Lightning Quicks: Young stars spotlighted

San Diego has a plethora of young players leading its playoff charge. Those players will need to come up big this weekend as the Chargers have a chance to clinch their second AFC West title in three years. In fact, all three units – offense, defense and special teams – feature at least one young stud with plenty to prove come Sunday.

All But Two

A.J. Smith has done an excellent job in extending the contracts of young, core players. But there are two ascending stars still awaiting new contract, with both growing more expensive by the day.

One is Kris Dielman, who has become one of the game's elite in-line blockers and will be an unrestricted free agent after the season.

"Kris Dielman has played as well as any offensive lineman we have had this year," coach Marty Schottenheimer said.

The other is Shaun Phillips, a pending restricted free agent who has registered 10.5 sacks in just 10 games played.

"It seems so easy, just one sack a game," said Phillips during the offseason. "But if you do that you get 16 sacks and a trip to the Pro Bowl."

If he can keep up this torrid pace, he may be Hawaii-bound yet.

Rhythm and Flo'

In 2005, the Chargers' ranked in the league's bottom five in terms of pass defense. Currently, they sit in the top half of the rankings. Although many have credited the resurgent performance to the arrival of Marlon McCree, the primary catalyst for the turnaround has been the improved play of Drayton Florence.

Florence has three interceptions and 10 pass breakups so far this year. He sealed back-to-back wins for the Chargers in weeks 11 and 12 with clutch, fourth-quarter interceptions.

"I try to make something happen every time I get it," said Florence of his picks.

He can get in line right behind Dielman and Phillips, as his play has merited a contract extension as well.

Offense for Osgood

The Chargers could be perilously thin at receiver against the Broncos. Malcom Floyd is expected to miss the game with an ankle injury, while Keenan McCardell with be a game-time decision with a strained calf.

If McCardell is unable to go, Kassim Osgood would likely become the No. 3 receiver. Once considered to be an ascending offensive player, he now contributes almost exclusively in the kicking game and has yet to catch a pass this season. Even if his offensive role is expanded against the Broncos, he will still earn his keep on special teams.

"It's just a matter of wanting to be out there," Osgood said of his role on special teams. "It's a lot of hard work. You just have to go out there with the mindset that you're going to get downfield and make a play. You have to want to be out there and be willing to hustle."


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