Behind Enemy Lines: Chargers vs. Titans II

Our Scout.com experts, Jimmy Morris of TitansInsiders.com and Michael Lombardo of SDBoltReport.com, analyze Sunday's game between the Titans and Chargers at LP Field in Tennessee. Let's finish this two-part series with six questions from Jimmy to Michael.

Jimmy Morris: Are the Chargers convinced that Philip Rivers is their franchise quarterback?

Michael Lombardo: Yes, the Chargers are sold on Rivers despite his inconsistencies this season. The thing to remember is that Rivers is still improving, having made just 28 starts. His career numbers include a touchdown-to-interception ratio of 38-23 and a passer rating of 86.3. He has a bit of Rex Grossman in him – playing either really well or really poorly – but Rivers has a higher football IQ and better accuracy.

The Chargers' backup quarterback, former Titan Billy Volek, will be an unrestricted free agent after the season. That means 2006 third-round pick Charlie Whitehurst, who the Chargers are very high on, will move into the No. 2 spot. Whitehurst could push for playing time if Rivers doesn't progress, but I find that very unlikely. Rivers was voted into the Pro Bowl last season, and I'm confident he'll earn that honor at least twice more before it's all said and done.

JM: The Chargers seem to have gotten back on track with six wins in their past eight games. What changes have they made in those games to right the ship?

ML: The biggest problem in the Chargers' losses has been poor tackling. They allowed slant passes to turn into touchdowns of 50-plus yards in their losses to Green Bay and Kansas City. Their loss to Minnesota showcased poor tackling of historic proportions, allowing Adrian Peterson to set a new single-game record with 296 yards rushing.

The other key for the Chargers has been turnovers. They are 7-0 when the win the turnover battle and 0-5 when they don't. The defense has done a better job forcing takeaways over the last two months, led by Antonio Cromartie's league-leading eight interceptions. The Chargers lead the NFL with 20 picks and 33 total takeaways. Their plus-14 turnover differential is the second-best in the league.

JM: What has the addition of Chris Chambers meant to the Chargers' offense?

ML: Chambers' arrival has averted attention away from Antonio Gates, as the three-time Pro Bowl tight end is no longer the only threat in the passing game. Chambers has also stretched the field since arriving in San Diego, catching five passes of 20-plus yards in his six games with the Chargers. He is also a threat in the red zone because of his leaping ability and willingness to fight for the ball.

Additionally, Chambers' arrival allowed the rest of the receivers to fill more natural roles. Vincent Jackson slid back to the No. 2 position, allowing him to stop masquerading as a lead receiver. Rookie first-round pick Craig Davis moved out of the starting lineup and back into the slot, allowing him to focus on a smaller package of plays. Also, the deeper receiving corps allowed Norv Turner to ease rookie Legedu Naanee into the rotation. Naanee has since become the team's go-to receiver in short-yardage situations.

JM: If the Titans come up with a scheme to take away Antonio Gates, who would beat them in the passing game?

ML: The best receiver, other than Gates, is Tomlinson. LT is second on the team with 50 receptions, putting him on pace for his best receiving season since 2003, when he caught 100 balls. He is the most dangerous check-down in the league and has the ability to make plays out of the slot, too. He is too fast for most linebackers to cover and too allusive for most safeties to tackle in the open field.

Vincent Jackson is another player who could give the Titans some trouble. He doesn't garner the attention of Gates or Chambers, but he still has the ability to author some big games. He leads the team in yards per catch (16.2) and is second in receiving touchdowns (three). He is also a mismatch for Cortland Finnegan, as Jackson has 7 inches and 53 lbs. on the man who will attempt to cover him.

JM: How do you think the Chargers will game-plan for Vince Young? Will they blitz a lot or drop a lot of people in coverage? Will they use a spy or not?

ML: The Chargers will drop extra bodies into coverage and force Young to throw into some tight windows. The extra defensive backs will be playing zone coverage, so their eyes will be on Young at all times. The Chargers bring pressure much less often under Ted Cottrell than they did last season under Wade Phillips.

The Chargers will use a spy, although that person will change based on down and distance. In the base defense, Matt Wilhelm will likely get the call. When the team goes to its nickel and dime packages, the sure-tackling Eric Weddle will get his crack at the unenviable task.

JM: Who is the most important Charger in this game not named Tomlinson or Gates?

ML: The play of Jamal Williams should dictate whether or not the Chargers are victorious. The Titans will try to pound the ball and wear the Chargers out late in the game, and it is up to Williams to render Tennessee's rushing attack as ineffective as possible. Williams is almost always a shoe-in to do exactly that, but he faces a tough matchup with center Kevin Mawae.

If Williams can stop the Titans on early downs, it allows Shawne Merriman, Shaun Phillips and Cromartie to wreak havoc on third-and-long. If the Titans can move the chains on the ground, however, the Chargers' defense will be unable to get off the field late in the game.

Michael Lombardo is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America and a long-time contributor to the Scout.com network. He has followed the Chargers for more than 14 years and covered the team since 2003.


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