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Three to Watch: Six-Year Veterans

LB Stephen Cooper (Harry How/Getty)

The Chargers are championship contenders because they have a good mix of youth and experience. However, if the team is going to take the next step and capture the Lombardi Trophy, it will be the players in the middle of the spectrum -- those in the primes of their careers -- who will carry the load. Chargers expert Michael Lombardo examines three such players.

TE Antonio Gates Gates, who came off the physically-unable-to-perform list on Tuesday, is the centerpiece of the Chargers offense. His presence in the middle of the field prevents defenses from doubling the Chargers' receivers on the outside. Gates also gives opposing linebackers something to worry about other than LaDainian Tomlinson. Gates is far more than a decoy, though. Over the last four...

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