The team no longer has to worry about getting everyone immersed within a new system or about getting a bunch of new starters on the same page. The majority of the players are comfortable, the stability is there, and it is now time to expand the playbook.
The Chargers have the ability to create mismatches all over the field. Imagine the following scenario...
The Chargers face third and goal at the four yard line. They come out in a three tight end set, which typically signals a run. At tight end, the Chargers send out Antonio Gates, Ryan Krause and Vincent Jackson - a wide receiver who has the size and ability to lineup inside as well. In the backfield, the Chargers line LaDainian Tomlinson up at halfback and use Jesse Chatman at the fullback spot. The defense would have to worry about the omnipresent rushing threat provided by such a backfield, and also about covering three tight ends that run and catch like wide receivers.
Best of luck to them.
On defense, the Chargers will be able to create the same type of mismatches.
For example, let's say an opponent is stuck in an obvious passing situation. The Chargers then line up in a 4-3 look, with Igor Olshansky, Jamal Williams and Luis Castillo as the down lineman, each of whom is capable of demanding a double-team. As the end opposite Olshansky, the Chargers use Shawne Merriman, who has the bulk and speed to capitalize on the one-on-one match-up this setup provides.
Also in this set, the Chargers can rush with outside linebackers Steve Foley and Shaun Phillips. The speed and range of inside linebackers Donnie Edwards and Stephen Cooper would allow the Chargers to blitz both outside backers without leaving their pass defense too suspect. With the offensive linemen all over-occupied and Merriman, Foley and Phillips headhunting, the Chargers much-maligned secondary is set to look a lot better this season.
As far as special teams are concerned, I can safely say that the Chargers should field one of the league's most dominant units, as long as I place an asterisk next to that statement. The asterisk is because the Chargers dominance on special teams is contingent on the presence of Carlos Polk and Hanik Milligan on next year's roster. If they can both stay healthy and make the team, the Chargers coverage units will cause opponents fits as well. Imagine Nate Kaeding kicking off to Dante Hall, who then gets to choose between running left into Milligan or right into Polk.
Maybe he'll just take a knee.
The Chargers finally have the stability and talent necessary to toy with creating such mismatches. The only thing the Chargers need to take that next step into the stratosphere of the NFL's elite is a little creativity and imagination.
Michael Lombardo can be reached at Lombardo@sandiegosports.net
If I were a carpenter...
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