Weddle Makes His Case

Eric Weddle is gaining ground in the competition for the starting strong safety job. After intercepting Seneca Wallace in the preseason opener, Weddle was all over the field in the Chargers' 30-13 victory over the St. Louis Rams. He recorded three tackles, broke up a potential touchdown and made several contributions on special teams.

Although Clinton Hart got the starting nod, Eric Weddle played early and often. The Chargers frequently deploy three safeties in their nickel packages, so Weddle got the opportunity to play in several third-down situations.

Weddle displayed his ability to be a complete defender. His first tackle came against Brian Leonard, a 226-lb. north-and-south runner. Weddle attacked the line aggressively, broke down and tackled Leonard for a two-yard gain.

He also showed his ability to excel in coverage. With the Rams facing second-and-goal at the San Diego 7-yard line, Weddle went one-on-one with fellow rookie Derek Stanley. Weddle ran stride for stride with Stanley, trailing him across the backline before leaping to break up a Gus Frerotte offering.

The ever-versatile Weddle impacted the game in a number of other ways. He took down the shifty Marques Hagans on the first punt of the second half, limiting Hagans to 8 yards following a 56-yard punt by Mike Scifres.

Weddle made his mark on the return team, too. He fielded a Freddie Capshaw punt in the third quarter, falling on the ball amidst a crowd to ensure none of his teammates were blocked into it. That kind of heady play is rare in a rookie.

Just to make sure he had his fingerprints all over the game, he served as the holder on a successful fourth-quarter extra point attempt. The idea of Weddle supplanting Scifres as the holder is intriguing, as Weddle -- who played some running back in college -- gives the team a lot of options as far as fakes and trick plays are concerned.

It was almost a perfect night for Weddle, were it not for strong performances by his top competition. Clinton Hart intercepted Marc Bulger in the end zone, while Bhawoh Jue delivered a crushing blow to Drew Bennett.

Nonetheless, Weddle has the best chance to be in the starting line-up on opening day. He has the range, awareness and athleticism to be a difference-maker in a secondary in dire need of exactly that.


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