Behind Enemy Lines: Seahawks/Chargers, Pt. 4

In the conclusion of our pre-game series, SDBoltReport's Michael Lombardo fields five final questions (plus a bonus question!) from Seahawks NET's Doug Farrar. Among the subjects: The Chargers' killer defense from front to back, the name of the worst secondary coach in the NFL, and what a Lombardi Trophy would mean to Marty Schottenheimer's legacy.

Doug Farrar, Seahawks.NET: One undervalued aspect of the 2006 Chargers is their offensive line. Tell us about the five guys up front, especially rookie Marcus McNeill.

Michael Lombardo, The San Diego offensive line is the best in the league right now. Keep in mind, Tomlinson has always been great. It is the improved blocking in front of him that is causing these records to fall. Center Nick Hardwick just earned his first Pro Bowl invite, and left guard Kris Dielman should have been right there with him.

McNeill will receive ample Offensive Rookie of the Year consideration. He is surprisingly fast for a man his size (6 foot 8, 336 lbs.), allowing him to mirror defensive ends in pass protection and to reach the second level in the running game.

Doug Farrar: The defensive line in the San Diego 3-4 is the first wave of a defense nobody wants to face right now. How has the line been so effective, and is Luis Castillo the team's best defensive lineman?

Michael Lombardo: The San Diego defensive line is not what you would expect from a 3-4 unit. Their linemen aren’t just run-stuffers - they can get after the passer as well. The best player there is Luis Castillo.. Castillo has the strength to be disruptive in the running game and the quickness to get after the quarterback. He already has seven sacks this season despite missing four games with an ankle injury.

Doug Farrar: San Diego's linebackers present a formidable challenge - they're one of the best positional units of any kind in the league. We all know about Shawne Merriman, and most Seahawks fans know about Shaun Phillips. Tell us about these two and the players who fill out this squad.

Michael Lombardo: Merriman and Phillips are the best pass-rushing duo in the league, having combined for 24 sacks already this season. Former-Seahawk Randall Godfrey’s primary purpose is to stop the run, while fellow inside linebacker specializes in pass defense. This unit may indeed be the league’s best, and it could have been even better had Steve Foley not been shot in the knee by an off-duty police officer during the offseason.

Doug Farrar: If the San Diego defense has had a weak spot over the last couple of seasons, it's been the secondary. How has the defensive backfield been playing this year, and could this be a liability in the playoffs?

Michael Lombardo: The secondary is still the team’s biggest liability, but the problem is not the talent. Brian Stewart is the worst secondary coach in the league and his continued employment is baffling. The weak link amongst players is Terrence Kiel, a linebacker in a safety’s body. Quentin Jammer and Drayton Florence are great cover corners with hands of stone. Marlon McCree, a free-agent acquisition from Carolina, is a nice player whose impact on the team has been overstated. If the Chargers fail to win the AFC, the secondary is a likely candidate to be the reason why.

Doug Farrar: How much do Marty's primary assistants, Cam Cameron on offense and Wade Phillips on defense, factor in to the team's current success? Who does what in this equation?

Michael Lombardo: Cameron and Phillips are very good at what they do. Perhaps they are too good, as both will be head-coaching candidates this offseason. Cameron will run any play from any formation regardless of the situation; he will throw from a jumbo package and will run on third-and-7. Phillips utilizes a defense predicated on stopping the run first and rushing the passer second. San Diego loves to get teams into obvious passing situations and force them to get rid of the ball quickly, allowing its cornerbacks to sit on underneath routes.

Doug Farrar: Regarding Schottenheimer - of course, pundits are bringing up his 5-12 postseason record as a head coach with the Browns, Chiefs and Chargers as a potential speed bump. Does Schottenheimer's past record really mean anything to his current team, considering the fact that some of his players were in diapers when John Elway dissected the Dawg Pound? Is there a special urgency to "Win one for Marty"?

Michael Lombardo: This Chargers team is disinterested in what happened in the past. Schottenheimer has this team focused, as he has sold his players on the one-game-at-a-time approach. The players love and respect Schottenheimer, who has the sixth-most wins in league history, and would enjoy nothing more than to win the Super Bowl for him. If that happens, Schottenheimer no doubt becomes a first-ballot Hall of Fame selection. Top Stories