The Titans head west to face the San Diego Chargers this week in
what looks to be a mismatch. Tennessee played poorly in a 23-16 loss to
the lowly New York Jets last week, while San Diego played very
conservatively in a 27-0 cakewalk over the Oakland Raiders.
Titans have a history of leaving their A game behind when traveling two
time zones to the west and are winless in their last five appearances
there. The last Tennessee victory out west was a win over the Raiders
Field: grass. Forecast: mostly sunny, high 77°. Kickoff: 3:15, CT.
San Diego Scouting Report
The Chargers slipped from a 12-4 2004 record to 9-7 last year and their
first five losses were by only 14 combined points. They could have just
as easily been 14-2, but finished out of the playoffs instead. San
Diego is refocused and considered to be a strong playoff contender
again this year. Coach Marty Schottenheimer has two superstars on an
offense that can move the ball and a defense that can boast two
superstars in its own right.
on the bench behind veteran Drew Brees, Phillip Rivers is now the #1
quarterback. The fourth overall draft selection in 2004, Rivers was
traded by the Giants to the Chargers for the first pick, Eli Manning.
After being in the league for two years, Rivers remains somewhat of an
unknown commodity, having attempted only 30 passes. In his first NFL
start last week, he threw only 11 passes in the Chargers’ run-oriented
offense. Titans offensive coordinator Norm Chow, who coached Rivers for
one year in college, said Rivers will be good enough to lead a team to
the Super Bowl someday.
All-Pro LaDainian Tomlinson (1,462
yards in 2005) is the featured running back. A man who has twice rushed
for over 1,600 yards, “Little LT” has averaged nearly 1,500 yards per
season in his first five years. Titans fans remember how dangerous he
can be after his 147-yard performance against Tennessee in 2004. LT
benefits from the lead blocks of ex-Titan FB Lorenzo Neal, who is also
an excellent pass blocker.
When the Chargers pass, the number
one target is All-Pro TE Antonio Gates, who had 89 grabs for 1,101
yards and ten TDs last year. Veteran Keenan McCardell (70, 917, 9), a
name familiar to Titans fans, and Eric Parker (57, 725, 3) are the
primary WR targets. The Chargers are waiting to see if big (6′-5″ 240
pounds) and fast WR Vincent Jackson (3, 59, 0) can fulfill his
The O-line is anchored by C Nick Hardwick, who
signed an extension this offseason. RT Shane Olivea and RG Mike Goff
are joined by first-year starters LG Kris Dielman and rookie LT Marcus
McNeill. They got the job done last week as Charger backs rushed for
San Diego plays a 3-4 as their base
defense, and do it well. Last week they shut out the Raiders, limiting
them to only 129 total yards and collecting nine sacks in the process.
The Chargers led the league in rushing defense last year, allowing only
84 yards per game.
348-pound Pro Bowl NT Jamal Williams is big,
quick, and as good as there is at clogging the middle. RDE Igor
Olshansky is also strong against the rush and LDE Luis Castillo is
looking to make the expected improvement in his second year. Reserve
Jacques Cesaire (18 starts in two years) can play all the D-line
positions and will get plenty of playing time in the rotation.
rookie of the year Shawne Merriman (57 tackles, 10 sacks), who recorded
three sacks last week, and Shaun Phillips (34, 7), a converted DE, are
the outside LBs. Veterans Donnie Edwards (152, 3) and ex-Titan Randall
Godfrey (76, 1) are the inside backers, and good ones.
pass defense was a liability in 2005, yielding 225 yards per game, 28th
in the league. Another name familiar to Titan fans, free agent FS
Marlon McCree (3 Ints, 7 PD) has been brought in to help remedy that
situation, joining SS Terrence Kiel (0, 5), who had problems last year.
Quentin Jammer (1, 17) has never developed into the star corner the
Chargers thought he could become when they selected him as the fifth
overall draft pick in 2002. The athletic but inconsistent Drayton
Florence (1, 10) mans the other corner. Rookie first-round draft pick
Antonio Cromartie plays nickel.
Kaeding (21/24) is accurate and dependable inside the 50, but his
kickoffs are short and returnable. P Mike Scifres (43.7 gross avg) is
one of the best in the league. Parker (5.9 avg) will return punts and
speedy rookie CB Cletis Gordon gets a shot at returning kicks after
Darren Sproles was lost with a broken leg. WR Kassim Osgood stands out
Titan tackles Michael Roos
and Jacob Bell vs Merriman and Phillips, the Titans’ passing game vs
the Chargers’ secondary, and the Titans front seven vs the San Diego
rushing attack. An interesting head-to-head matchup to watch will be
Pro Bowlers Kevin Mawae vs Williams, although Mawae will often have to
rely on help from Zach Piller and Benji Olson.
In keeping with the theory that you attack your opponent’s weakness and
avoid his strength, the Titans will focus on a passing attack. They
can’t run inside at Williams and shouldn’t have much success running
left (Merriman’s side) either, so their best chance to run for a little
balance will be at Phillips, who’s better at rushing the passer than
defending the run.
Defensively, Tennessee will have to load
up the box, trying to slow down Tomlinson. Easier said than done and it
will leave a lot of opportunities for Rivers to connect with Gates,
McCardell, and Parker.
The Chargers would of course like to
run the ball, but have to feel good about their chances to throw it
after watching Chad Pennington rack up big yardage against the Titan
secondary. Defensively, they’re confident in their ability to stop the
run and will rely on getting a strong rush on Kerry Collins in passing
Godfrey and Neal are former Titans. Tennessee C/G Eugene Amano’s hometown is San Diego.
2004 - Chargers 38, Titans 17
San Diego is too strong and has too much game on both sides of the
ball. The Chargers should be able to win a lot of battles on the field.
It doesn’t bode well that the Titans have a history of not playing well
on the West Coast.
San Diego 27, Tennessee 13
Read Andrew Strickert's blog at Total Titans.