Weddle's Injury Forces Shake-Up in Secondary
FS Paul Oliver (Jaime Squire/Getty)
FS Paul Oliver (Jaime Squire/Getty)

Posted Dec 1, 2009


Just when the Chargers' secondary was showing some signs of life, it took a hit. Safety Eric Weddle is expected to miss at least the next two games with a sprained knee.

Eric Weddle had been playing well of late, just like the back end of a unit which is riding a six-game winning streak.

But the player likely to replace Weddle, Paul Oliver, has shown some spark as well.

It was Oliver who knocked loose the football from Matt Cassel on Sunday and raced 40 yards for a touchdown in the win over the Chiefs.

But Weddle is a workhorse who seldom leaves the field. He had a team-high 654 plays entering the Chiefs' game and is known for being around the football.

Plus, the way coordinator Ron Rivera has been implementing his secondary -- and in particular the safeties -- into his blitz packages, losing Weddle is a big blow.

Oliver is coming off his best game of his career, which included three tackles.


SS Steve Gregory
Jeff Gross/Getty
The Chargers could move Steve Gregory back to the safety spot, but he has played so well in the slot in nickel packages the team is hesitant about such a switch.

So for games at Cleveland and Dallas, Oliver will be in the spotlight. The third-year pro has never started an NFL game.

Oliver could also get some help from C.J. Spillman, who cannot be considered experienced, either -- he has but one special teams tackle this season.

The news was better regarding inside linebacker Kevin Burnett, who suffered a concussion on Sunday. Coach Norv Turner said Burnett, who had four tackles Sunday, had been cleared for Wednesday's practice.

NOTES, QUOTES

--The Chargers introduced their 50th anniversary team Sunday before the win over the Chiefs. Many of the current Chargers said it was special to see the players, and then pay homage to some of those great Chargers teams of the past by scoring a season-high 43 points. In particular, it was a treat to a frail Don Coryell who is up for the Pro Football Hall of Fame this year.

"With all the gadgets and throwing the ball downfield and seeing guys jump up in the air and catch the ball, I think we did honor him," RB LaDainian Tomlinson said.

--There are 11 current Chargers on the franchise's all-time best squad.

--S Eric Weddle, who will miss two weeks with a sprained knee, said the Chargers can't get full of themselves despite a six-game winning streak.

"We're playing good ball and we know that, but we can't get sucked into the hype that a long winning streak will bring," he said. "We haven't done anything yet. We have to play consistent and finish each game."

--Can the Chargers be better? "We don't know that," OLB Shaun Phillips said. "All we care about is fixing problems and getting better."

PLAYER NOTES

--DE Luis Castillo, who missed Sunday's game with a calf injury, is expected to go this week.


C Nick Hardwick
Ezra Shaw/Getty
--C Nick Hardwick, if he avoids setbacks during practices this week, could play for the first time since injuring his ankle in the season opener. Hardwick wouldn't start, but potentially get 20-25 plays.

--T Jon Runyan could be active this week. But it's doubtful it would be in a starting role.

--RT Brandyn Dombrowski graded out well in his first start at the position left open by the injury to Jeromey Clary. Dombrowski's play could allow the Chargers to ease Runyan back into NFL action.

--OLB Shawne Merriman continues to be bothered by a foot injury and it looks like it could stay with him through the rest of the season. Merriman played very little Sunday and he could follow that route this week as well -- or possibly sit out and rest the foot.

--TE Antonio Gates continues to shine and is on pace for 80-plus catches and to set career highs in receiving yards and yards per catch.

REPORT CARD VS. CHIEFS

PASSING OFFENSE: A -- Philip Rivers continues to play at an extremely high level as for the third straight week he completes 75 percent of his passes. The Chargers reintroduced the deep ball back into their game plan and the result was the Chargers stretching the field so much the Chiefs couldn't defend it. The pass-blocking, again, was excellent as Rivers wasn't sacked and was hit just once.

RUSHING OFFENSE: B-plus -- People are saying the Chargers' running game is back, and it is to some degree. But even when milking the clock and a big lead, the Chargers only ran for 94 yards and a 2.8-yard average. Tomlinson did add two more scoring runs and would have had a third save a goal-line fumble.

PASS DEFENSE: A -- Matt Cassel never does look comfortable with the blitzes coming from the secondary and the coverage not giving him much to work with. Quentin Jammer had an interception and Antonio Cromartie had six tackles. Just a team sack, but Cassel was under heat which helped lead to the Chiefs' four turnovers.

RUSH DEFENSE: C -- The Chiefs didn't run much when falling behind but they were effective in moving the ball early in the game. The Chargers allowed 114 rushing yards and never did have an answer for Jamaal Charles -- he averaged 6.6 yards on 14 carries. Still work to do here, although Brandon Siler's arrow keeps pointing up.

SPECIAL TEAMS: A -- Nate Kaeding's 55-yard field goal is the best he's done at Qualcomm. The coverage unit had a leak on Charles when he raced 45 yards on a kickoff. Darren Sproles had a 32-yard kickoff return, but not much else. Kaeding later added a 23-yarder.

COACHING: A -- Coach Norv Turner had to juggle Thanksgiving holiday and everyone pulling at his players for the 50th anniversary parties. But he told the Chargers all week to focus on the Chiefs -- Turner's message got a boost when the Chiefs upset the Steelers. But he was going deep into the playbook as the Chargers are seemingly adding a wrinkle or two each week. Ron Rivera continues to lean on the blitzes coming from the secondary and it is working.



Related Stories
Rivera Schemes Around Mounting Injuries
 -by SDBoltReport.com  Nov 30, 2009
One More Trap Game to Dance Around
 -by SDBoltReport.com  Nov 30, 2009
Five to Watch: Chargers vs. Browns
 -by SDBoltReport.com  Dec 5, 2009

PREMIUM SUBSCRIPTION INCLUDES
> 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 SDBoltReport.com. 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.
CB Paul Oliver (profile)
S Eric Weddle (profile)
[View My HotList]