Five to Watch: Chargers vs. Browns

The Chargers carry a long winning streak and an equally lengthy injury list into their game against the Browns. Here's a look at the five players who must step up to keep the former trend intact.

1. RB LaDainian Tomlinson - Tomlinson is still seeking his first 100-yard game of the season. If it doesn't come Sunday against the Browns, it may not happen. The Browns rank No. 29 against the run, allowing nearly 160 yards per game at an average of 4.6 yards per attempt. Tomlinson will be highly motivated to come through with a big game, as he's just 55 yards short of passing Browns icon Jim Brown for eighth place on the all-time rushing list.

The Chargers will show a strong commitment to the ground game. Norv Turner would like nothing more than to control time of possession and keep his battered defense off the field as much as possible.

2. WR Vincent Jackson - Jackson has cooled down after his torrid start to the season. He averaged 95 yards per game over the first seven weeks but less than 38 yards per game in the four weeks since. He's also gone three games without a score.

Look for the Chargers to get Jackson going in Cleveland, especially deep down the field. The Browns rank No. 26 in big plays allowed (37) and No. 24 in overall pass defense (233.4 yards per game). Also, the Browns' secondary is in flux after losing safety Brodney Pool to a season-ending head injury last week.

3. DL Vaughn Martin - With Luis Castillo out again with a calf injury, Martin figures to be active for just the sixth time this season. He has struggled for much of the season as he makes the big transition from Western Ontario (Canada) to the NFL, but he's done better as of late as the team has used him only in certain packages where he's most comfortable.

The best-case scenario against the Browns would be for the Chargers to blow the game open by the second half. This would allow Martin to expand his body of work and get some invaluable game experience.

4. OLB Larry English - English will make his first start in place of Shawne Merriman, who will miss the game with a foot injury. The extended playing time with give English a chance to break out of a mini funk, as he's gone six games without a sack.

English should get plenty of opportunities to get off the schneid in Cleveland. The Browns have given up the 12th most sacks in the league (25) despite having the fifth-fewest passing attempts.

5. FS Paul Oliver - Oliver will make his third start of the season but his first as part of the base defense. He fills in for Eric Weddle, who is out with a knee injury.

Oliver has been a key figure in San Diego's six-game winning streak. During that stretch, he's posted an interception, a sack and a pair of pass breakups. He's also averaged four tackles a game over the last four weeks, a number he's sure to exceed on Sunday thanks to his expanded role.

Michael Lombardo is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America and a long-time contributor to the network. His analysis has been published by the NFL Network, Fox Sports and MySpace Sports. He has followed the Chargers for more than 15 years and covered the team since 2003. You can see more of his updates by following him on twitter.

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