Chargers Gameday Primer

The Chargers are going for a sweep of their AFC East opponents, after defeating the Patriots (41-17), Jets (31-26) and Bills (48-10). They are already the kings of New York after beating the Giants, Jets and Bills.

"They are coming off two big wins, one against Oakland and one on the last play of the game," quarterback Drew Brees said of the challenge this week. "They are probably revved up and it is another team in our path."

On Offense:

Brees has a quarterback rating of 131.99 against the AFC East this year and it will be up to the offensive line to give him the protection he needs to execute the gameplan.

After shutting out sack leader Derrick Burgess last week, the Bolts get Jason Taylor this time around. Taylor is one of the quickest defensive ends in the league and will lineup against either Shane Olivea or Leander Jordan.

"He is a heck of an athlete," Brees said of Taylor. "They have some leaders. It has always been one of those defenses that plays extremely hard and makes plays."

"There defensive front is very formidable – the front seven," head coach Marty Schottenheimer said. "They blitz a lot."

The blitz is brought to make up for shortcomings in a once-feared secondary. Travis Daniels, a rookie, starts at one corner, and the Dolphins don't have anyone who matches up well with Antonio Gates.

The Bolts' tight end would love to have a big day against Nick Saban – the coach who recruited him to play football at Michigan State. Gates was with the Spartans for one semester, leaving because he felt he was promised something that Saban could not deliver – the ability to play both basketball and football.

Saban said his grades weren't good enough to play both but an 18-year old prep star took it as a sleight and moved on to Kent State to focus on basketball.

"Gates is as probably as good as any, especially down the field," Saban said. "Those guys are match-up problems. We will do everything that we can do to try affect what they can do, I think we have to affect the quarterback, their timing in the passing game and I also think we have to do a better job of covering and finishing plays to be able to do a good job on any tight end, but especially guys of this caliber."

On Defense:

The two-headed monster of Ricky Williams and rookie Ronnie Brown must be contained.

"The biggest thing is I grew up a Chargers fan," Williams said of his return home. "I can remember every Sunday waking up with my mom and watching the Chargers play."

"They present a tremendous challenge," said Brown. "They're a great team – playoff caliber if you ask me. They have a good front seven that really gets after it."

San Diego's run defense, which is spearheaded by 348-pound defensive tackle Jamal Williams, leads the NFL with a 79.4-yard average and has allowed only two teams – Dallas (109) and Pittsburgh (104) – to gain more than 100 yards on the ground.

The combination of Williams and Brown have rushed for 1,176 yards, four more than the amount LaDainian Tomlinson has mustered and average 4.4 yards per carry – one-tenth of a yard less than Tomlinson.

"They are both downhill runners," rookie linebacker Shawne Merriman said. "There is really no distinct difference other than the experience. It is pretty tough to defend when you have a guy who can step in and give the other guy a chance to blow."

Which means the defense will have to continue its rotation of the front seven to make sure the linebackers and defensive linemen stay just as fresh as Williams and Brown.

Gus Frerotte doesn't inspire much fear but he does have a couple weapons that can make something out of nothing. Chris Chambers is coming off a record-setting day and he is complimented by Marty Booker and Randy McMichael – one player whose production has taken a serious hit but has playmaking ability and a tight end that is among the top five at the position.

Perhaps the confidence from last week has clouded Chambers' judgment, as he doesn't appear to concerned about the Chargers' defense:

"We played San Diego a couple of years ago and the last few times we have played them, we have played very well against them. I don't think too much has changed against them as far as their confidence. They are winning a lot more games and that is probably the biggest difference from when we have played them in the past."

On Special Teams:

Depth – a word Schottenheimer is fond of – hasn't materialized in recent weeks as the Bolts directionally kick. The coverage team may be doing a nice job but it means little if Nate Kaeding can't kick it past the 15-yard line.

Wes Welker heads up Miami's return game and he is eager to make the Chargers remember his talents.

But the true killer is Olinde Mare – a sure placekicker who has been nailing his kicks for years.

"They have some things they do extremely well," Schottenheimer began. "One is their play in the kicking game. Mare is a terrific kicker."


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