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1 San Diego Charagers

Sept. 03, 2007
Sept. 03, 2007

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Sept. 3, 2007

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1 San Diego Charagers

Don't mess it up is the mission of new coach Norv Turner--he'll leave it to his roster of All-Pros to get these Bolts to the Bowl

WHAT'S NEW

This is an article from the Sept. 3, 2007 issue

> Theperception, right or wrong, is that coach Marty Schottenheimer got in the wayin 2006. How could a team with a league-high nine Pro Bowl selections,including such high-impact performers as LaDainian Tomlinson, Antonio Gates andShawne Merriman, fail to win a Super Bowl if not for the conservativethumbprint of Martyball? Following Schottenheimer's messy ouster, generalmanager A.J. Smith brought in the well-traveled Norv Turner, who has a 58-82-1record as head coach in seven seasons with the Redskins and two with theRaiders, and most recently was the 49ers' offensive coordinator.

Turner faces atask much like the one Barry Switzer faced when Switzer took over for JimmyJohnson in Dallas in 1994 and led the star-powered Cowboys to a Super Bowltitle a season later. "We've always had the talent, but now we have thecoach," says safety Marlon McCree. "We have confidence inNorv."

Give Turner creditfor knowing his place. He admits his primary directive is, Don't screw this up."Anyone can see they've had a good thing going here," Turner says."It's a matter of maintaining that and seeing if we can enhance somethings, particularly against teams with top defenses."

Those enhancementsinclude some slight changes to quarterback Philip Rivers's mechanics and a planto employ Tomlinson more in the passing game. Otherwise Turner, like Switzerwith the Cowboys, will keep the meddling to a minimum.

WHERE THEY'REHEADED

> The Chargersplayed their worst game of the season against New England in their 24-21 homeplayoff loss--Schottenheimer's sixth-straight postseason defeat--but it isSan Diego's 16-13 Week 4 loss to the Ravens that Turner points to asan example of how he can make this team better. "If you look back at lastyear's Baltimore game, there were little things we could have done to changethe outcome," Turner says. "And this year's schedule begins with twoteams, Chicago and New England, both top 10 defenses, that are verysimilar to Baltimore in what you have to do to beat them."

Some improvementwill come with the continued development of Rivers, the 2004 first-rounder whotook over as the starter in '06 and starred early but slowed down the stretch.(His completion percentage dropped from October to November to December andculminated in a 43.8% mark in the playoff loss to the Patriots.) Turnerretained quarterbacks coach John Ramsdell from the previous regime and hasworked with Rivers on releasing the ball higher on some throws and on refininghis drop. "He's got such great vision, a knack for getting the ball toguys, that much of what we've needed to do is get guys used to him and how hecan get them the ball when they may not think he can," Turner says. AddsTomlinson, "Philip is going to make that leap guys do in their secondseason."

After rushing348 times and catching 56 passes a year ago, Tomlinson may now becatching the ball more and lugging it less. Michael Turner, the accomplishedfourth-year backup who averaged 6.3 yards a carry last season, re-signed,but for just one year, and the Chargers plan on putting him to use before hebolts. That should help keep Tomlinson fresh late in games.

If one isnitpicking, there are questions about linebackers Stephen Cooper and MattWilhelm, new starters who will attempt to pick up the slack left by thefree-agent departure of the versatile Donnie Edwards. The Chargers also remainin search of a standout wide receiver. Vincent Jackson is a tantalizing talentbut has been inconsistent, and Craig Davis, the first-round pick out of LSU,looked good in camp but will need time. Then again, how many balls are left forwideouts, with Gates and Tomlinson hauling in more than 125 catchesbetween them?

Still, San Diegohas 20 opening day starters back, and Tomlinson believes maturity, rather thannew schemes, will push the Chargers past Indy and New England in the AFC."We played well last season, but we made mistakes against good teams,"says the three-time All-Pro, who set NFL records for total touchdowns (31),rushing touchdowns (28) and points (186) in his remarkable 2006 season."We've got to play smarter, and I think that is about experience. We didn'tknow how to handle some situations, and that led to those mistakes."

The assumption, ofcourse, is that the Chargers now know how to handle themselves. And as long asTurner doesn't get in the way, they won't be stopped short of the Super Bowl."Norv understands we've been successful before him," Tomlinson says."He knows he just needs to put on the finishing touches."

PROJECTED STARTINGLINEUP

WITH 2006STATISTICS

COACH NORV TURNER(58-82-1 in NFL), first season with Chargers

OFFENSE

MALCOM FLOYD

POS WR

REC 15

YARDS 210

TD 3

LADAINIANTOMLINSON

POS RB

ATT 348

YARDS 1,815

AVG 5.2

REC 56

YARDS 508

AVG 9.1

TD 31

PHILIP RIVERS

POS QB

ATT 460

COMP 284

PCT 61.7

YARDS 3,388

TD 22

INT 9

RATING 92.0

LORENZO NEAL

POS FB

ATT 29

YARDS 140

AVG 4.8

REC 17

YARDS 83

AVG 4.9

TD 1

VINCENTJACKSON

POS WR

REC 27

YARDS 453

TD 6

NATE KAEDING

POS K

FG 26-29

POINTS 136

SHANE OLIVEA

POS RT

HT 6' 4"

WT 312

G 16

MIKE GOFF

POS RG

HT 6' 5"

WT 311

G 16

NICK HARDWICK

POS C

HT 6' 4"

WT 295

G 16

KRIS DIELMAN

POS LG

HT 6' 4"

WT 310

G 15

MARCUS MCNEILL

POS LT

HT 6' 7"

WT 336

G 16

ANTONIO GATES

POS TE

REC 71

YARDS 924

TD 9

DEFENSE

SHAUN PHILLIPS

POS OLB

TACKLES 65

SACKS 11 1‚ÅÑ2

INT 0

LUIS CASTILLO

POS DE

TACKLES 37

SACKS 7

JAMAL WILLIAMS

POS DT

TACKLES 69

SACKS 2

IGOR OLSHANSKY

POS DE

TACKLES 33

SACKS 1 1‚ÅÑ2

SHAWNEMERRIMAN

POS OLB

TACKLES 62

SACKS 17

INT 1

MIKE SCIFRES

POS P

PUNTS 69

AVG 41.9

QUENTIN JAMMER

POS CB

TACKLES 78

INT 4

MARLON MCCREE

POS FS

TACKLES 59

SACKS 1

INT 1

STEPHEN COOPER

POS ILB

TACKLES 53

SACKS 2 1‚ÅÑ2

INT 0

MATT WILHELM

POS ILB

TACKLES 27

SACKS 0

INT 0

CLINTON HART

POS SS

TACKLES 48

INT 3

DRAYTONFLORENCE

POS CB

TACKLES 66

INT 3

> 2006 RECORD14-2 NFL RANK (Rush/Pass/Total): OFFENSE 2/16/4 DEFENSE 7/13/10

2007 SCHEDULE

SEPTEMBER

9 CHICAGO

16 at New England

23 at Green Bay

30 KANSAS CITY

OCTOBER

7 at Denver

14 OAKLAND

21 Bye

28 HOUSTON

NOVEMBER

4 at Minnesota

11 INDIANAPOLIS

18 at Jacksonville

25 BALTIMORE

DECEMBER

2 at Kansas City

9 at Tennessee

16 DETROIT

24 DENVER (M)

30 at Oakland

(M) Monday

SCHEDULE STRENGTH

NFL rank T14

Opponents' 2006 winning percentage .504

Games against playoff teams 6

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PHOTOROBERT BECK SharperImage
Rivers has tweaked his technique to avoid another fade down thestretch.
PHOTOG. NEWMAN LOWRANCE/WIREIMAGE.COMILLUSTRATION