Breaking Down the Bolts: Quarterbacks

With the draft now complete and free agency all but over, the Chargers have assembled the roster the roster they will carry into 2008. Jaime Cattano begins an eight-part series analyzing each position on what many consider to be the most complete team in the NFL. Up first is the QB spot, which is the realization of A.J. Smith's three-deep dream.

Projected Starter

Less than four months of having the ligament in his right knee replaced, Philip Rivers displayed his toughness and perseverance at the Chargers mini camp. His speedy recovery has come with a quickness that no one had quite anticipated.

After leading the Bolts to the AFC Championship last season, Rivers confirmed that his 19 completed passes in 37 attempts for 211 yards against the New England Patriots had been performed on a shredded ACL.

While Rivers was determined to be ready for training camp, his hard work has paid off and clearly he has given rehab his full attention. With limited participation, Rivers showcased his strikingly quick recovery last week but is aware of his body's boundaries.

"But I've been smart. I really have. I'm not going to do anything silly that can cause a setback for me and potentially hurt the team," he said.

Rivers started in all 16 games last season and completed 277 of 460 passes (60.2 percent) for 3,152 yards. He added his first career rushing touchdown to complement 21 scoring strikes through the air.

Hot Competition


QB Billy Volek
Andy Lyons/Getty

Eight-year veteran Billy Volek signed a three-year contract with the Bolts in February, providing extra insurance in case Rivers fails to regain his game. A.J. Smith is enthused that Volek will be with the Bolts for a few more years.

"We are very excited to have Billy back. It gives us continuity at the quarterback position. He is always prepared and ready. With his talent, experience and command of our offense, it's just a great feeling to know he is in the wings."

Volek's eagerness and talent was fully appreciated after Rivers stepped out in the divisional playoffs last season. With both fans and players hesitant about his ability to perform, Volek squashed any doubters' concerns. Volek stepped onto the field during the fourth quarter to replace the injured Rivers, marking a smashing showing against the Indianapolis Colts. He led the Bolts on an eight-play, 78-yard game-winning touchdown drive.

Expected to run the offense for the majority of the offseason, Volek's field time coincides with Rivers' recuperation. Volek's contribution to star as the primary signal-caller could be within reasonable reach. Rivers anticipates a return before training camp but, of course, there is never a guarantee with an athlete's recovery. Volek maintains active mental and physical preparations, equipped to be summoned once again next season.

Left Behind

While the draft approached, there was suspicion that Charlie Whitehurst was on the trading block in order to help the Bolts acquire an extra pick in the earlier rounds. Whether the point was pushed, it didn't pan out. Whitehurst will now bide his time and wait for his rookie contract to run out so he can find the starting role he believes he deserves.

"I can perform when my number is called and I am very confident in that," Whitehurst said.

Whitehurst has a good arm and a great ability to push the ball down the field, but he lacks experience. He proves unpredictable at times and turns the ball over too much, which could be a result of his lack of concentration and his indecisive nature. The combination Whitehurst exudes will keep him glued to Norv Turner's side, alerting Rivers of the coach's play decisions via headset.

New Face

The newest face to join the quarterback cluster is Casey Bramlet. After spending more than a year on the Miami Dolphins practice squad and then finally added to the active roster towards the end of last season, he was released from the Dolphins in April. The Bolts snagged Bramlet the day after off waivers from the Dolphins.

While Bramlet will be the fourth quarterback on the Bolts' roster, his addition will be useful considering Rivers is still on the mend. There is no need to assume the Bolts have lost confidence in Whitehurst, though. Bramlet arrives from a team that finished at the bottom of the totem pole last season and still has to prove he is worth more than a wooden nickel.


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