Can the Chargers win in the trenches?

The Chargers will trot out the same offensive line for the second consecutive game. Meanwhile, the defensive line will be without Luis Castillo for at least one more week.


The Chargers will trot out the same offensive line for the second consecutive game, a bit of a rarity this year because of injuries and ineffective play.

RT Jeromey Clary graded out well enough in his first game as a starter last week after replacing Shane Olivea. And C Nick Hardwick, while still hobbling on a sore foot, will go again Sunday.

Ryon Bingham likely will see more action at defense end with Jacques Cesaire rebounding from a thumb surgery Monday. Bingham has played well of late, as has Cesaire while they make up for the absence of Luis Castillo (ankle).


--TE Antonio Gates needs three touchdown catches to reach 45 and tie TE Kellen Winslow for the fourth-most in team history.

--OLB Shawne Merriman had his 10th career multi-sack game against the Chiefs last week. The Chargers are 9-1 in those 10 games.

--RB LaDainian Tomlinson is getting 41.3 percent of the offensive touches, his highest total since 2003.

--WR Vincent Jackson is looking to get hot down the stretch, much the way he did last year. Jackson, who had a scoring catch in the win over the Chiefs, had three touchdown receptions in the team's final four 2006 games.

--P Mike Scifres has had 23 of his past 37 attempts land inside his opponents' 20-yard-line.

--C Nick Hardwick is coming off one of his best games of the season. While rusty in his first game after missing four contests two weeks ago, Hardwick played at a Pro Bowl-level in Kansas City.


Time for QB Philip Rivers to have a game he can hang his hat on.

While the Chargers needed only 10 completions from him in last week's win when relying on the running game, the sledding figures to be tougher this week. With DT Albert Haynesworth back wrecking havoc in the middle, the Titans probably will live up to their No. 7 ranking in stopping the run.

So turn to Rivers, after an early dose of LaDainian Tomlinson. Go with the play-action for the deep balls to Chris Chambers and Vincent Jackson, and get Antonio Gates more involved after a Sunday showing of just one catch.


The interior of the Chargers' defensive line, with DT Jamal Williams, vs. the front line of the Titans, with C Kevin Mawae -- Much of this game will be decided between these two Pro Bowlers. Mawae will be looking to clear some room by clearing out Williams, which few people are able to do. If Mawae isn't successful, the Chargers will have a better chance of shutting down the run, especially if the Titans lean on RB LenDale White. The bruising White makes his yards between the tackles and will be expecting Mawae to open up something in the middle. But that is easier said than done against the immovable Williams.

The Chargers' pass rush, with OLBs Shawne Merriman and Shaun Phillips, vs. Titans QB Vince Young -- The Chargers have been getting after quarterbacks of late, proof positive being the eight sacks they collected last week in Kansas City. They also were successful the preceding week against the Ravens. But know this: The Chargers got fat off immobile quarterbacks such as K.C.'s Damon Huard and Baltimore's Kyle Boller. On Sunday they will chase Young, who moves more than Huard and Boller could ever dream of. Merriman, who had three sacks last week and leads the team with 9 1/2, and Phillips, will have to be careful not to overrun the pocket or Young will just step up and scamper away. Young's shifty style could take some of the steam out of Merriman and Phillips tearing after the quarterback. They will have to be more cautious than they have been the past two weeks.

The left side of the Chargers' offensive line, with G Kris Dielman and T Marcus McNeill, vs. the right side of the Titans' defensive line, with DT Albert Haynesworth and DE Kyle Vanden Bosch -- Dielman and McNeill will have their hands full with Haynesworth and Vanden Bosch. Haynesworth is the immovable force in the middle, and Vanden Bosch has a motor that is always revved. What makes this interesting is that the Chargers are a predominantly left-side running team. But will that stay true if they keep getting stopped by Haynesworth and Vanden Bosch? McNeill, one week after mixed results against the Chiefs' Jared Allen, will be asked to play to his Pro Bowl status. Dielman, who is playing better after battling a sore knee, will have to prove he's worth that huge offseason contract he signed. Don't be surprised if TE Brandon Manumaleuna is attached to McNeill's hip for some additional help and if LG Mike Goff will be pulling over to that side with regularity.


--DT Jamal Williams (ankle) didn't practice Wednesday. He will play Sunday.

--RB Darren Sproles (knee) didn't work Wednesday. He should play Sunday.

--C Nick Hardwick is battling a sore foot after playing the last two weeks after missing a month of Sundays. He will play Sunday.

--OLB Shawne Merriman was limited in his Wednesday work due to a tender calf. He will go Sunday.

--DE Luis Castillo (ankle) will miss two more weeks.

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