whether the Chargers should draft a wide receiver with one of their top picks. Floyd, at the very least, brings a new wrinkle to the discussion. It is hard to believe someone with his size and skills went undrafted last spring. Floyd was a fan favorite before his injury and was recently called up from the practice squad. Against the Chiefs he received his first significant action of the year, and reminded everyone why they were so initially excited about him.

"It felt really good," Floyd said of getting significant game action. "My first touchdown after all the hype. I really got to contribute to my team."

Floyd is very big and uses his size well. He is good at getting separation from the defensive back and coming back to the ball when he has to. Floyd also displayed a quality of finesse with his nice footwork on his touchdown reception. The Chargers hope he can take his game to the next level because a receiver with his height can be deadly in the red zone.

"I think Malcom made a hell of a catch," quarterback Drew Brees said.

If Floyd continues to work hard in the off-season he will easily make the squad and might find himself as the number three wide-out by mid-season. In order to do this, however, he must be better catching the ball in traffic. Even though Rivers's deep pass to him might have been under thrown, the ball passed through his hands. He did well making the adjustments in allowing the ball to come to him but did not finish the play. Floyd has Plaxico Burress type potential, and if he continues to improve, the debate over signing a big time wide out might be ended.

Diagnosis for Philip Rivers: Rivers' debut was easily the most anticipated amongst the fans. He showed flashes of unheralded ability, but also reminded everyone that he is still a rookie. Rivers has a very quick release and showed an ability to throw the ball at various angles. Once Rivers got his feet wet, he was able to settle his nerves and the lead the team down field. In what might be a prelude for things to come, Rivers threw the ball across his body connecting a picturesque pass to Floyd for the first touchdown of his career.

"I walked away saying I can play at this level," said Rivers. "Not that I played great but it was just back getting into the flow. When you hadn't been in a live game in almost 17 weeks, it takes a little while to get going."

Where Rivers came up short is to be expected. In his first two series he rushed his throws and sometimes anticipated pressure that was not there. He also appeared to have trouble making his routine three step drop. Granted the line in front of him was second string, but it seemed as if the pocket started collapsing as soon as he set his feet. Once the offense started developing a little rhythm, though, it appeared Rivers was dropping back quicker. In addition to his quick release and arm strength, Rivers showed nice ability rolling out of the pocket. He was not known at North Carolina State as a scrambler but has better quickness than given credit for.

"Rivers threw really well," Krause said. "Rivers is real calm out there. He had a good game."

Diagnosis for Matt Wilhelm: The transition to the 3-4 has provided Wilhelm an opportunity that might not have existed before. Wilhelm seemed to be a disappointment in the 4-3 last season but clearly made a move Sunday. One of the positions of need for San Diego is linebacker. Since Randall Godfrey and Donnie Edwards are getting older, and due to numbers, the Chargers will need to carry more linebackers on their squad than most teams.

Wilhelm showed great athleticism with a terrific interception. He showed he has the ability to drop back in zone coverage and cover his gap.

"Trent Green held onto the ball a little bit longer than we expected and of course with Tony Gonzalez being their prime target," Wilhelm said of his anticipation on the interception.

Wilhelm also displayed a much needed nasty streak by popping Tony Gonzalez in the third quarter. In order for Wilhelm to set himself apart he needs to continue his hard special teams play and be consistent on the field. He made a huge leap Sunday by playing very well against one of the best offenses in the league. There has never been any question over Wilhelm's ability, but whether he has the work ethic to take his game to the next level. Sunday was a perfect example of what he is capable of.

"Turner and Krause, (Robb) Butler and (Hanik) Milligan – these guys came in and made some extremely good plays," linebacker Donnie Edwards praised.


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