Defense Looking Dominant

The focus all offseason has been on what Philip Rivers could do leading the explosive Chargers offense. After watching the team's preseason debut against the Packers, one thing became clear: he may not have to do much.

The Chargers defense has the potential to dominate.

"The defense is on fire," noted Keenan McCardell. "We have a very athletic defense. I think people are starting to realize that. We're very athletic and we fly to the football. They make it fun."

It all starts up front, where nose tackle Jamal Williams anchors a defensive line that is big, powerful and athletic.

"It's a good start," said Williams of the win over the Packers. "It was the first game to play against an opponent other than ourselves. Basically, we are setting standards to get better than we are right now."

In the Chargers' defense, the main task for the defensive line is to occupy blockers and allow the linebackers to wreak havoc. They must be succeeding, because the linebackers are destroying people.

On the Packers' second series, Stephen Cooper and Matt Wilhelm sacked Brett Favre on consecutive plays. As great as those two looked, they are still stuck in reserve roles in the team's loaded group of linebackers.

"That's what we try to do every game which is to get at the quarterback," Cooper said. "Our focus was to stop the run and I felt we did a great job doing that."

The team's front seven has been stellar since the 2004 campaign, but the defense has been help back by poor secondary play. Now, with the additions of Marlon McCree and Antonio Cromartie, this defense may no longer possess a weak link.

During the opener, McCree returned a fumble for a touchdown, although the play was negated when the Packers challenged the ruling and the call of a fumble was reversed. Cromartie came down with a game-clinching interception early in the fourth quarter.

"I just tried to keep my eyes on the receiver the whole time," Cromartie said. "That was one of my main things. In college you can maybe take your eyes off the receiver for one second but you can't do that in the NFL. When I looked up the ball was there and I came up with the interception. I just try to make plays."

The secondary will be aided by a pass rush that looks unstoppable. Steve Foley, who had 10 sacks in 2004, has had to accept the fact that he may never reach that plateau again, as he now has to race the likes of Shawne Merriman and Shaun Phillips to the quarterback.

"You know what, as long as we're playing in Miami I could care less" Foley said. "That's my main thing right now."

The way this defense is playing, earning such a trip could be a very distinct possibility.


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