While the majority of the discussion concerning the Chargers this week has justly been about the job security of one A.J. Smith and his right hand puppet, errr man, Norv Turner, the Bolts will be on Monday Night Football in this weekend’s slate and the game is kind of important. There are plenty of games yet to be played this season and an extremely remote possibility that the team could actually still win the division.
Unfortunately the upbeat news really ends there as the injury mess that has been the Bolts this season got even more muddled Wednesday as the team placed left tackle Marcus McNeill on injured reserve. McNeill has had troubles staying healthy his entire career with back and neck issues so his injury problems should come as no huge surprise.
When one man goes down, inevitably it clears a roster spot for yet another and the fill-in for McNeill will be the well-traveled Jared Gaither. The former South Carolina Gamecock was a fifth round draft pick of the Baltimore Ravens in 2007 and started 28 games for the team at left tackle. Fans in San Diego may be more familiar with his recent time spent in Kansas City where he played 10 games earlier this season before being placed on waivers.
McNeill’s troubles have been just another brick in the wall for the Bolts offensive line this year as Kris Dielman is already on IR due to his scary concussion incident and guard Louis Vasquez has missed a few contests with a bad ankle. Fortunately the team anticipates that he may be able to return Monday against the Jags which could provide a much needed boost to the unit in charge of protecting Philip Rivers.
Only center Nick Hardwick and right tackle Jeromey Clary have steered clear of the injury bug thus far this year and Clary’s play has (as always) left a bit to be desired. Given his thoughts expressed in the North County Times, Head Coach Norv Turner is prepared to go into the Jacksonville game as is saying: "We're prepared to play exactly as we did last week, with (Stephen) Schilling and Tony (Moll) in there. And, you know, we'll see where (Brandyn) Dombrowski is in terms of his health, and what he's able to do over the next couple days.” Turner also commented that Tyronne Green could be ready this week and he has played a few games in the past protecting Rivers’ blindside.
Despite these potential shots in the arm, the Chargers are going to need to bring their “A” game on defense in order to stop the league’s second ranked rusher in Maurice Jones-Drew. MJD has been consistently solid this season and the Bolts have been a bit suspect against the run on several occasions in 2011.
Still the Jags just fired their coach, the team has officially been sold, and they are 3-8 which suggests this should be a very winnable game for the Bolts. That being said, the focus is going to need to be sharp if San Diego wants to keep its postseason hopes alive as fans have seen plenty of should wins turn into losses already this year.
This is the Chargers’ time of the year however in recent memory as the Bolts are 17-2 in December and January since 2007. In other words, if there are still any optimists out there in the Chargers’ fan base, this is the week to really get excited.
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