Michael Lombardo, SDBoltReport.com: Despite rumors to the contrary, there is no chance of Schottenheimer being fired. The team owners, the Spanos family, place a high value on continuity. After years of shuffling coaches and losing records, the team is now happy just to be an annual playoff contender. Playoff success would be icing on the cake, but compared to where this team was just five years ago, this organization has come a long way and would be reluctant to jeopardize this run of success.
Doug Farrar: Philip Rivers has been a revelation, for the most part, in his first year as an NFL starter. How much of this is attributable to him, and how much to the system that also allowed Drew Brees to succeed? What are the differences between Brees and Rivers?
Michael Lombardo: Much of the success that Rivers has enjoyed this season – and that Brees enjoyed in years past – is due to the system. Cam Cameron is an offensive innovator who knows how to free up his stars. Antonio Gates is the ultimate security blanket and third-down crutch, and there is no check-down receiver more dangerous than Tomlinson.
Rivers is a taller quarterback than Brees and has better vision downfield, allowing him to better protect the ball. Brees, however, has a better understanding of opposing defenses and is more willing to squeeze passes into tight coverage, which can be a good and bad thing. Obviously, both are supremely talented and will be successful for a long time.
Doug Farrar: Of course, this team revolves around LaDainian Tomlinson, the best running back in the NFL. This guy doesn't seem to have a weak spot - he'll catch 100 passes one year, and shatter the single-season touchdown record in another. Are there any chinks in the armor? Is there anything Tomlinson does at a sub-standard level? What's his Kryptonite?
Michael Lombardo: Of all Tomlinson’s assets, he relies on his quickness the most. He uses a lot of jump cuts behind the line of scrimmage to make the initial defender miss. Because of that, he struggles when going against exceptionally fast defenses. That means teams such as the Colts and Bears could present problems for San Diego during the postseason. But given the tear he’s on right now, there may be no stopping him.
Doug Farrar: Aside from tight end Antonio Gates, who even the most casual fan knows about, tell us about San Diego's wide receivers, and the threats they present.
Michael Lombardo: The most commonly recited stat about the Chargers is that their starting receivers, Keenan McCardell and Eric Parker, have yet to score this season. Despite that, both are steady targets who know how to get open and move the chains. The team’s best receiver is Vincent Jackson. The 6-foot-5, 241 lb. Jackson is a dominant blocker and the team’s best downfield threat. The team also recently signed Az-Zahir Hakim, a speedy slot receiver whose role with the team has yet to be defined.
Doug Farrar: How does Gates fit into the offense this year, and is he more of a receiver than a dual-threat (blocking/receiving) tight end?
Michael Lombardo: Despite his reputation, Gates has become a dual threat. In fact, the Chargers will often use an uneven line in which right tackle Shane Olivea shifts to the left side, leaving Gates to block a defensive end on the right. However, Gates earns his money as a receiver. He lines up all over the field and is impossible to stop with single coverage. All heavy blocking chores will be handled by Brandon Manumaleuna.