ESPN Insider: SD Training Camp

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#GoIrish #Aztecs #SDGulls #Raiders #THFC #RipCity
Staff member
Jun 20, 2005
Chula Vista, CA
I'm posting the full article since not everyone has insider access.

Three Burning Questions

Can Philip Rivers replace Drew Brees?
The Philip Rivers era begins in San Diego. Replacing Brees will not be an easy task for the inexperienced young signal-caller. Rivers has yet to start an NFL game in the regular season and has attempted only 30 passes in his career. However, he is known for his outstanding leadership skills, work ethic, smarts and quick release. The good news for Charger fans in his development will be the strong supporting cast around him that will allow him to make the transition easier. The bottom line is this: The Chargers will rely heavily on RB LaDainian Tomlinson in 2006 to take the pressure off Rivers.

If LT Roman Oben can't play due to injury, then who replaces him?
Oben, who suffered a foot injury last season, did not participate in the Chargers minicamps or OTAs this offseason. Oben has been a consistent player over his career and is expected back at the start of training camp, but if his injury lingers into camp this could hinder the Chargers' offensive line in a big way. Journeyman backup Leander Jordan, who replaced Oben on the left side last season, is best suited as a backup. Rookie second-round pick Marcus McNeill could be inserted into the lineup at the most critical position on the offensive line to protect the backside of Rivers. This will be an interesting position to monitor throughout training camp and into the regular season based on the health of Oben.

Can the secondary show improvement from last year?

In order for the Chargers to position themselves within the AFC West race and make a run at the playoffs they must improve in pass defense. San Diego allowed 224.9 yards per game through the air while finishing the season with only 10 interceptions as a team. The only offseason acquisition the Chargers made in free agency that should impact the starting lineup is the signing of FS Marlon McCree from the Panthers. McCree is an instinctive player who has 12 interceptions over his career. However, the key to the secondary will be former first-round pick Quentin Jammer. He has good cover skills but doesn't seem natural in understanding zone concepts and allows too many completions in front of him. The Chargers really need Jammer to step up and be that shutdown, No. 1 corner who a lot teams had highly rated on their draft boards when he was selected as the fifth overall pick in 2002.

The player under the microscope

It has to be Rivers. The job status and future of this coaching staff is riding on the development and decision making of Rivers, who will be under tremendous pressure early in the season as the Chargers face an easier schedule from a year ago. However, Rivers must play within himself and not let mistakes hinder his ability to manage a game. If the Chargers can win early in the season it will eliminate a lot of negative criticism from the media and fans. If not, it will be a long, drawn out season with a whole new coaching staff in 2007. Breakout player

Second-year LDE Luis Castillo. Pro Bowl NT Jamal Williams received a lot of recognition last year, but Castillo was also very effective. He has value as an every-down player who contributes in both regular and sub defensive packages. He has good size, functional play strength and instincts. He has a strong upside as a frontline starter in the NFL. With a strong core of defenders around him in the box, Castillo should have a breakout year in 2006. Comeback player of the year

Second-year WR Vincent Jackson. Jackson played in only eight games and finished the season with only three receptions for 59 yards. The former second-round pick in 2005 was bothered by nagging injuries throughout last season. He has a nice combination size, speed and athleticism. He has improved his understanding off the complexities of the passing game and looked very impressive in the offseason camps both catching the ball and running routes. He would be an ideal fit as the Chargers' No. 3 receiver when creating mismatches in their spread offensive packages. If Jackson can stay healthy he will impact the Chargers' passing game in 2006. Offensive philosophy

Head coach Marty Schottenheimer's philosophy on offense has always been to pound the rock between the tackles to set up the play-action passing game. Offensive coordinator Cam Cameron will feature multiple groupings that allow the Chargers to utilize two of the premier players in the NFL in Tomlinson and TE Antonio Gates. Cameron likes to spread the field and create mismatches that can isolate Gates as the third receiver in standard groupings (2 RB, 1 TE and 2 WRs) agianst regular base defenses. The Chargers will also incorporate Gates as the fourth receiver in their three-wide receiver groupings, along with Keenan McCardell, Eric Parker and either Vincent Jackson or Kassim Osgood. Look for the Chargers to rely even more on their running game in 2006 to take pressure off the inexperienced Rivers. Defensive philosophy

Defensive coordinator Wade Phillips implements a multiple 3-4 defense that finished first in the NFL in defending the run, but 28th against the pass. Even though the Chargers had issues on the backend in coverage, Phillips' zone blitz pressure packages created 46 sacks last year. The key to the Chargers' run defense is NT Jamal Williams, along with their experienced linebacker corps of LOLB Shawne Merriman, LILB Donnie Edwards, RILB Randall Godfrey and ROLB Steve Foley. With the inconsistencies and struggles in the Chargers' secondary, Phillips will need to do a better job of matching up his defensive personnel and putting his secondary in the best position to make plays on the ball based on weekly game plans. However, the Chargers do have some talent in their secondary, which has underachieved and needs to perform at a higher level in 2006.

Camp Battle to Watch
Cromartie vs Florence

Florence, a former second-round pick, beat out former first-round pick Sammy Davis for the right corner position last season. Florence is a gifted athlete with size and transitional skills. However, he is still raw in his pattern recognition and gets out of position too often in coverage. The Chargers addressed their underachieving secondary by drafting Cromartie in the first round. Cromartie is a gifted athlete with size and rare movement skills in transition. However, he had only one career start at Florida State and sat out the 2005 season with a knee injury. According to the reports out of San Diego, Cromartie has been impressive in the offseason camps; a lot of the competition in camp will depend on Cromartie being under contract in time for the start of training camp. Look for Florence to win the job, but Cromartie will make an impact for the Chargers in passing situations.


Well-Known Member
Sep 1, 2005
Cromartie will be the nickel back for at least the first half of the season. Then I can see him really pressing D'Flo for the starting job in the second half of the season at the earliest. More likely at the end of the season and offseason next year.


May 25, 2006
Thanks Ray. I cancelled my insider because they make you get ESPN The Magazine, or they used to, and it was such pizz poor writing I couldn't stand having it show up in my mailbox.