Chargers Weekend Roundup

Norv Turner hopes his third stint as a head coach is a charm. Matt Wilhelm and Stephen Cooper anticipate picking up where their predecessors left off. Craig Davis may have the inside track on a starting position. Paul Oliver must bide his time before cracking the rotation. Catch up on all this and more in this weekend's Chargers roundup.

TRAINING CAMP GOALS

1. Coaching 'em up.

After winning two AFC West titles in three years and compiling an NFL-best regular-season mark of 14-2, Marty Schottenheimer was forced out. Enter Norv Turner, who is known for two things: being an offensive guru and a bust as an NFL head coach.

This will be Turner's third shot directing his own squad and the Chargers fans' fingers are crossed this time is the charm. In stints with the Redskins and Raiders, Turner's mark is 58-82-1.

The Chargers' brass is quick to point out those franchises produced teams not nearly as stout as the Chargers. And that assessment is right on.

Turner takes over a team that is loaded with talent on both sides of the ball. That said, Turner still needs to prove he can lead an entire team, and not just one aspect of it.

Turner, though, won't need any time making adjustments to the Chargers' high-powered offense, led by NFL MVP LaDainian Tomlinson. It was Turner, as the offensive coordinator, who installed the scheme back in 2001.

2. Getting the inside right.

The Chargers, after going 14-2, have few questions and not many positions unsettled. But that's not the case at inside linebacker, where the Chargers must find ample replacements for veterans Donnie Edwards and Randall Godfrey.

The plan is for Matt Wilhelm and Stephen Cooper, two guys who have paid their dues, to fill in for the two 12-year pros.

In short stints, Wilhelm and Cooper have done little to show they can't do the job. But filling in occasionally and doing it on a weekly basis are two different things.

It's critical Wilhelm and Cooper prove early that they are up to the task. The Chargers have a had a stout run defense for years and that helped fuel last year's showing as the top team in sacks. When the Chargers are successful on the early downs, it puts rivals in obvious passing situations which the linebackers on the edge -- Shawne Merriman and Shaun Phillips -- can take advantage of.

3. Establish a solid wide-receiver group.

While nearly every other position strikes fear into defensive coordinators, the wide receivers' spot remains a work-in-progress.

With veteran Keenan McCardell not invited back, the team turns to third-year pro Vincent Jackson as the go-to guy. Jackson has the size and speed to be a difference-maker but he has had problems avoiding injuries and playing with consistency.

The team burnt its top pick on Louisiana State's Craig Davis, hoping his ability to run after the catch will increase his productivity.

Eric Parker is the No. 3 receiver, but he first must put a disastrous showing in last season's playoff loss behind him.

CAMP CALENDAR:

July 28 -- Training camp starts at Chargers Park
Aug. 4 -- Practice and FanFest at Qualcomm Stadium
Aug. 22 -- Training camp ends

NOTES, QUOTES

--DT Jamal Williams knows what most NFL watchers realize: sacks are great, but it all starts with a solid run defense. "If you want to win in this league, you have to shut down the run game," Williams said. "It's something we take a lot of pride in."

--RB LaDainian Tomlinson won the most honors (four) at the recent ESPY Awards show.

--CB Paul Oliver seems realistic about his chances of having a significant impact his first year with the team after being selected in the fourth-round of the supplemental draft. The secondary is filled with mostly veterans. "Me going in there and competing for a (key) position might be a little far-fetched, but I expect to learn a lot from them," Oliver said.

--Kudos to the Spanos family, which owns the Chargers, for continuing to support the San Diego County prep all-star football team.

--The Chargers continue to study two cities where they can build a replacement for Qualcomm Stadium. It's between Oceanside, which is about 30 miles north of San Diego, and Chula Vista, which is about 15 miles south of San Diego.

--Veteran quarterback Trent Dilfer sees the Chargers as the model for the 49ers' offense. The 49ers have a long way to go to reach the same heights as the Chargers' offense, but Dilfer said he believes the pieces are in place.

"Like (Antonio) Gates is their No. 1, Vernon (Davis) can be that here," Dilfer said of the two tight ends. "I don't know if San Diego has a receiver like Darrell Jackson. Darrell is going to be a valuable weapon for us. In the more balanced, successful offenses, you can't pinpoint a go-to guy. It's a game-to-game thing.

"Obviously, after you get Frank (Gore) as many carries as you can, the other situations have to utilize the matchups. I think we have enough guys to have different No. 1 (receivers) throughout the season."

--Raiders offensive lineman Robert Gallery took a break from training in Alameda to attend a youth sports camp he helps put on with San Diego Chargers kicker and fellow Iowa alum Nate Kaeding.

Taking heat for being a bust as the second overall pick in the 2004 draft, he found some sympathetic faces among his college teammates, who know all about the revolving door of coaches Gallery has had at his position.

"What it comes down to is you need to find a groove," former Iowa guard Mike Goff told the Iowa Press-Citizen. "I think he's just kind of stuck in a rut right now where so many different people have told him what's going on and how they want it done. You've got some coaches who accept how you play, and some coaches who only want you to play how they want you to do it. I think if he's given free rein to do what he wants or how he did it at Iowa, he's going to be fine."

QUOTE TO NOTE: "Paul Oliver is a very competitive, aggressive, confident player. He's not cautious about anything he does on the field." -- General Manager A.J. Smith when asked about CB Paul Oliver, who was selected in the supplemental draft.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

The Chargers expect all their players to be fit and ready to go when camp opens later this month. Their biggest concern was the health of Pro Bowl linebacker Shawne Merriman after he underwent shoulder surgery in the offseason.

But it appears Merriman is OK, and will start right away in gunning for his third straight Pro Bowl appearance in his first three seasons.

The addition of cornerback Paul Oliver in the supplemental draft isn't expected to have a big impact -- not right away at least. Oliver will have to work his way up a depth chart that shows capable players in Quentin Jammer, Drayton Florence and Antonio Cromartie ahead of him.

Oliver's big chance will likely come next season, as Florence is expected to leave at season's end as a free agent.


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