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Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Charger Update 11/4/09

Among the feel-good stories coming out of Sunday’s 13th straight win over the Raiders was the critical contribution of wide receiver Chris Chambers.

Chambers had struggled this year, fighting for playing time with an emerging Malcom Floyd. But on a crucial fourth-quarter, third-down on what would be the drive which would give the Chargers’ their margin of victory, Chambers made a difficult 20-yard catch, looking into the sun, with Pro Bowl cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha on his hip.

While Chambers was upbeat after the game that feeling didn’t last long.

Chambers was cut on Monday.

“There are a number of things that went into the decision,” coach Norv Turner said. “The reason we’re able to do this is the play of Malcom and the way Legedu Naanee is performing.

“Certainly there are a number of other things in terms of our football team that we need to address. Defensively and in the kicking game … we need to get some help.”

Still the releasing of Chambers came as a surprise. Especially with the Chargers still carrying Buster Davis, a first-round bust who doesn’t even suit up for games.

There’s no discounting the improved play of Vincent Jackson, Malcom Floyd and Legedu Naanee. But neither supply the veteran presence that Chambers did and what if they get hurt down the stretch?

Chambers came over from the Dolphins in 2007 and the price was steep: a second-round pick. But it seemed to be a pick well spent as Chambers enhanced the Chargers’ developing passing game.

But this year he fell out of favor in Turner’s scheme and had a hard time getting on the field. He also wasn’t shy about expressing his frustration, and that might have led to the Chargers cutting ties as well.

After Sunday’s game he was quoted as saying: “I thought I’d play a lot more. Coach said I would rotate and all of a sudden he didn’t let me rotate, so I was a little disrespected in that way…Coach might have lost some confidence in me, but I haven’t lost any confidence in myself.”

Chambers, a nine-year pro, entered the game with just eight catches and he dropped a couple of passes the previous week in Kansas City, one of which would have been a touchdown.

But it was just last year that he had a touchdown catch in five straight games, the first time he had done that in a Pro Bowl career.


—olb S hawne Merriman showed some of his old burst in recording his first sack since the end of the 2007 season. Merriman, a three-time Pro Bowler who missed all but one game last year with a knee injury, had two sacks against the Raiders. “That is what they brought us both here for,” said OLB Shaun Phillips, who also had two sacks. In years past, me and Shawne have been able to feed off each other.”

RB LaDainian Tomlinson sounded like a Chargers fan when asked what is the difference about playing the Raiders. “I think our mind-set is different when we play these guys,” said Tomlinson, who rushed for two touchdowns, one coming out of the wildcat formation. “In our mind, it’s the Battle of California, with so much stuff between the two teams.”

The defense, which had struggled early on, got a boost when it made a fourth-quarter stand to basically end the game with the Raiders down by a score. It was a big boost for the defense, which is often over-shadowed by the offense. “The offense started off real well and we tried to pay catch-up,” said Stephen Cooper, after a game-high 10 tackles. “I think now we found our knack and (defensive coordinator Ron Rivera) did a great job of play-calling and pressuring the quarterback. If we do that, we will be the defense of the old.”


Player Notes

The San Diego Chargers have signed rookie linebacker James Holt from the practice squad to fill the roster spot created when wide receiver Chris Chambers was released. The Chargers also signed linebacker Jeremy Leman to the practice squad.

ILB Tim Dobbins will be out two weeks with a knee injury. Dobbins was filling in for Kevin Burnett (ankle); Burnett has missed the past two games and could be down again Sunday.

RB LaDainian Tomlinson had multiple touchdowns Sunday for the first time since scoring three times in last year’s regular-season finale. Counting receiving, rushing and passing, he has produced 28 touchdowns in his career against the Raiders.

WR Vincent Jackson could be in the chatter for a Pro Bowl roster spot. For the second time in six games, he has turned in consecutive 100-yard receiving games.

DT Travis Johnson as given the interior line a boost since returning from a groin injury two weeks ago. He’s part of the regular three-player rotation making due in the absence of injured Pro Bowler Jamal Williams.

ILB Brandon Siler’s stock is going up after coming in and playing well when Tim Dobbins went down with a knee injury. Siler, a third-year pro, could get his first start Sunday.

FB Mike Tolbert has contributed mostly on special teams this season. But his stellar play of late and in practice has him in the mix with starter Jacob Hester at fullback as well. The Chargers like the hard-nosed Tolbert’s attitude; he was an undrafted free agent last year and surprisingly made the club out of camp

Report Card Vs . RAIDERS

Passing Offense: C—Not Philip Rivers grandest game but it was a winning performance. He threw for a score and 249 yards. He did throw an interception, but it came off a deflection. Malcom Floyd set the tone early in corralling a 53-yard catch on the Chargers’ first play. The pass-protection was keen against what can be a physical Oakland front.

Rushing Offense: C—LaDainian Tomlinson had two rushing scores—one off a direct snap in the wildcat—but there is still work to be done on the running game. The Chargers did get to 100 rushing yards and seem to be more motivated to establish a running attack. The run-blocking was pretty good—a step up if nothing else.

Pass Defense: B—Hard to get a bad grade here when JaMarcus Russell is dropping back. Russell is horrible and the Chargers took advantage of his play with an interception by Antonio Cromartie and five sacks. Russell threw for a scant 109 yards. Good work by the secondary and the pass rush to get his feet moving on his throws.

Rush Defense: B—The middle of the line is so much better than a month ago, in the wake of Jamal Williams being lost for the season. The Chargers are rotating three players in at tackle. The linebackers had one of their better games with Stephen Cooper collecting 10 tackles and Brandon Siler doing a good job when filling in for the hobbling Tim Dobbins. The defense kept the Raiders under 100 yards—just barely, though, at 99.

Special Teams: D—Darren Sproles had a costly fumble on a punt return which the Raiders cashed into points. There was also a letdown on coverages when allowing a 60-yard return. P Mike Scifres wasn’t the best punter on the field, but he still had a long of 56 and two of his three efforts were downed inside the Oakland 20.

Coaching: A—The offense was good enough to win, although it seemed like the Raiders hung around longer than they should have. But it was the defense which had a late stand and is starting to play with more confidence. Since coordinator Ron Rivera shook up the secondary, he has been blitzing like crazy with safeties and corners and it is working. If the defense can continue to improve—and do so against better teams—Rivera deserves to take a bow.