What To Watch For

It'll be interesting to see coordinator Ted Cottrell unleash his defense against a quarterback who can get rattled. Cottrell, who took over for Wade Phillips, was very vanilla in his defensive packages during the summer. On Sunday, he finally gets to turn loose Shawne Merriman and Shaun Phillips in a pass-rush/blitz situation.

If the Bears' Rex Grossman doesn't get the protection or has trouble clicking on his hot reads, the Chargers defense could deliver some choice field position to an offense that can roll.

Let's see what Cottrell, in his Chargers debut, has up his sleeve for a defense with a league-best 61 sacks last year.

PLAYER PERSONNEL NOTES

--RB Darren Sproles will return punts, but Michael Turner stays on as the kickoff returner. Turner, though, is nursing a sprained ankle, which could limit his role as LaDainian Tomlinson's backup.

--LT Marcus McNeill was fighting off a cold earlier in the week but is primed for Sunday. This time last year, McNeill was entering his rookie season with a broken hand.

--CB Antonio Cromartie is the nickel back. He'll also be a key player on coverages on special teams.

--Rookie S Eric Weddle will see the field in the team's dime package, as well as special teams.

--DE Igor Olshansky said he's not worried about a groin injury that forced him out of all but the final preseason game. Olshansky is itching to play on passing downs, but the plan remains for him just playing on running downs.

--With WRs Vincent Jackson and Malcom Floyd on the first unit, it marks two new opening starters from last year. Then it was Eric Parker and Keenan McCardell.

GAME PLAN: Stop the run, stop the run! That's the mantra of the Chargers defense, and they might have a good shot of doing just that.

The Bears are offering Cedric Benson as their lead back and he's yet to prove he can churn out the yards on a consistent basis. So it's imperative the Chargers don't let him get untracked and here's why: If the Chargers are good on the running downs, it sets up obvious passing situations in which they can exploit a jittery Grossman.

If the Chargers know Grossman has to pass, they can unleash their pass rush, which led the NFL last year with 61 sacks. The combination of Grossman's lack of making wise decisions and his knack for getting flustered coupled with the push generated by NT Jamal Williams and the speed coming around the edges from Merriman and Phillips is something the Chargers want to hang their hat on.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH: Chargers NT Jamal Williams, who has been selected to the last two Pro Bowls, vs. Bears C Olin Kreutz, who is every bit as nasty as he is good. Williams is among the keys, really, to this game. If Williams can occupy Kreutz and one other lineman on running downs, that will open up the tacking lanes for the linebackers. And if Williams can supply the push up the middle and make the pocket collapse, that opens up sack opportunities for Merriman and Phillips. But Kreutz is far from a pushover, which makes this an enticing matchup.

--Chargers CBs Quentin Jammer and Drayton Florence vs. Bears wideouts Bernard Berrian and Devin Hester. Jammer and Florence have to avoid biting too hard on the wideouts' first moves, so not to get hit with a second move that allows them to run down field. The Chargers got burned more than once in the preseason on deep balls. Jammer and Florence said it was no big thing and things would change once the games started to count. This is their chance to show the summer slip-ups were just aberrations.

--Pro Bowl special teamer Kassim Osgood vs. Hester on kick and punt returns. Osgood is good, but he can't stop Hester on his own. But he must lead the way in trying to find a way to slow down the speedy Hester -- he had seven kick or punt returns, including the Super Bowl -- for touchdowns last year. Osgood, as well as speedster Antonio Cromartie, must stay true to their lanes and responsibilities or Hester will find his extra gear and not stop running until reaching the end zone.

INJURY IMPACT: WR Eric Parker is out for likely the first month after toe surgery. Malcom Floyd replaces him in the starting lineup.


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