Chargers only look strong now

Rookie minicamp is about to begin in San Diego and soon after that, the Chargers camp will begin, and it won't be long before preseason begins. After the NFL Draft, every team looks good. It is the pinnacle of the offseason and breeds unrealistic expectations.

While everyone feels lucky to grab Shawne Merriman in the first round, literally falling into their laps at a spot they didn't conceive him to be available, Merriman will still be a rookie and a holdout thanks to the Poston's.

Giving him the benefit of the doubt, let's say he arrives on time for the start of training camp.

The record shows that most rookies, even first round picks, don't make such a bold statement on the field.

This isn't to say Merriman can't or won't vie for Rookie of the League honors. He has enough talent to do just that. But to say that he will change the face of the defense, as the organization has implied, may be a stretch in year one.

The 3-4 defense is complicated. Ask Steve Foley how long it takes to fully comprehend the defense.

"Guys have a better understanding," Foley began. "To really learn the 3-4 defense, it is going to take you at least two years to really get it down where you won't have to worry about it till you can go over it in your sleep and have it down to a ‘T'."

Does that mean Merriman will have some troubles adapting and understanding his assignments?

Surely there will be some missed opportunities and that has to temper some enthusiasm coming out of the draft.

Merriman has placed a lot of weight on his back. He wants to come out of the chute with guns blazing.

"You'll know you're going to get pushed and you have to show why you're the 12th pick of the draft," Merriman said after being drafted. "I think I've shown a relentless and a never-say-die attitude and a desire to make plays."

That desire apparently doesn't count minicamp and coaching sessions.

While the Bolts have committed to helping out the secondary with a pass rushing force, very few rookies make instant impacts. Merriman could be the exception to that rule, and that is surely the hope.

The good news is the growth of players from year to year. The team has returned a large majority of its players and a learning curve has been met – perhaps trumping Foley's two year outlook on the defensive side.

But there are other holes on the team. The offensive line played beyond expectations last year. They have a new coach – will that translate into the same success?

Vincent Jackson is a rookie and wide receivers notoriously take two to three years to develop into reliable targets. The Bolts passing game still will rely heavily on Antonio Gates and teams began to strap the chains around him late in the year.

Can Drew Brees perform as well as he did last year? He has a contract over $8 million for the year and may have turned in his career year last season. Matching his dream season will not be easy.

Forget about the schedule. It is hard every year. This team will be defined by the sum and how all the parts mesh.

Rookies are simply a supplement to the equation. Perhaps a Shane Olivea comes out of the mix or maybe the team will see more Ryan Krause's – players with talent who may have a good game or two but are largely relegated to the sidelines.

Now is not the time to over hype the team. Expectations must be put in perspective. The AFC West is vastly improved and they are all gunning to be the AFC West Champs. Equaling the success of last season may be beyond the capabilities of this team.

One camp is here and others will come. Temper it for a day and look around. If you still feel strongly about it, good for you. Judgment here will be taken after preseason when the stock can truly be weighed and measured.

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