Parker continues to get it done

Eric Parker's ascent up the depth chart has been nothing short of amazing. An undrafted free agent in 2002, he has more receptions (24) and yards (369) than any other receiver on the Chargers 2006 squad. He leads the team in yards per catch (15.4) and averages a very healthy 10 yards per punt return.

In scouting Parker during the Rams game, it quickly became apparent that he is one of the league's most underrated pass-catchers. He runs disciplined and crisp routes and knows exactly where he wants to go after the catch. That comes from his terrific understanding of opposing defenses; he understands how to find soft spots in the defense and knows where defenders are coming from after he's secured the catch.

Parker finished the Rams game with four receptions for 56 yards.

He did have one drop midway through the second quarter, but he redeemed himself with numerous big plays.

"He said, ‘I wont let you down' and I said, ‘I know. I am coming back to you,'" quarterback Philip Rivers said. "I am going to throw them bad too."

On the game's opening drive he went over the middle and made a leaping 16-yard reception on third-and-12. On a third-and-4 early in the fourth quarter, he came through again with a clutch 22-yard grab.

"We saw they were going to bring pressure and one-on-one on the outside," Parker began of his first conversion. "Philip put it where it needed to be."

But his best effort came on a play seen by most as a disappointment. Facing a fourth-and-4 in the second quarter, Rivers dropped back against a fierce Rams blitz and was forced to go to his hot read, Parker. Although he couldn't quite pick up the first down, Parker spun out of one tackle, shrugged off another and dove forward to pick up as much yardage as possible. It is that kind of effort that makes him such a well-respected player.

"He is a guy you trust and a guy you know where he is going to be," Rivers added.

The 6-foot, 180-lb. Parker does more than just catch footballs. He is a surprisingly effective blocker, although he is usually replaced by Malcom Floyd in obvious running situations. Also, he uses his precise route running to free up space for the likes of Antonio Gates and Keenan McCardell underneath.

Parker's contributions on special teams cannot be overlooked, either. He was not even expected to return punts this season, with Darren Sproles set to handle that chore until a broken ankle derailed his season prematurely. Parker has since fielded the second-most punts in the league and has yet to mishandle a kick.

Parker is not a flawless player. He tends to run backwards too often as he tries to make something out of nothing and is hardly an overwhelming physical specimen. That being said, if the Chargers could find ten more like him they would have themselves a dynasty that would make the Patriots jealous.

Next week, when the Chargers host the Cleveland Browns, we will analyze the performance of safety Bhawoh Jue.

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