Chargers Gameday Primer

The chess match is set to rage between the Chargers and Eagles. Mixing the elixir properly will determine which team has planned accordingly and will be the victor.

On Offense:

The Chargers run 52.1 percent of the time on offense and the challenge will be establishing the line of scrimmage with an offensive line that is banged up. Shane Olivea returns but the uncertainty at center could hamper the running game.

Philadelphia hasn't been as stout against the run as in year's past but they are aggressive and will send frequent blitzes to throw the Chargers offense off kilter.

"Cam does a great job scheming defenses," running back LaDainian Tomlinson said of his offensive coordinator Cam Cameron.

The Eagles are keying on Tomlinson, hopeful that their talented secondary can confuse Drew Brees. Stopping Tomlinson, however, is easier said than done.

"LT is fast," offered new Eagles linebacker Zeke Moreno, formerly of the Chargers. "It takes 11 players to stop him. If 11 players are on the same page, then it's cool. But it's going to be very hard."

Brees and his receiving corps will be challenged this week. Cornerback Lito Sheppard and safeties Michael Lewis and Brian Dawkins were voted to the Pro Bowl last year as starters.

Spreading the ball around will be an essential part of the game as the Eagles do well when patterns begin to develop.

For his part, Brees is confident and understands that we are already in week seven and .500 ball is not cutting it. With 47 percent of the country watching the game, they are looking at yet another statement.

"This is the time of the season you go one of two directions," Brees began. "We have to start making a run for it right now. What better opportunity than to go to Philadelphia and play a great team."

On Defense:

Reminiscent of the days of yore when the ‘Boys were trouncing everyone in their path, the Eagles boast an impressive Big Three in Donovan McNabb, Terrell Owens and Brian Westbrook.

The one major difference is they play off the pass and then pass some more when they find room.

They are the top passing team in the league, averaging 307.2 yards per game through the air. That number is 115 yards more than the Chargers average on a given Sunday.

McNabb may be injured but the fall off is indiscernible.

"A great player and a great competitor," defensive lineman Luis Castillo said of the opposing quarterback. "He has all the tools to beat you in a lot of different ways."

While the ballyhoo has been focused on Drayton Florence, Sammy Davis and Terrence Kiel, losing them will only hurt them on the coverage of Owens. While the task is tall, the real problem is the underneath gaps.

The Philadelphia passing game is based on shorter routes and yards after the catch.

Twenty-six of the 37 passes thrown to Owens have been ten yards or less. His average per catch, however, on those passes is 11.0. Only three passes have traversed twenty yards or more.

Twenty-one of the 23 passes to Westbrook have either been behind the line or within the first ten yards. Yet, he still averages 11.7 per catch.

Then there is L.J. Smith. Seventy-nine percent of the throws made to Smith were within ten yards.

This will be a game that requires the linebackers to be active and aware as they cover the middle of the field.

"They throw it extremely well," head coach Marty Schottenheimer said. "The short pass within the framework of the west coast offense. You throw the ball to Westbrook on the swing or hitch to get him out in space and let him run with it."

On Special Teams:

What a blessing it is to actually have a coach who is in control of special teams talk! And the talk this week is returner, as in who it will be.

The Eagles are next to last in punt returns and in the bottom third in kickoff returns. The Chargers, meanwhile, are second best in kickoff returns and the middle of the pack on punt returns. For San Diego, it all depends on who will be on the back line.

Darren Sproles, the electrifying returner for San Diego will try and go. And his presence is important to the Bolts' success in the return game. Reche Caldwell would take over the return duties if he could not go.

"Sproles is a hard running, north, south tough guy," Eagles' special coach John Harbaugh said. "He has great quickness. He's elusive, and he runs hard. For a rookie, he looks like a veteran back there. He's a tough guy to tackle."

Sproles also handles the punt return duties and it would be handed over to Keenan McCardell if Sproles' ankle does not cooperate. A little more risky on the punt returns, Sproles has called for two fair catches on the year.

"Yeah, he doesn't fair catch too often," Harbaugh admitted. "So, the key is to kick the ball high enough where he's forced to make that decision, but he has had a lot of success so far with the return."

Mike Scifres has received the same advice, especially with Westbrook a very real possibility on the punt return team. They will scheme to keep the ball away. Ryan Moats is poised to get the call on kickoff returns.

As for Moreno, he is expected to suit up and be active for the Eagles and will wind up playing under this category.

"He's going to jump right in and play special teams," said Harbough. "He's an experienced player. He has four or five years in this league. He's going to jump right in and be a core contributor to this team."

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