Inside Job: Ron Rivera Making a Difference

While most linebacker attention was directed toward Shawne Merriman and Antwan Applewhite during Monday's full-pad practice, former Chicago Bears defensive coordinator and new inside linebackers coach Ron Rivera focused on helping Matt Wilhelm and Stephen Cooper prepare for their ascensions into starting line-up.

Soon after the Bears announced Rivera's three-year contract as defensive coordinator would not be extended, the Chargers bolted on him. Many in the league thought he was a choice candidate for a head coaching position, but that goal will have to wait for the member of Chicago's 1986 Super Bowl Champions team. San Diego has him in ink for two years, and he is three days into camp in America's finest city.

Rivera takes on the Chargers' young inside linebacker unit. He may have taken a lesser position, but San Diego is thrilled to have an overqualified coach working to make the new starting inside linebackers as dominant as the outside tandem.

Wilhelm and Cooper both join the first team in their fifth seasons in the NFL. The Chargers lost both of their starting inside linebackers from last season; Donnie Edwards signed with the Kansas City Chiefs and Randall Godfrey remains unsigned and is considering retirement. Rivera's young unit also includes two of San Diego's draft picks, third-round selection Anthony Waters and seventh-round pick Brandon Siler. Last year's fifth-round pick, Tim Dobbins, will also be taken under Rivera's wing.

On the field, Rivera took his inside linebackers away from the group and ran blocking drills. He was interactive and physical with the players. Clearly, he is a "this is how it's done" type of coach.

Rivera had a lot of face time with his new starting duo. Wilhelm utilized his coach's experience, as throughout practice the fifth-year pro out of Ohio State asked a lot of questions. The fans appears eager to see what Wilhelm can do. He is stronger and taller than the man he replaces, but fans want to know if he can cover.

Wilhelm contributed to a powerful defensive effort during the eleven-on-eleven session. Cooper also appeared to belong on the first team as he provided tight coverage against Darren Sproles, Scott Chandler, and Kassim Osgood.

Lightning Quicks: Danny Murphy is also covering training camp for, posting his comments exclusively on the Premium Message Board. Subscribers can click here to read his articles!

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