BoltHype Chats With AOL Fanhouse

Ryan Wilson from AOL Fanhouse asked me to answer a few questions about the Chargers and Patriots in anticipation of their upcoming game in Foxboro.

Status Check is FanHouse's conversation with fans from the rest of the blogosphere. Every week during the NFL season we'll be focusing on a big rivalry. Today, it's Chargers-Patriots, for, well, obvious reasons. Rob Zepeda, the guy behind BoltHype and Chargers Confidential, and Tom Masse of the Pats Pulpit, answer a few questions.

First up, Chargers fan Rob Zepeda.

More after the 'Continue Reading' jump:

FanHouse: Marty Schottenheimer goes 14-2 and gets canned. General manager A.J. Smith wasn't a big Schottenheimer fan, but how did the fans feel about him. And how do they feel about Norv Turner?

Rob: The fans had mixed feelings about Marty. He was a likable person who truly loved his players, and was a character on the sidelines. He certainly seemed like a coach, even if he wasn't calling the plays. But he had such a stigma about him; a conservative coach who played not to lose instead of playing to win. He was a guy who could build up a team by instilling discipline and work ethic in his players.

But his teams seemed to always hit a ceiling. Marty could only take a team so far. It was his nature to almost handcuff his Quarterback. Our defensive backs played timid under Marty; they seemed almost so afraid to make a mistake that they rarely took gambles and as a result never put up impressive interception numbers.

Certainly fans appreciate what Marty did for the Chargers, but it was clearly time to go in another direction. Which is why its so fitting that Norv Turner is now the head coach. Coach Turner has never been one to build a team up from nothing, and luckily he doesn't have to do that in San Diego.

Coach Turner doesn't need to establish a winning attitude in San Diego; he doesn't need to rid the locker room of malcontents and he doesn't need to stock the roster with players who can play in his scheme. He is going to be asked to do what he does best, and that's command an offense; the same offense he established in Tomlinson's rookie year.

The Chargers have firepower that exceeds what Turner had in his Championship years in Dallas. All he needs to do is steer the ship. After their opening loss in the preseason, the Chargers have won an impressive 4 games in a row under Coach Turner. If they win in Foxboro, there shouldn't be a single doubter left. Matter of fact, I ran a poll on BoltHype and a large majority felt that Coach Turner could get the team to the Super Bowl this year. Time will tell...

FanHouse: Hardcore football fans know Marcus McNeill, but casual observers have probably never heard of him. Which little-known Chargers player should people look for Sunday?

Rob: Donnie Edwards and Randell Godfrey are with different teams this season, and with their departure sits a hole at the middle linebacker positions. The Chargers cannot replace the 20 years of combined experience Edwards and Godfrey had in the league, but they can add youth and intensity to the position.

Stephen Cooper and Matt Wilhelm are first year starters, but both have been in the league long enough to be considered veterans. They'll bring different things to the table as the team's new inside linebackers. In particular, they'll be a force in the run game and will fly around and hit people. Donnie Edwards always carried the knock against him that he is an ankle tackler who gets his tackles downfield.

Whereas Edwards is a tackler, Cooper is a hitter. In his first start with the team, Stephen Cooper amassed 8 tackles and forced a fumble. He is a thick, compactly built guy who is incredibly strong and aggressive as a tackler. He'll leap over people and deliver a punishing hit. He can rush the passer on blitzes up the middle and has the speed to chase down running backs.

A special teams standout for years, Cooper is really coming into his own and is looking to become a household name this year. Just another example of the talent level the Chargers have at Linebacker.

FanHouse: A lot of fans were scratching their heads when San Diego used a first-round pick on LSU wideout Craig Davis, and then traded up in the second round to take safety Eric Weddle. What are your thoughts on the team drafting these guys?

Rob: Craig 'Buster' Davis and Eric Weddle have fit in perfectly with the team. Its almost unbelievable how perfectly they upgraded the areas that needed to be upgraded. Davis has magnets for hands and has true deep speed. He also has the added ability to return punts. The Chargers needed help in their punt return production and needed to get a guy who could stretch the field. AJ Smith drafted Craig Davis and killed two birds with one stone.

Eric Weddle has proven to be worth every draft pick Smith traded away to get him. A dynamic player, Weddle can do it all. A classic example of a hybrid player whose brings tremendous value to his team with the variety of roles he can fill. Weddle has had an eye-popping preseason and in his first regular season game, was making plays left and right, including getting to Rex Grossman a couple of times on blitzes.

The Chargers needed to draft a guy who could start now, and felt Weddle was one of the few safeties still on the board who do just that. Its now just a matter of time before Eric Weddle becomes a starter on the base defense; until then, he'll be used in many packages and will see plenty of snaps.

Its funny; people still question AJ Smith and his crew on draft day. You'd think we'd all learn by now!

FanHouse: Putting aside this rivalry for a moment, if you could have one Patriots player on the Chargers, who would it be?

Rob: Easy: give me Randy Moss. I've always liked the guy, even though my opinion isn't a popular one among Charger fans (Moss was a Raider, after all). They guy is still a dominant player in this league, and proved that he can abuse defenses as long as he has a quality Quarterback to throw him the ball. Randy Moss on the Chargers would make the team Super Bowl favorites for the rest of the decade!

FanHouse: What do the Chargers have to do win this game?

Rob: The Chargers are going to need to successfully run the ball, and that means forcing the Patriots to play honest and respect the pass. Tomlinson has had great success against the Patriots in his career, so if he gets rolling the Chargers will stand a great chance to win the game. Its Tom Brady and his receivers that worry me the most. If the Chargers get ahead early, then Brady will be looking to throw the ball a lot.

That's going to be dangerous for the Chargers because Brady will make big plays downfield. The Chargers have experience covering Randy Moss (he was once a division rival), but that wont stop Brady from throwing deep. It's probably best that the Chargers keep the game close for as long as possible, so as to discourage Tom Brady from airing it out.

The Chargers pass rush, led by Merriman, Phillips, and Castillo, will be trying to get at Tom Brady all game long, so eventually the Patriots will need to max protect. That's going to mean they'll want to throw the ball more and that's literally the best way for them to beat the Chargers. A lot is going to be resting on the secondary's shoulders on Sunday. They need to play well if they want to help the team win.

Theres even more at their page, including a weird comment from a Raiders fan on how the Chargers will get revenge in New England. No idea...

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September 14, 2007

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