Positional breakdown: Quarterback

The three-deep vision of General Manager A.J. Smith is exemplified by his team's quarterbacks. The Chargers have the ideal trio: a franchise quarterback, a veteran back-up and an intriguing young prospect. San Diego has invested heavily in the position (a No. 4 overall pick, plus third- and fifth-round selections) and hopes that the payoff comes this season.

Philip Rivers answered the bell as a first-year starter in 2006, completing 284 of 460 passes (61.7 percent) for 3,388 yards, 22 touchdowns and just nine interceptions. Additionally, he was money in the clutch, leading the league in fourth-quarter passer rating.

As good as he was last season, he should be even better in 2007. He has a full season of experience; he is working with offensive guru Norv Turner; and he has better outside weapons with the addition of Craig Davis and the development of Vincent Jackson.

"I feel a lot more comfortable in the huddle and with just the whole leadership aspect," Rivers said. "Last year, I felt like I still had a lot to earn. Now, with a year under my belt and the kind of season we had as a team, we all know together what we need to accomplish and what we can accomplish."

Holding down the No. 2 role is Billy Volek, a former part-time starter with the Tennessee Titans. During his six seasons with the Titans, Volek started 10 games and played in 14 others, completing 312 of his 517 attempts (60.3 percent) for 3,505 yards, 26 touchdowns and 13 interceptions.

Volek was acquired last year in a midseason trade, so he should be better off in 2007 with a whole offseason to get comfortable in the Chargers' offense. Volek will be a free agent after the season and is unlikely to re-sign in San Diego.

"Billy brings talent and experience, and adds depth at a very critical position," A.J. Smith said.

Once Volek departs, Charlie Whitehurst will take over as the No. 2 quarterback. The Chargers spent a first-day pick on Whitehurst in 2006 with hopes of developing him into a back-up who could keep the offense running smoothly if called upon.

Whitehurst has great poise in the pocket and the arm strength to make all the throws. His decision making and leadership skills are questionable, but he has the moxie it takes to succeed.

"There are definitely some weapons on offense, with L.T., Gates and the receivers. If I were to play, I would definitely have an opportunity to play well," Whitehurst said.

Brett Elliot is the No. 4 quarterback. Given the talent in front of him, that fact is unlikely to become relevant.

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