What's Wrong with the Chargers?

As the first quarter of the season draws to a close, the Chargers find themselves alone in the AFC West cellar. This is quite the wakeup call for a team that won the division last season by a five-game margin. So why is this year's team struggling out of the gates? SDBoltReport.com offers five reasons the eyebrow-raising regression.

A Fish Out of Water

Norv Turner was not hired because he was the most capable fish in the coaching pool. He was hired to maintain continuity on a team squarely pointed in the right direction. If A.J. Smith wanted to maintain continuity, he should have been decisive in his decision-making and replaced Marty Schottenheimer with Wade Phillips as soon as the 2006 season came to an end. Phillips is an excellent teacher -- just asked the undefeated Dallas Cowboys -- and would have never allowed his defense slip to the point where it's allowing more than 350 yards per game.

Turner has disappointed as a play-caller. After giving LaDainian Tomlinson 14 carries in the first half and watching him run for 116 yards, he gave No. 21 just six carries after intermission. The Chargers went into the half with a 10 point lead. That is when good coaches ride an MVP running back and shorten the game. Instead, Turner put the ball in the hands of Philip Rivers, who had missed on nine of his final 11 passes in the first half.

The Regression of Rivers

Rivers enjoyed oodles of success as a rookie. He threw for 3,388 yards, 22 touchdowns and just nine interceptions; he won 14 games and was invited to the Pro Bowl; and he led the league in fourth-quarter passer rating. All of the success convinced Rivers that he had arrived as a top NFL quarterback…maybe he should reconsider.

Rivers is trying to make Brett Favre-type plays with J.P. Losman-type talent. His first turnover was an interception, as he forced a throw to Davis despite the pocket collapsing on top of him. His final turnover was a lost fumble, his third of the season, as he failed to protect the ball with two hands. And his worst play, a missed outlet to Tomlinson on third-and-5 in the closing minutes, was the result of trying to do too much instead of taking what the defense allows.

Sometimes, It's Better to Receive

The Chargers released 37-year-old Keenan McCardell and lost Eric Parker to a toe injury. Although neither player broke the scoring plane last season, both were precise route runners who earned Rivers' trust outside the hashes. In their stead is third-year pro Vincent Jackson and rookie Craig Davis.

Jackson has respectable numbers on the season (13 catches, 179 yards and one touchdown) but has been streaky. He often looks disinterested in coming back for the ball and drops too many passes -- such as the near touchdown he bumbled late in the game against the Chiefs. Davis has been relegated to short receptions, averaging just 7.7 yards per catch. Part of that can be attributed to his inexperience, although fellow rookie and former teammate Dwayne Bowe seems to be making the transition just fine.

Safety Valves Turned Off

Of the 10 players in the Chargers' secondary, eight were with the team last season. The two new faces are second-round pick Eric Weddle and supplemental pick Paul Oliver. Weddle's defensive contributions have been limited to dime packages and Oliver has yet to escape the inactive list. The rookies stepped into the spots vacated by Terrence Kiel and Bhawoh Jue, who combined for 68 tackles, seven pass break-ups, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery last season.

Kiel has been replaced in the starting line-up by Clinton Hart, who has better ball skills but is inconsistent and a poor tackler. Jue was limited last season by the lingering effects of microfracture surgery. In 2005, Jue started 14 games and led the secondary with three interceptions. Jue was healthy during training camp but was released in favor of Steve Gregory, who was given the final spot in the secondary.

Starving for a Sack Lunch

New defensive coordinator Ted Cottrell has a bad reputation for playing lax and allowing opposing offenses to dictate the pace of the game. That trait has been apparent and costly during his short time in San Diego, as the Chargers are on pace to finish the season with 36 sacks, 25 fewer than last season. This can be explained in part by fewer blitzes up the middle. In 2006, the inside linebackers combined for 7½ sacks. No inside 'backer has taken down a quarterback this season.

Cottrell needs to learn his personal and deploy them more creatively. For example, slide Shawne Merriman inside and send Shaun Phillips and Marques Harris off the edges on third downs. Another option is sending Marlon McCree or Antonio Cromartie from the slot position –- neither player can tackle a receiver, so maybe they should try their luck with quarterbacks.

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