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News » San Diego Chargers Strategy and Personnel 2008-09-05


San Diego Chargers Strategy and Personnel 2008-09-05


San Diego Chargers Strategy and Personnel 2008-09-05
The Chargers need to monitor their situation at tight end as it has become jumbled in the days leading up to the opener.


Pro Bowler Antonio Gates is going to play, but this is someone who didn't take a preseason snap. How long -- or how effective -- he is with his surgically repaired toe remains to be seen.

Gates' backup, Scott Chandler, had been getting plenty of work in the preseason, but he hurt his foot in the last preseason game and was placed on IR.

The team still has Brandon Manumaleuna and while his hands are softer than one might think, his thing is to block, not catch passes.

The team added Kris Wilson, who was released Saturday by the Eagles. He had 24 catches last year with the Chiefs. If Gates' toe flares up, Wilson could be pressed into action sooner than the Chargers had hoped.

PLAYER NOTES

--ILB Derek Smith will replace Stephen Cooper as Cooper begins his four-game suspension. Cooper was the Chargers' leading tackler last year.

--WR Craig Davis is fighting for looks at the No. 3 spot. Chris Chambers and Vince Jackson are hogging most the action out wide. But Jackson's hamstring gave him some problems in camp, which could give Davis an extra snap or two late in the game.

--C Jeremy Newberry is in for Nick Hardwick. Newberry is an 11-year pro and known for his physical nature. Hardwick (foot) could miss the first month.

--CB Antoine Cason, the team's first-round pick, earned the nickel role in camp. When Cason, Antonio Cromartie and Quentin Jammer are on the field at once, the secondary is loaded with speed and athleticism.

--RB Darren Sproles will handle both the punt and kickoff returns. The shifty Sproles has looked dynamite in camp, and is getting more looks in the offense.

GAME PLAN: Defensively, the Chargers can key on the run to set up their pass rush. With the Panthers' Steve Smith not playing because of a suspension, the Chargers can sell out against the run -- something the Panthers have to prove they can do well. If in passing situations, Jake Delhomme will likely wonder about his repaired right elbow and the lack of a reliable option when faced against the Chargers' stout pass rush. He will have Muhsin Muhammad back in the fold, but the absence of Smith will allow the Chargers' run stoppers in their secondary -- cornerback Quentin Jammer and strong safety Clinton Hart -- to cheat in and give run support.

With the Chargers' pass rush going against a new Carolina offensive line -- on the edges -- and a possibly gun-shy Delhomme, it sets up for some potential turnovers.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH: Chargers LT L.J. Shelton, in his first game with the Chargers, vs. Panthers DRE Julius Peppers, who is eager to bounce back from a disappointing 2007. Shelton is forced into the lineup because of Marcus McNeill's neck injury. Shelton is a veteran, but drawing Peppers in the first assignment is a tough way to break in. Making the transition tougher is a new center as well, meaning left guard Kris Dielman will be trying to read the body language of two new teammates in their first games -- Shelton at left tackle and Jeremy Newberry at center. Peppers had but 2.5 sacks last year and will be pumped to put that behind him.

Chargers FB Michael Tolbert, an undrafted rookie, vs. MLB Jon Beason, the Panthers' leading tackler last year. The Chargers insert Tolbert after letting Pro Bowler Lorenzo Neal go in the offseason and cutting his backup, Andrew Pinnock. Tolbert was a camp surprise in making the team and gets a test with his lead blocks against Beason -- he had a team-record 160 tackles last year.

Chargers pass rush off the edges against the Panthers' tackles. Shawne Merriman and Shaun Phillips make their morning blasting around the sides on passing downs. Jordan Gross played right tackle last year for the Panthers, but he flipped sides to make room for first-round selection Jeff Otah. Somewhere there may be a breakdown on an assignment by a fresh left tackle or a youthful mistake on the right side in which Merriman and/or Phillips take advantage of.

INJURY IMPACT:

--LT Marcus McNeill (neck) saw a specialist on Thursday and is out of Sunday's opener. He will be replaced by L.J. Shelton.

--TE Antonio Gates (toe) will play on Sunday, but he wasn't sure if he would start. Gates will likely be compromised by his ailing toe most of the season.

--OLB Shawne Merriman (knee) will play Sunday, but he could be kept off the field on running downs. If so, Jyles Tucker would fill in.

--DT Jamal Williams, who is nursing two sore knees, will start on Sunday.



Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: September 6, 2008

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Mike Tolbert Name: Mike Tolbert
#35
Position: FB
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