Any talk of the Bolts' special teams begins with Mike Scifres. Although he didn't become a household name until his playoff performance vs. the Indianapolis Colts, he has been the best friend of San Diego's defense for the past five seasons. He has ranked in the top-eight in net average during each of those seasons, including a career-best third in 2008 (40.9 yards).
As was dissected earlier this offseason on SDBoltReport.com, Scifres is arguably one of the four most valuable Chargers players.
The second half of San Diego's dominant kicking duo is Nate Kaeding. The former Pro Bowler ('06) has converted better than 84 percent of his field-goal attempts in each of the last four seasons. At one point in 2008, he became the NFL's career accuracy leader (87.2 percent) among kickers with at least 100 attempts, although his career average dipped to 86.1 percent by season's end.
Kaeding has long battled the perception that he chokes under pressure. However, he has converted his last six playoff field-goal attempts.
Scifres and Kaeding both benefit greatly from playing with LS David Binn, who holds the Chargers record for most career games played (239). Binn is the most dependable player on the team and a steadying influence on the sidelines and in the locker room.
Handling the kick-return duties once again this season will be Darren Sproles, although Buster Davis will challenge for punt-return duties. Sproles is a big play waiting to happen, with seven returns of 40-plus yards last season (six kickoffs and one punt), including a 103-yard kickoff return for a touchdown.
The Chargers were merely average covering kickoffs, which should not be the case given the talent available to special-teams coach Steve Crosby. Opponents started on average at the 23-yard line after Kaeding kickoffs, a middle-of-the-pack ranking.
The team was much better covering punts, allowing just 6.35 yards per return. Fewer than half of Scifres' punts (23 of 51) were even returnable, while 19 were downed inside the 20-yard line.
The Chargers boast an excellent array of cover men, headlined by Brandon Siler, who has posted 36 tackles in kick coverage the last two seasons. Kassim Osgood, Steve Gregory, Jacob Hester and Kris Wilson will also be expected to play prominent roles on special teams.
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Michael Lombardo is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America and a long-time contributor to the Scout.com network. His analysis has been published by the NFL Network, Fox Sports and MySpace Sports. He has followed the Chargers for more than 15 years and covered the team since 2003.