Every year someone steps up

Just like last season, the Chargers enter week four with a 1-2 record. And just like last year, they figure to only get better from here. Despite a brutal upcoming schedule that includes games against both of last year's Super Bowl participants on the road, the Chargers expect to rise to the challenge by improving from within.

All three of the Chargers' top draft picks have had their development slowed by injuries, but they appear ready to step up now and help carry the team to the next level. Then there's Bhawoh Jue, the team's lone free agent acquisition, who is still getting comfortable in the defense.

Shawne Merriman spent ample time last week in the Giants' backfield, and will continue to see his playing time increase. As he gets more comfortable, he will have a chance to create some Steve Foley-like havoc on the strong side of the defense. That would be a huge boost for a Chargers pass defense in need of exactly that.

"When you are on a team with Steve Foley and Donnie Edwards and Randall Godfrey and guys like that you can only better yourself by sitting back and watching those guys," said Merriman of who has been instrumental in teaching him the ropes.

The team's other first-round pick, Luis Castillo, has made an early impact. Aside from his tendency to slap opposing quarterbacks in the head, his play has been stellar. As a defensive end, he has the size to shut down the run and force opponents to become one-dimensional. Then on passing downs he slides over to nose tackle, where he uses his quickness and relentless hustle to collapse the pocket.

"I feel good out there," Castillo said of his comfort level on the line before adding how happy he was his penalty did not cost the team.

Vincent Jackson has yet to make his regular season debut, but that could come as early as this week. Because he is making such a big transition (he played last season at Northern Colorado), Jackson is unlikely to assume too large role in the offense any time soon. However, because of his size and versatility, he may be able to make an impact in the red zone and on special teams. The team would love for Jackson to assume the number three receiver role in as short a time as possible; Reche Caldwell mans that position as of now, but he has just one catch for nine yards so far this season.

For Jue, this is his first season as a full-time starter. Playing free safety, he is the quarterback of a secondary whose starters average less than three years of experience in the league. That's a tall task for a player entering only his fifth season, and who is doing so while getting acclimated to a new team and a new defensive scheme. As Jue continues to get better, so too will the secondary.

"He has very good physical skills," head coach Marty Schottenheimer said.

The Chargers were relatively quiet during the offseason. Now it's time for their few marquee additions to make some noise. If the Chargers want to get back to their old winning ways, they'll need their new faces to take them there.

"Every year someone steps up," added Schottenheimer. "I have my thoughts. Come back at the end of the year to find out."


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