The Other Other-Guys

The common theme in the Chargers' five victories this season has been big performances from the other-guys. Role players like Michael Turner, Clinton Hart and Jamar Fletcher have stepped up and made big-time contributions to the team's success. But to find the real reason the team is heading into the second half of the season with a winning record and a two-game winning streak, one has to look to the other other-guys. They don't always make the box score, but they always make a difference.

Mike Goff is the kind of player no one hears much about, but that is only because he does his job so well. He is the only member of the offensive line who has started every game this season, and has provided a veteran presence for Nick Hardwick and Shane Olivea, the second-year players who typically flank him on game day. Goff is a dominating run blocker, a savvy pass protector, and a key reason as to why the team has been in the top five in scoring for two seasons running.

"A lot of that has to do with the guys surrounding them," head coach Marty Schottenheimer confirmed. "Veteran guys like Oben and Goff. They did a great job from a leadership standpoint."

The second member of the other other-guys is Justin Peelle. This fourth-year pro has developed into a terrific run blocker, and is a steady safety valve at receiver as well. His role in the offense has been more important than ever this season, as the team has kept him in as a pass protector to help compensate for injuries along the offensive line. Peelle has responded to the challenge, as Drew Brees has been sacked only 13 times on the season. LaDainian Tomlinson surely appreciates Peelle's help as well, both as a run blocker, and as the recipient of one of his three touchdown passes on the year.

"Justin Peelle is not going to have the catches Gates has but he sticks his nose in run blocking," Brees said. "The guy does a phenomenal job."

The final member of this elite albeit under appreciated group is Jacques Cesaire, a part-time starter but full-time contributor to the defensive line. Cesaire has lined up at both end spots as well as at nose tackle this season, and has excelled at each post. He provides excellent depth along the defensive line, which is especially important because line coach Wayne Nunnely loves to substitute his players frequently in order to keep them fresh deep into the game. At six-foot-two and 295 lbs., Cesaire has to size to tie up blockers, the power to collapse the pocket, and the quickness to make plays in the backfield.

"He is one of those young men that is on a mission," said Schottenheimer. "He works very, very diligently. He is extremely bright and he gets better every day. As you look back at his history here, the thing that is most evident is that there is an ascending trend to his play and work."

As the season starts to wind down, Brees, Tomlinson, Donnie Edwards and the team's plethora of other stars will continue to garner most of the attention. But it will be these other other-guys that will be charged with making the stars' jobs possible. With the team's playoff push now underway, it is up to them to see it through.

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