NFL PREVIEWS: San Diego Chargers

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David Moore

David Moore has been the senior football writer for FOX Sports since Aug. 2005. He appears weekly on the FSN Baseball Report and MLB on FOX. One more line lorem ipsum dolor sit amet e pluribus unum.

Champs or chumps: The fact the are 26 games under .500 over the last five seasons clearly puts them in the chump category. But any team with Marty Schottenheimer as head coach and a running back as talented as can't be chumps for much longer. San Diego took a major step forward last season although it faded badly in the stretch — again — to fall to 8-8. The disappointing finish will cause many to be down on the entering this season. Don't be. San Diego didn't make a lot of moves during the off-season, but the ones it did make helped to diversify the offense and put a young, more aggressive defense into place. The are a team on the rise. Reasons for hope: Tomlinson is the best young running back in the league. He rushed for at least 100 yards in seven games last season and went over 200 in two of those games. He led the team with 79 receptions and accounted for 2,172 yards from scrimmage. Schottenheimer couldn't ask for a better player to fit his scheme and build the offense around. Throw in a smart, young quarterback in and a dangerous receiver in and the have the sort of team that can control the clock the way Schottenheimer wants or win the occasional shootout.
Meet the 2003
Projected offensive lineup

Projected defensive lineup
DT Jason Fish

Projected special teams lineup

Scout's take on the
"The will make some strides, but they'll go through some tough stretches with their defense. Their secondary needs time to mature and they must look towards tweaking their front four in the next year."
— Scouting insider Brian DeLucia

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  • Don't get too excited: The ranked last in the NFL in pass defense last season, allowing close to 270 yards a game. San Diego plays in a division that contains three of the top 11 passing teams in the league. That's a recipe for disaster. Instead of trying to mix and match in the secondary to get better, San Diego decided to go young and start over. There will be four new starters in the defensive backfield, led by , the team's first-round pick in 2002. The spent their first three picks in this April's draft on the secondary. There are some good, young athletes here and hope for the future, but not much experience. Look for them to get burned as they learn, especially since Schottenheimer intends to use them in bump-and-run a significant percentage of the time. Hello, my name is: . A knee injury and some off the field problems plagued Boston last season in Arizona. But just one year earlier, he led the NFL in receiving yards (1,598) and flashed the potential to be one of the elite players at his position. Few receivers have his blend of size (6-foot-2, 236) and speed. His big-play presence should give Tomlinson more room to run since defenses will often have to keep a safety back in coverage to help on Boston. Revolving door: Boston was the biggest acquisition and makes the offense more dangerous than it was when (released with one year left on his contract) was starting. was brought in to replace at fullback and block for Tomlinson and the team's top three draft picks (cornerbacks and and safety ) are all expected to play roles in the revamped secondary. But in terms of numbers and tradition, the lost more than they gained. San Diego made it clear it was changing the identity of its defense by trading linebacker and releasing safety . has moved from the middle to the weak side to take over for Seau while steps in at middle linebacker. assumes Harrison's spot in the lineup. Ones to watch: A team that won just three games on the road last season is forced to travel in four of its first six games this season. The open in Kansas City in an early glimpse of how the division could unfold. Two of the best running backs in the game will match statistics on Oct. 27 when Tomlinson and San Diego face and Miami. The game that could determine which team wins the AFC West will be played on Dec. 28 when the host Oakland. The forecast: San Diego will mount a strong challenge for the division title and will return to the playoffs for the first time in eight years. The key is not what the do early; it's how they play late. San Diego squandered a 6-1 start last season and has compiled a winning record in December just once in the last seven years. To break into the playoffs, the are going to have to do a better job of retaining momentum in the final month of the season. Veteran NFL correspondent David Moore is a regular contributor to
    Tagged: Dolphins, Patriots, Jets, Chargers, Lorenzo Neal, Kelvin Garmon, Ricky Williams, Darren Bennett, Raylee Johnson, Marcellus Wiley, Junior Seau, Zeke Moreno, Jamal Williams, Damion McIntosh, LaDainian Tomlinson, Drew Brees, Quentin Jammer, Ben Leber, Jerry Wilson, Drayton Florence

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