Chargers Welcome Back their Anchor

Defensive tackle Jamal Williams practiced for the second straight day and that's good news for the Chargers. Not so, maybe, for Sunday's wildcard playoff opponent, the Tennessee Titans.

The Chargers' three-time Pro Bowler didn't play in the final two regular-season games, resting a sore ankle and hip. But he's looked keen the past two days and that is oh-so-big for the Chargers.

"That's huge," linebacker Shawne Merriman said.

The visiting Titans figure to stick to the ground if hoping to upset the No. 3-seeded Chargers. If quarterback Vince Young is fit, and if LenDale While and Chris Brown can get going, the Titans have a shot.

But that shot is diminished with the massive Jamal Williams in the middle, anchoring the Chargers' run defense.

If Williams is fit and the Chargers can contain the Titans on the running downs, it opens up the pass rush for the Pro Bowler Merriman and teammates.

"I can put my ears back," said Merriman, who has a team high 12.5 sacks. "And I would appreciate that."

Titans center Kevin Mawae would have to tangle with the 6-foot-3, 348-pound Williams.

"The thing about Jamal is that he's such a big human being that unless you're in the perfect position you're not going to be able to stop him," said Mawae, a six-time Pro Bowler who didn't practice Thursday with a calf injury. "He does a great job of holding the point of attack and playing his gaps and things like that.

"His forte is size and bulk and strength and holding the gap. Mine is quickness and leverage, so I think it's a good matchup for both of us."

A good game from Williams helps the Chargers' chances of moving on to Indianapolis the following week.


--OLB Shaun Phillips worked again with a sprained wrist. Phillips didn't think it would hamper him much Sunday. Phillips' game is about speed, so it's more important his legs are fit.

--CB Antonio Cromartie collected four interceptions in December and was named the AFC Defensive Player of the Month. Cromartie's NFL-high 10 interceptions set a Chargers single-season mark.

--LB Jyles Tucker, an undrafted free agent signed in the offseason, was named the AFC Defensive Player of the Week. Tucker led the defense with four tackles, a career-high three sacks, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery for a touchdown as the Chargers defeated Oakland 30-17.

--K Nate Kaeding rested his sore left leg and didn't work Thursday. He's still expected to handle the place-kicking with Dave Rayner doing the kickoffs.

--LB Marques Harris had full participation. He's coming off hand surgery and didn't play in the regular-season finale.

--FB Lorenzo Neal (leg) didn't work and is out for Sunday. He has an outside chance of going the following week if the Chargers can advance.

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