McCree's leadership to be tested

When the Chargers signed Marlon McCree this offseason, the idea was that his skills as both a playmaker and a leader would allow the team's talented but underachieving secondary to gel. The results through two games look good, with the Chargers boasting the league's top-ranked pass defense.

McCree's leadership abilities will be tested like never before this week, as the team will be without starting strong safety Terrence Kiel and top reserve Bhawoh Jue.

There should not be too precipitous a drop off as far as first-team talent is concerned. Clinton Hart – who started five games last season – is more than capable of holding his own. He is an aggressive player who knows how to get his hands on the ball, as evidenced by the two defensive touchdowns he scored last season.

The challenge will come in smoothly integrated him into the defense.

The turmoil in the Chargers secondary is something of which the Ravens are well aware.

"It's a bad situation," said Ravens wide receiver Derrick Mason. "I know that once Sunday comes they will put that behind them, and if he (Kiel) can't play somebody else will fill that space."

It will be up to McCree, the quarterback of the secondary, to make sure everybody is on the same page. Although the Ravens are known for their defense, their wide receivers are nearly as impressive. Derrick Mason has been to multiple Pro Bowls, while Mark Clayton is a former first-round pick who is just now coming into his own. McCree & Co. cannot afford to regress against this group.

Success in this game will be about more than limiting yardage, however. The contest is expected to be a defensive struggle, so the Chargers will have to come up with turnovers if they hope to win. It will be up to McCree to put his players in position to make some plays on the ball.

"We put in a lot of work, a lot of extra time out there to watch tape," he said. "It is only a sign of what is to come. We got our hands on some balls and should end up pretty good in that column there."

The team is counting on a strong showing from its secondary in this showdown of the league's defensive elite. The secondary is faced with a particularly daunting task, seeing as the team's third cornerback is a rookie (Antonio Cromartie), and its third safety was unemployed less than a week ago (Andre Lott). If McCree can get this group to play with no discernable drop off, he will likely earn his team a victory and preserve its spot atop the defensive rankings.

"We will see on Sunday who has the best (defense)," McCree said. "You will see two teams with two of the top two defenses in the league. You can't deny Baltimore and Baltimore can't deny that we have a defense as well."

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