Norv Turner Aims to Reignite the Running Game

RB LaDainian Tomlinson (Stephen Dunn/Getty)

If looking to get a rise out of Chargers head coach Norv Turner, here is the hot button to push: the Chargers are a pass-first offense, with the running of LaDainian Tomlinson being trumped by the passing of Philip Rivers.

Nearly every offensive wizard stresses balance and Turner is no different. But he prefers winning to anything else and he figured if the Chargers could throw as well as they could run, their offense really would be dynamic.

"The book on the Chargers was that if you could stop L.T., you had a good chance to win," Turner said. "Teams were loading up to stop him, and we wanted to give different looks. We passed efficiently during the season, which forced teams to put an emphasis on coverage. Because of that we were able to run better."

Turner is well armed whenever the Chargers' lack of offensive diversity is broached. He notes that on first downs, only eight other units rushed more times than the Chargers. And the Chargers were 12th overall in percentage of rushes (45.6).

Heck, even a hobbled LaDainian Tomlinson was the AFC's fourth-best rusher last season.

"You want to have an identity as an offense, but you can't be stubborn about it," Turner said. "The idea is to be good at a number of different things, so you can adjust when you have to."


QB Philip Rivers
Al Messerschmidt/Getty

Leaning on Philip Rivers isn't exactly a bad thing.

Rivers led the NFL and set a franchise record with a 105.5 rating. And his 34 touchdown pass last year also set a team mark, which is saying something on a club with Dan Fouts among its former players.

But Turner does admit that the Chargers could be more productive on the ground.

"There's no question we need to run the football better," Turner said. "The perception is that we became a passing team because we threw the ball extremely well last year. We were in situations where we needed to throw the ball and our quarterback had a great year."

Turner will have a healthy Tomlinson to start the year and that helps. He's also told the road-pavers that if they want to run more, improve their blocking.

"I think we've made some changes in our approach in the running game that are going to help us," Turner said. "We put the onus back on the players. If we want to run the ball better, we need to do these things better. Our guys are working hard at that."

NOTES, QUOTES

--New year, new team. And new mantra for the defending AFC West champions expected to go deep in the playoffs.

Coach Norv Turner pulled the curtain back on his mission statement for 2009, hoping his team rallies around the message:

"To get something you've never had, you must do something you've never done."

The Chargers know the thrill and drill of the playoffs. They advanced to the divisional game last season before falling to the Steelers. The previous season they qualified for the AFC Championship game but stumbled against the Patriots.

In three seasons the Chargers have won three postseason games and lost three.

This year -- the Chargers hope -- they will reach the second Super Bowl in team history. The organization which is celebrating its 50th season has never won a Super Bowl.


HC Norv Turner
Stephen Dunn/Getty

"Every experience we've had has helped them," said Turner, as he readies for his third season at the Chargers' helm. "I also believe the experience of being touted and talked about as the most talented team ---- I think at times different guys get affected by that. I think our guys have outgrown that. I do believe they understand that if you really want something, you've got to go earn it."

To that end, Turner is upbeat over the team's spring practices as training camp grows near. He admits it's a refreshing bunch to coach, but when it's time to sweat, the players don't beg off.

"We're having a great offseason," Turner said. "They're still having fun, but there's a serious mindset about our guys. They understand that if you want something, you have to go earn it."

It figures the running game has the potential to be better.

Last year the line was in flux. Center Nick Hardwick was battling a foot injury and left tackle Marcus McNeill had issues with his neck.

Plus LaDainian Tomlinson is moving extremely well in the spring workouts and looks primed -- his health, of course, willing -- to have a solid season.

There is a question at the right guard spot after veteran Mike Goff fled to Kansas City. Kynan Forney and rookie Louis Vasquez will have a spirited battle for the spot in training camp; Forney has the early lead.

--Count Chargers coach Norv Turner among those lobbying for ex-Chargers coach Don Coryell to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Turner learned Coryell's offense from Ernie Zampese, when they both were on the Rams' staff. "Their system started in the 1960's," Turner said. "If you think of something you could create that would stand the test of time and be relevant almost 50 years after you created it, it's pretty amazing. It was a cutting edge idea in the 1960's and it's still cutting edge. The Coryell system accommodates players. It plays to their strengths and the belief that, if a player has a particular strength, we'll find a way to make the most of it."

--Most the veterans will be set free after workouts this week. To celebrate the last week, the all went all bowling on Monday. Scott Mruczkowski had the bragging rights among his teammates with a team-best 224 performance to be named the best bowler. "This trophy is going in my locker," Mruczkowski said.

--The Chargers are now offering season tickets in two family sections in which alcohol will not be served.

--C Nick Hardwick is enjoying an offseason far different from last year when he was rebounding from foot surgery. That ailment is no longer a concern. "My foot is fantastic," he said. "I didn't expect it to be this good. I feel like an athlete again."

--WR Vincent Jackson continues to shine in the offseason workouts.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "San Diego is a place I would love to be for the rest of my career." -- Pro Bowl LB Shawne Merriman on his preference to remain a Charger after his contract expires following the 2009 season.

FRANCHISE PLAYER: RB Darren Sproles: Tendered at $6.621M (signed April 28).

TRANSITION PLAYER: None.

UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS (not tendered)

--C Jeremy Newberry (not tendered as UFA June 1).

RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: None.

EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENTS: None.

PLAYERS RE-SIGNED
--OT Jeromey Clary: ERFA; $460,000/1 yr.
--WR Malcom Floyd: RFA; $1.545M/1 yr.
--OG Kynan Forney: Potential UFA; $4.8M/2 yrs, SB unknown.
--CB Cletis Gordon: RFA; $1.545M/1 yr.
--RB Darren Sproles: Franchise FA; $6.621M/1 yr.

PLAYERS ACQUIRED

--LB Kevin Burnett: UFA Cowboys; $5.5M/2 yrs, $2M SB.

PLAYERS LOST

--RB Eldra Buckley (released).
--OG Mike Goff: UFA Chargers; $3.5M/2 yrs, guarantees unknown.
--LB Marques Harris: UFA 49ers; 1 yr, terms unknown.
--DE Igor Olshansky: UFA Cowboys; $18M/4 yrs, $8M guaranteed.
--LB Anthony Waters (released).

SDBoltReport.com Recommended Stories


Up Next


Tweets