OG Kris Dielman (Stephen Dunn/Getty)
Left guard Kris Dielman is among the most soft-spoken Chargers. He's also among the most intense, giving the offensive line a streak of nasty that doesn't go unnoticed.
So when Kris Dielman talks, people listen. And while other Chargers describe how lucky they are to be in the tepid AFC West, Dielman isn't buying it.
"I don't know if you'd say fortunate," he said. "We put ourselves in this mess that we're in right now, and we have to dig out of it."
But the shovel won't have to work overtime to do it.
Despite struggling with a 3-5 record, despite losing three of their last four and despite winning one road game halfway through the season, the Chargers are only one game out of first.
And if anyone saw how badly the division-leading Broncos played on Sunday in their loss to the Dolphins, it's clear overtaking them isn't an insurmountable task.
So while the Chargers were going under, the division rivals were barely keeping their head above water.
"It helps that (the other teams) haven't taken advantage of it," Dielman said. "So it's time for us to get on a roll and hope they don't and get to the top of our division and get to the playoffs."
That task is made easier with the Chargers having five of the final eight games at Qualcomm Stadium. Three of the four games involved AFC West teams, including two dates with the last-place Chiefs, the first of which comes Sunday at the "Q."
As if on cue, Dielman said the Chargers are tuning everyone out and concentrating on getting it right with their play.
"It's frustrating, not because people set high expectations," Dielman said. "We're the ones in the room, and the people in our room are the only ones who believe in us.
"We're disappointed because we're 3-5. I really could (not) care less what other people think about us."
--QB Philip Rivers is looking to duplicate his first half in which he was among the leaders in passing touchdowns and rating. Rivers' game could even go up a notch if the Chargers, as expected, are able to establish the running game. Rivers is having a sensational season, which is more impressive considering he is coming back from a serious knee injury.
--RB LaDainian Tomlinson has the fewest yards (551) through the first eight games of any of his eight seasons, but one needs to look beyond those numbers. Tomlinson is coming off a game in which he collected 170 total yards and showed great burst on a few of his spin moves. His toe is no longer a factor, and he could be primed for a big second half.
--RB Darren Sproles hasn't been involved as much in the base offense as many imagined. That could change, but Sproles' main role will continue to be to present good field position to the offense with his kickoff and punt returns. He is averaging 12.5 yards on punt returns and 27.2 yards on kickoff returns -- he's dangerous anytime he touches the ball.
--TE Antonio Gates is back, and that is big news for the Chargers. Not that Gates had gone anywhere, but it was obvious for the first six or seven games that it wasn't the Gates who set the gold standard at tight end. Gates is moving well again and getting the separation, which separates him from nearly every other NFL tight end.
--WR Vincent Jackson is healthy and playing at a consistent level -- two things that held him back in the past. Jackson's 538 receiving yards, with a team-high 17.9-yard average, tells the story. He could be even more productive with Chris Chambers returning.
--WR Chris Chambers has put his sprained ankle behind him and is back at full speed. Chambers not only has five scoring catches, but his presence on the field opens routes for Vincent Jackson and other teammates. He only has 16 catches, but five have gone for touchdowns.
--WR Malcom Floyd likely will see his playing time diminish with Chris Chambers back in action. That said, he gained the coaches' confidence when filling in, and his eight catches produced two touchdowns. He'll stay in the mix.
--WR Buster Davis, a first-round pick last year, needs to show he was able to get fit during the bye week. The team has grown increasingly frustrated with his nagging injuries -- the same rap he had in college. He is falling fast from the team's radar.
--FB Jacob Hester is contributing on special teams but nowhere else. He has only two carries, and the last one was a fumble, so the coaches aren't sold on him yet.
--FB Mike Tolbert has been getting blown up on blocks, and some wonder if he has the size to take on the defender at the point of attack to spring RB LaDainian Tomlinson. He needs to improve his game -- or maybe the undrafted rookie is already at the top of his game and is overmatched.
--OLB Jyles Tucker played in the last game after missing three with a hamstring injury. The club hopes he knocked off the rust in that loss to the Saints in London and will be a factor going forward under new defensive coordinator Ron Rivera.
--SS Clinton Hart isn't having a good year, as he's displayed shoddy tackling and often been out of position. To be fair, he is playing with a recently repaired broken hand that restricts his ability to wrap up, but he needs to improve big time if the team is going to rid itself of the NFL's worst pass defense.
--ILB Tim Dobbins isn't giving up the job he took from Matt Wilhelm in the starting lineup. Dobbins brings a physical presence to the middle and has been a reason why the run defense has improved of late.
--CB Antonio Cromartie is hoping the bye gave him enough time off to get his ailing hip right. However, he was limited in the first practice back, and the injury has proven not to be easy to shake. Cromartie's coverages and tackling have been below par on a consistent basis.
--DE Igor Olshansky could see his playing time reduced with Ryon Bingham getting more work. Olshansky is having little impact, and it comes at the worst possible time for him, as he is in his contract year.
--DT Jamal Williams has had three solid games in a row, and that is a huge key to the Chargers getting back on track. Williams had two offseason knee surgeries and was slow to rise into shape. He's back, and that's good news for the Chargers with him clogging the middle.