SCOUTING REPORT

The San Diego Chargers weren't expected to do much this season after dropping their last nine last season to finish at 5-11. But under first-year coach Marty Schottenheimer, the Chargers have been one of the surprise teams in the league.

The Chargers have put together a 7-3 mark through 10 games that currently stands at the best in the AFC along with Denver.

And they have done it using pretty much the same formula as the Dolphins.

The Chargers have used solid defense and a strong running game to turn things around this season, and running back LaDainian Tomlinson has led the resurgence.

Tomlinson arrives in Miami as the NFL's rushing leader, despite playing behind a no-name offensive line that starts two rookies — Jason Ball at center and Toniu Fonoti at guard.

The fifth overall pick in the 2001 draft, Tomlinson is a tremendously shifty runner who is a threat to break a long one anytime he touches the ball.

San Diego also has used wide receiver Tim Dwight on reverses about once a game, usually with pretty good results.

The passing game isn't great, but quarterback Drew Brees has come through in the clutch a couple of times for the Chargers this season.

The main threat at wide receiver is former Bears first-round pick Curtis Conway, who has somewhat inconsistent hands but a lot of speed.

On defense, the Chargers have given up a lot of yards, but they usually have stiffened up inside the red zone.

San Diego has some big-name talent on defense, starting with linebacker Junior Seau.

But he's far from alone on that defense. Middle linebacker Donnie Edwards leads the team in tackles and probably is headed to the Pro Bowl.

Strong safety Rodney Harrison is a former Pro Bowl player who is among the biggest hitters in the league. Marcellus Wiley and Raylee Johnson are two very good pass rushers from the defensive end position.

One of the most unheralded member of the defense is tackle Jamal Williams, who is a big reason the Chargers rank third in the league at stopping the run.

Despite all the talent, the Chargers gave up over 400 yards to each of their last three opponents — the Jets, Rams and 49ers.

The Chargers special teams have been a problem all season, with Darren Bennett getting punts blocked against both Denver and Kansas City.

Tamarick Vanover returned to the NFL to bolster the kick return game, but he was so bad the Chargers finally decided to release him.

The Chargers have reluctantly started to use Dwight again as a punt returner, something they didn't want to do now that he's starting at wide receiver. He's a dangerous returner, as is new kickoff returner Ronney Jenkins.

One thing about Schottenheimer that hasn't changed from his days in Cleveland and Kansas City is the fact that he remains very conservative. This is not a guy who likes to take gamble, whether it be going for it on fourth-and-short or throwing the ball very often once the Chargers are in field goal position.

But he's a tremendous motivator, and his methods obviously have produced great results in San Diego.


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