Chargers Gameday Primer

Two of the core philosophies as the Chargers head to Denver this week will be taking the crowd out of the game early and establishing the tone and tempo that they define in each phase of the game.

On Offense:

It goes without saying that the addition of Antonio Gates back into the offense will do wonders to open up the offense, particularly the running game.

Still, Gates was the talk of the town this week in San Diego, and understandably so after a Pro Bowl campaign in 2004.

"His presence is really a great compliment to our running back, our quarterback, the whole passing game," head coach Marty Schottenheimer said.

The Broncos were one of the few teams San Diego played last year that had good success against Drew Brees. Brees had 227 combined passing yards in two games against the Broncos.

The Chargers will look to come out quickly on the opening possession and have hopes that they win the coin toss to receive.

Punch it in early and often is on the agenda and they hope to not settle for three points on their drives. They recognize that they have played poorly in Denver in the past and the easiest way to alleviate concerns that they are in for a similar losing fate as has been the case too often in the past is taking control of the tempo early.

"On the road in a place like Denver you want to take the crowd out of the game," said Brees. "Going down and scoring on the first possession would help us in that regard."

Running back LaDainian Tomlinson is primed to have a big day. He always gears himself up for divisional play and his role is expected to be greater this week than the suspect playcalling that kept him down a week ago.

Tomlinson is fourth among active running backs in rushing average within their respective divisions with a 95.2 average per game (10 game min.) against AFC West opponents.

Don't forget his longest rush of his career (76 yards) and one of his four 200-yard rushing games came against the Broncos and the Broncos surrendered 151 yards on the ground in week one.

"I enjoy playing against Denver because of the great competitors they have on their team," Tomlinson said.

On Defense:

The run defense is anchored by nose tackle Jamal Williams, a big reason the Broncos struggled to run against the Chargers last year. The Broncos will try to get Williams moving laterally, especially with Igor Olshansky out and rookie Luis Castillo in.

Sticking to what they do best, the Bolts will look to eliminate running lanes first and bring added pressure in the passing game.

Rattling Jake Plummer can result in a bounty, as seen by the four interceptions the Chargers netted the last time these teams played.

But, asking the secondary to step up without the benefit of a consistent pass rush is risky.

Quentin Jammer was pretzled by Ashley Lelie last year in Denver, allowing the go-ahead touchdown pass. And the cornerback is coming off a game in which he had two critical penalties.

Castillo, expected to lineup at the left defensive end position, will be asked to bring along the talents that made him a first round pick.

The Bolts loved his ability to collapse the pocket and generate an added pass rush from the base alignment. That was one of the mitigating factors behind his selection.

He will be severely tested in his first NFL start.

"They are giving me an opportunity to be a playmaker," Castillo said. "I have to accept that challenge and make plays."

Steve Foley will also be counted on to bring the heat.

"Stay after these guys, stay after them with pressure and force Plummer out of his comfort zone," Foley said of the Chargers defensive philosophy. "We know that once we get that pressure in his face he will throw the ball with his left hand or do some other erratic things."

On Special Teams:

Darren Sproles lit up the day with his 36.5 yard average in the opening week of the season. Returning kicks remains his primary duty and it is just a matter of time before he breaks one. Sproles looked decent during the preseason at the same task but he is now running behind experienced special teamers who understand their responsibilities, rather than working with undrafted rookies.

Mike Scifres had his worst punt as a professional last week and it came at the worst of times. The team, and the fans, have the utmost faith in his ability to bounce back, much like a pooch punt. Controlling field position will be an important part of this game with the crowd ready to roar at every turn.

Nate Kaeding has carried over his work on kickoffs into the season and coupled with a tremendous effort by the coverage team they nailed the Cowboys to the twenty yard line.

This is his first outside road game since Green Bay. It will be interesting to see how he responds to the unknown conditions present at Invesco.

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