The Chargers aren't sure who they'll trot out at right cornerback, with rookie Marcus Gilchrist fresh from getting burned on Monday night, or Antoine Cason, semi-fresh from getting beat for three touchdowns by Plaxico Burress. Regardless of who starts, the Packers' multi-receiver sets will force both of them into action. The key, really, is the Chargers presenting a pass rush to pester Rodgers, who has thrown 20 touchdowns against only three interceptions. But the Chargers' pass rush likely will be missing its best player in OLB Shaun Phillips and the team has generated little heat from anywhere else. They're tied for 26th with just three sacks. The wild card is safety Eric Weddle, who is tied for the NFL lead with five interceptions. "He's a good player," receiver James Jones said. "He's making a lot of plays for them. He's their quarterback back there and gets their guys set up. He's not a guy that we're saying we're going to throw away from him or something like that. We're going to run our offense. Hopefully, we make the plays and he doesn't."
Jammer, a 10th-year pro, lives up to his surname by not backing down from getting up on a receiver at the line of scrimmage and pressing the coverage. The quality of depth the Packers have at receiver won't allow Jammer to try to wear down just one guy on his side of the field. Jennings, Nelson and Jones rotate from side to side when they're flanked out. The terrific trio has combined for 85 catches, nearly 1,500 yards and 12 touchdowns this season. "He's such a complete player," Chargers coach Norv Turner said of Rodgers. "He can make all the throws. He obviously can buy time to help guys get open. He's such a good athlete, he can run if something breaks down. And then the biggest thing, and it's obviously by great design in terms of system and he makes it work, they get so many people involved, use so many different groups and get so many people involved that it's hard to nail it down."
Packers run defense vs. Chargers RB Mike Tolbert
Ryan Mathews is nursing a groin injury and he could be down this week. Even if he goes, Mathews hasn't finished the past three games because of various injuries. That means Tolbert will need to carry the load and he might be a heavy one with Curtis Brinkley only cleared on Friday from a concussion. The Packers offer the massive man in the middle, B.J. Raji, and he might be in for a big game with LG Kris Dielman out with a concussion. "You watch this Tolbert run and you better bring it when you tackle him because he's like a bowling ball," defensive coordinator Dom Capers said of the 5-foot-9, 243-pounder. "He'll take it to you if you don't take it to him. One of the things I've always felt about Norv is he's got a stronger commitment to the running game than most people. That's the basis of their offense. You see a lot of big plays off their play-action passing game. What sets that up is if they can establish the run. They have a good commitment to running the football."
The Chargers have allowed 418 rushing yards in the past three games, thanks to a thin and inexperience defensive line that is not keeping the blockers off the linebackers. The Packers' running game hasn't struck fear into too many defenses — but when you have Rodgers, what's the point? Then again, the Packers running game must be brimming with optimism after running out the clock against the Vikings' vaunted run defense before the bye. "Offensively, we looked at a stat today that was pretty alarming, mostly in the run game," left guard T.J. Lang said. "We had a really high number of negative runs. That's pretty uncharacteristic of us. But that's one thing we want to focus on. We want to be able to run the ball better and be a more balanced team, so we're not always relying on the pass. For us O-linemen, I think that's our biggest focus is getting better production out of the run game." If the Chargers can at least get Rodgers in some third-and-longs by winning on the early downs, they can insert additional defensive backs to try and slow Rodgers down. It's not much, but the Chargers will take any advantage they can get.
With the anticipated return of nickel back Sam Shields to the lineup after he missed a game because of a concussion, Woodson can return to his customary spot of being a rover in the slot or freelancing over the middle. Capers has matched Woodson against playmaking tight ends in the past, so having the NFL's interceptions leader (five) shadow Gates wouldn't be surprising. "It wouldn't surprise me," Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers said. "This defensive group is so diverse in what they do. You look all the way back to Carolina and Woodson follows Steve Smith around and didn't spend too much time playing in the slot. In the past, all the way back to his Oakland days, he followed Gates around some. I know it's a different defense, different team but certainly there's some familiarity there." It would be an intriguing battle of guys with Michigan ties — Gates as a Detroit native and Woodson as a Heisman Trophy winner at Michigan. The 6-foot-4, 260-pound Gates has overwhelmed the Packers in their two previous meetings, producing 100-yard receiving games in both, including 11 catches for 113 yards in the most recent encounter in 2007 at Green Bay. Gates has played well the last two times out for the Chargers after being out for three games because of foot injury, totaling nine receptions for 127 yards and a touchdown.
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