New Coaches Bring New Connections

As the Chargers head into the free agent market, they will looking for any advantage they can get. They have money to spend (they're approximately $20 million under the salary cap) and they play in America's finest city. More importantly, however, they just brought aboard new coaches with new connections.

Earlier this offseason, the Chargers announced the signing of Jack Henry as their new offensive line coach. Henry spent the last six seasons in New Orleans, where he was charged with developing the Saints' young offensive line prospects, such as LeCharles Bentley - a Pro Bowler this year for the second time in his four seasons in the league. Bentley will be an unrestricted free agent in March.

Bentley is a hardnosed, gritty player who has the ability to play either center or guard at an elite level. In San Diego, Bentley would push Nick Hardwick for the starting center job, but could end up at either guard post as well. His combination of power and intensity would help add consistency to the running game, one of Coach Schottenheimer's top offseason priorities.

The Chargers' second big coaching import was John Ramsdell, who was an assistant coach with the Rams for 11 years. Although Ramsdell primarily coached quarterbacks in St. Louis, he did spend the 2003 season as the tight ends coach, where he worked with another pending free agent, Brandon Manumaleuna. In their year together, Manumaleuna set career highs with 29 receptions for 238 yards.

Although the Chargers have Antonio Gates firmly entrenched as their starting tight end, back-up Justin Peelle is set to become a free agent. Manumaleuna's size (six-foot-two, 288 lbs.) allows him to function almost like a sixth offensive lineman, yet he has the hands to force opposing teams to honor his presence in the passing game.

The Chargers' final coaching hire was Hal Hunter, who has yet to coach on the professional level. But back in 2001, Hunter was the offensive coordinator at the University of Indiana (Cam Cameron was the head coach there at the time), where he worked with quarterback Antwaan Randle El, who won Big Ten Player of the Year under Hunter's guidance.

Acquiring an explosive player like Randle El would be a coup for the Chargers, as he is a dynamic threat as a receiver, runner, returner and passer. If the Chargers would let Randel El throw like they do Tomlinson, they may win over the quarterback in him.

Coming off a season of regression and depression, the Chargers could use some free agent help. If they want to have their way with the market, they will need their new hired hands to start pulling some strings.

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