A.J. Smith first came to San Diego in 2001 as the team's assistant general manager. It was that year that the Chargers traded the top overall pick in the draft to the Falcons, moving down five spots to draft LaDainian Tomlinson. Of course, that coup would not have been possible had the Browns not passed on Tomlinson two spots earlier, electing to go with the underwhelming Gerard Warren instead.
"I knew they needed a running back badly," Tomlinson said. "I thought with me being available, there was a good chance of me coming to Cleveland. I never went to Cleveland for a visit and I don't think I talked to the team at the NFL Combine. I don't think there was any interest at all."
Talking the Talk
The Chargers defense may be a less explosive without Shawne Merriman on the field, but it certainly won't be any quieter. Carlos Polk is infamous for his incessant in-game banter. Marlon McCree even said after his fumble-return touchdown against the Rams that it was Polk who yelled for him to get up off the ground and attempt the runback.
Polk's journey to the starting lineup is strange one. He missed each of the last two seasons due to injury, and was primarily an inside linebacker before that. His combination of size (6 foot 2, 262 lbs.) and power should allow him do well on the outside.
"The next few weeks are very important to me," Polk said. "I am back on the field again this year and loving it, and am happy to be out there with the guys."
Browns quarterback Charlie Frye has thrown 11 interceptions in just seven games this season, tying him for the league lead in that dubious category. The Chargers secondary will do its best to capitalize on the erratic quarterback. Despite having improved 21 spots from last year in the league's pass-defense rankings, the Chargers secondary has but four interceptions on the season.
Still, the secondary must be careful not to take too many chances. Frye may not yet be a consistent passer, but his big-play ability is palpable.
"Frye is very athletic," said coach Marty Schottenheimer. "He does a good job of improvising if things don't go the way they were drawn up on the chalkboard."
What you see if what you get
When scouting the Browns defense, Philip Rivers noticed several similarities between their 3-4 alignment and that the Chargers deploy. One obvious difference, besides the talent differential, was that the Browns showed a lot less variation in their schemes.
"The looks you get aren't surprising," Rivers said. "We shouldn't have a problem of recognizing the fronts and we just have to execute."