Oversold or Underachieving?

QB Philip Rivers (Newman Lowrance/Getty)

It was a question that was brushed off earlier in the Chargers' disappointing year. But no longer can it be ignored: Were the Chargers oversold or are they underachieving?

The Patriots arrive Sunday and that can hardly be comforting to a reeling Chargers team. Already two games under .500 six games into the season, the Chargers have sprung leaks in every direction.

"It's disappointing we are not playing up to our capabilities," safety Eric Weddle said.

Coach Norv Turner proclaimed this was the best team he had coached in San Diego. But his fourth year has been a disaster, with the Chargers losing all four road games, and to teams they expected to beat.

"I'm tired of losing," Weddle said.

There's no rest for the NFL weary. With the schedule's soft spot behind them, here comes New England, Tennessee and a trip to Houston.

It's clear the Chargers have let an opportunity slip by in losing to the Chiefs, Seahawks, Raiders and Rams; they were a combined 15-49 last year with none finishing better than 5-11.

At 2-4, the four-time defending AFC West champion Chargers are off to their worst start since 2003.

The Chargers have rallied in the past, but that was with a roster which looks significantly different that this year's.

"We got to find out who we are as a team, the 2010 Chargers," Weddle said. "This is going to be a tough test of our character."

The toughest assignment might go to battered quarterback Philip Rivers. Behind a spotty offensive line, Rivers was sacked seven times in the loss at St. Louis.

The Chargers faced the Rams as the NFL's top offense, but managed only 17 points and didn't convert a third down until the third quarter.

It's clear the offensive line isn't jelling - especially on the road. The late signing of left tackle Marcus McNeill and right guard Louis Vasquez's knee injury has presented an unsettled front.


LB Stephen Cooper
G Newman Lowrance/Getty
The lack of protection is the latest in team woes which includes a spotty running game, inconsistent interior run defense, an up-and-down secondary, a tepid pass rush and special teams which continue to make mistakes.

So there is plenty on the line when playing the Patriots. The Chargers, once mentioned among the NFL's elite teams, must start that slow climb back to respectability.

Maybe being at home will be sweet. The Chargers dominated the Jaguars and Cardinals at Qualcomm Stadium. But those victories are overshadowed by four embarrassing losses.

"It's time for us to re-evaluate everything individually and collectively," Weddle said.

NOTES, QUOTES

TRENDING: Look for Ryan Mathews to get the bulk of the carries moving forward. Mathews was slowed by an ankle injury early and Mike Tolbert was surprising with his production. But the swing of carries switched in St. Louis (Mathews had 12; Tolbert 3) and it should stay that way with Mathews more of a breakaway threat - if Mathews' ankle holds up.

LINEUP WATCH: WR Patrick Crayton made the most of his chance with Legedu Naanee (foot) ailing. Many thought Crayton would already be a bigger part of the passing game since coming over from Dallas. Even if Naanee is fit, look for Crayton to get more snaps after his 117-yard game in St. Louis. The coaches' confidence in Crayton is growing as he supplies a veteran presence, especially late in games.

PLAYER NOTES

-- WR Malcom Floyd injured his hamstring in the loss at St. Louis, making his availability Sunday uncertain. Floyd has taken the No. 1 role with Vincent Jackson still unsigned.

-- RG Louis Vasquez returned to the starting lineup after being derailed by a knee injury. Vasquez showed some rust.

-- LT Marcus McNeill is back starting after coming off the roster exempt list. McNeill, though, is still rounding into his Pro Bowl level of play.

-- TE Antonio Gates hurt his ankle Sunday and could be down this week. Gates left the clubhouse in a walking boot.

-- ILB Brandon Siler (foot) could return after missing two games. Siler is a key contributor to special teams.

-- K Nate Kaeding is nursing a groin injury; P Mike Scifres could be asked to kick off.

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