Cesaire not up to snuff

It wasn't supposed to be this way. The Chargers run defense had been remarkable to date. Take away a key component of the defense, however, and add a dose of Larry Johnson and doom was spelled.

This week's scouting report was supposed to analyze the play of Igor Olshansky. However, Olshansky missed the game with a knee injury, so his replacement, Jacques Cesaire, was tossed under the microscope. That's too bad, because Cesaire & Co. looked even worse up close.

The Chargers, widely recognized as one of the league's stingiest defenses against the run, were dominated by a Chiefs offensive line featuring two tackles who were pegged for reserve roles heading into the season. Larry Johnson ran for 132 yards and two touchdowns, and Cesaire deserves as much blame for that as anybody else.

"We certainly needed to get someone who can step in there and get us some quality snaps," head coach Marty Schottenheimer began. "Jacques Cesaire can do that for us."

Cesaire spent most of the game lined head-up on Chiefs tackle Jordan Black. Cesaire appeared overpowered at the point of attack, failing to push his man back into the backfield as the powerful Olshansky so often does.

The disappointing performance wasn't just about the plays he didn't make. The few times Cesaire did hear his number called, it was because penalties were being called against him. He was flagged for holding on special teams during the opening kickoff, negating a terrific return by Michael Turner and costing his team 34 yards in field position. He was also flagged for encroachment early in the second quarter.

Perhaps the most disappointing play for Cesaire came later on that same second-quarter drive. With the Chiefs facing third-and-five from the San Diego 11-yard line, Kansas City ran Johnson right at Cesaire. He was unable to disengage from his block, losing outside containment and allowing Johnson an easy score. If the Chargers could have forced a field goal there, it would have cost the Chiefs four points, which could have altered the outcome of the game.

The Chiefs ran the majority of their plays in Cesaire's direction. Even on several plays designed to go up the middle, Johnson bounced out to the left side and went right around the 295-lb. lineman. Despite all the action going his way, Cesaire finished the game with just two tackles.

It should be pointed out that such a lackluster performance is an atypical thing for Cesaire. He is normally a disciplined overachiever who plays well within the defense. His letdown in Kansas City is hopefully no more than an ill-timed aberration, albeit a costly one.

"The one quality - his foot agility and ability to stay on his feet," added Schottenheimer. "Jacques is seldom knocked on the ground."

"I'm very impressed after watching him play," Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Bill Cowher added of his play in the Chargers win over his squad earlier this year. "He's a very, very active player."

Olshansky is expected to miss at least two more games, so Cesaire will have a chance to redeem himself. He may lose some time to second-year man Derreck Robinson, who seems to be an ascending player – but the starting position should remain his for now. Hopefully, he will do a bit more with it in his next opportunity.

Next week, when the Chargers host the St. Louis Rams, we will analyze the play of wide receiver Eric Parker.

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