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From the Other Perspective: Bolts From the Blue

Brian from SB Nation's Bolts From the Blue was kind enough to answer some questions from me to give us a look at his beloved Chargers.


1. The loss of Shawne Merriman is obviously huge. San Diego's defense
ranks 31st against the pass after two weeks. Has this been because
Merriman's injury has given quarterbacks all day to throw and
receivers all day to get open? How will the Chargers adjust to try and
compensate for his absence?

There is no doubt that losing Merriman hurts this defense, and there has been precious little pressure, so that is certainly part of the equation.  Both the Panthers and Denver also schemed us very well, spreading out the defense and going primarily for short passes.  Antonio Cromartie, who had ten picks last year, has also been gambling too much going for the ball and has given up some big plays.  Lastly Norv Turner played the first team defense very little in the offseason and they have not looked the better for it.  It is hard to make up for Merriman, but it looks like the Chargers may essentially platoon Jyles Tucker (a converted defensive end) and Marques Harris.  Most fans would like to see a more aggressive use of blitzes, but it seems doubtful Cottrell will go that direction.
2. Michael Turner had a huge Week 1 with Atlanta, but do you think his
absence might be a blessing in disguise because it will create more
opportunities for Darren Sproles, who had a big game last Sunday
against the Broncos?
They have very different running styles, Sproles is terrific when he gets in space and is making a fantastic impression filling in for LT; not to mention running back punts and kickoffs.  The one area that is still a little suspect is running in short yardage situations, Sproles isn't the power runner that Turner was.  It remains to be seen if Sproles and Hester (or perhaps even our FB Tolbert) in combination can pick up all the facets that Turner brought to the offense. 

3. LaDainian Tomlinson is off to a slow start by his standards. For
years, Jets fans heard that Curtis Martin was finished every time he
got off to a rough start. Last year L.T. was slow out of the gate and
finished with great numbers. How concerned are you that this time
could be different?

I think reports of LTs demise are greatly exagerated.  He will likely be limited by the toe injury against the Jets, but in the Panther game he looked sharp in spots.   He is not likely to repeat his very best years numbers again, but in part that is the result of a more balanced offense coupled with a move away from the power I formation.  Overall I still expect him to be a huge contributer and he seems to be really primed by the criticism he received in last years playoff game against the Patriots.
4. Ted Cottrell served as Jets defensive coordinator for three years
earlier this decade. He frustrated fans with his conservative read and
react calls in almost any situation and a seeming inability to make
adjustments in game. Critique his job performance in a year and change
with the Chargers.

Chargers fans have hated the conservative nature of his defense, but were largely mollified last year by the huge number of turnovers later in the season.  Wade Phillips went all out for sacks and pressure on the QB, last year with the same personell sacks fell precipitously; but San Diego won a number of games by scoring on short fields.  Cottrell must have greatly improved in his facility or willingness to make adjustments, because the defense seems to play much better in the second half.  This has been true in both losses this year, allowing the offense to get back in games that we were behind in.  While I like the more aggressive style of defense, the one area I am critical is the prevent defense.  We had been making good stops against the Panthers, but with two minutes left the Chargers went to the prevent and they marched right up field; Delhomme just had forever and a day to find receivers and the Chargers totally gave up the middle of the field.
5. Many observers believe the two most important parts of a football
team are the head coach and the quarterback. Although they were
considered contenders, San Diego has replaced both in recent seasons.
With the benefit of hindsight, do you think the Chargers were right to
replace Marty Schottenheimer and Drew Brees with Norv Turner and
Phillip Rivers?

I do; it was regrettable that we lost both coordinators with Schottenheimer though.  For one thing you just do need the GM and coach to sit down and talk about personell issues, apparently their relationship was so chilly that never happened.  It was apparent to most that Schottenheimer also didn't have the nerves to coach in the playoffs.  This was most painfully exposed during the playoff game against New England when he went for a fourth and eleven from the New England thirty yard line.  There just isn't any way to explain that call.  While any number of plays could have turned that game around, that was just a stark demonstration that Schottenheimer didn't have the temperment to coach in big games.  Though they came up short last year, San Diego was a much more poised team in the playoffs, reaching the AFC Championships. 

Drew Brees is a much closer issue; he is certainly a top flight quarterback, and citizen for that matter.  The Chargers didn't have the resources to keep two great quarterbacks.  In making the decision they went with the younger player that had more upside; and frankly there was some concern about how well Brees would come back from his shoulder injury sustained.  While there is plenty of chatter about how much Rivers runs his mouth, watching him marshall a furious comeback last week in Denver I'm very comfortable with the choice there as well.