Five to Watch: Broncos vs. Bolts
LB Shaun Phillips (Doug Pensinger/Getty)
LB Shaun Phillips (Doug Pensinger/Getty)
Posted Sep 12, 2008

The season is only one week old and already the pressure is rising. The Chargers must go on the road and defeat a red-hot division foe or risk digging another early-season hole. Samantha Fillerup spotlights the five players charged with leading the Chargers out of Denver victorious.

1. Shaun Phillips is a tremendous asset to the team as a leader in the locker room and a formidable force on the field. With Shawne Merriman opting to have reconstructive surgery, Phillips must step up his game and anchor the pass rush. Phillips received his first starting opportunity due to an injury to Steve Foley. Now, Phillips must help the Chargers overcome an even more significant loss.

2. Chris Chambers was reeled in by the Chargers via a midseason trade last October and quickly assumed the role of go-to receiver. He caught at least two passes in every game as a Charger last season, a streak that was broken in this year's season opener. Chambers made his only catch count against the Carolina Panthers, as it was a 44-yard touchdown grab. While the points were nice, the Chargers need Chambers to make an impact on more than just one play against the Denver Broncos' all-star cornerback duo of Champ Bailey and Dré Bly.

3. Derek Smith made his first start as a Charger against the Panthers and debuted with a dud. Smith finished with only two tackles and exactly zero impact plays. That's not what the Chargers expected from a veteran who exceeded 100 tackles every season from 2001-2005. The Chargers had so much faith in Smith that they kept second-year linebacker Anthony Waters inactive for the Panthers game. If Smith stumbles with a second straight underwhelming performance, the Chargers must consider giving Waters some run.

4. Antonio Gates hobbled his way through his long-awaited return from offseason toe surgery, only to tack on a hip contusion to his list of ailments. Gates was visibly hampered against the Panthers, as his routes were not as smooth and he wasn't getting the separation he normally does. Unfortunately, he will likely have to play through pain all season. His numbers against the Panthers were solid: Four catches for 61 yards and a touchdown. He may have to do even better if the Chargers wind up in a shootout with the Broncos.

5. Antonio Cromartie learned some hard lessons Sunday. He played selfish football in pursuit of his much-hyped goal of 15 interceptions and was punished for it more than once. Cromartie must take a lesson from teammate Quentin Jammer, whose discipline and selfless play have made him one of the NFL's best. Cromartie and Jammer must bring their A-games to Denver to shut down the talented pairing of Brandon Marshall and Eddie Royal.

Related Stories
Game Day Primer: Chargers vs. Broncos
 -by  Sep 13, 2008
Mile-High Screwjob
 -by  Sep 14, 2008
Insider’s Take: Chargers versus Broncos
 -by  Sep 14, 2008

> Members-only Forums
> Insider Information
> Free Agency &
   Draft News
> Expert Chats

Sign Up Today!

Free Email Newsletter
Don't miss any news or features from Subscribe to our newsletter to have our newest articles emailed to you on a daily or weekly basis.
Click here for a list of all Team Newsletters.

Add Players to My HotList
Get free email alerts with news about your favorite players. Click name to add to My HotList.
WR Chris Chambers (profile)
CB Antonio Cromartie (profile)
TE Antonio Gates (profile)
OLB Shaun Phillips (profile)
ILB Derek Smith (profile)
[View My HotList]