|10-13-2009, 12:55 AM||#1|
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Chargers complimentary of Denver’s D
Posted Oct 12, 2009
A new-look defense has played a huge role in the Broncos’ early-season success.
Leading up to divisional games, teams often talk about the familiarity they have with their opponent. As the Chargers face the Broncos for the first time this season, that’s not a term many of San Diego’s offensive players are using.
“There are a lot of new faces over there and they’re having a lot of success,” wide receiver Chris Chambers said of Denver’s defense. “It’s going to be a challenge.”
On the defensive side of the ball, the Broncos boast eight new starters from their 2008 team that finished the season 8-8. This new-look defense, overseen by first-year coordinator Mike Nolan, has had much to do with Denver’s 5-0 start. The Broncos allowed 28 points per game last season to rank 30th in the NFL. Through five games this year, they’re giving up a league-low 8.6, which is 5.6 fewer than the Eagles, who rank second.
On the season, Denver is second in the NFL in total defense, fifth in passing defense and sixth against the run.
“They’re playing outstanding defense,” Head Coach Norv Turner said. “Defensively I think they’re coached real well. There are eight new starters and I think talent is more important than how long they’ve been together.”
Under Nolan, who hired Turner to coordinate the 49ers’ offense when he was head coach in San Francisco and was Turner’s defensive coordinator with the Washington Redskins, the Broncos switched to a base 3-4 this season. The Chargers were particularly complimentary of Denver’s secondary, who will match up with a Chargers passing offense that ranks second in the NFL heading into Week 6.
Three of the Broncos’ starting four defensive backs signed with the club as free agents this offseason, and each has made an impact, especially seven-time Pro Bowler Brian Dawkins.
“He’s an outstanding player and has been a difference maker for a lot of years in Philadelphia,” Turner said. “He’s all over the field.”
Dawkins plays next to Reynaldo Hill, a player tight end Antonio Gates believes is highly underrated.
“He makes the checks and gets them in all the right defenses,” Gates said. “People don’t understand how big that is. He gave us a tough time when he was in Miami and he’s playing well now.”
Chambers also pointed out that cornerback Champ Bailey is healthy after missing seven games last season and is at the top of his game.
“They’re more sound as an entire defense, especially in the secondary,” Chambers said. “Dawkins and Reynaldo Hill, that’s about 20 years of experience between the two of them. Then Champ is playing so well, it makes it tough. They’ve got more hustle and are playing with a lot of effort out there. We’re going to have to be at the top of our game and be ready for them next week.”
The Chargers won’t release an official injury update until Thursday per NFL policy, but Turner did reveal that six players were limited in practice Monday as the team returned from their bye, including linebackers Stephen Cooper (knee), Shaun Phillips (arm) and Shawne Merriman (groin), defensive tackle Travis Johnson (groin), center Nick Hardwick (ankle) and defensive end Jacques Cesaire (calf).
Linebacker Antwan Applewhite was back on the field Monday for the first time since injuring his hamstring in the season opener at Oakland.
Turner said he’s optimistic that most of those who were limited Monday will be available Wednesday.
Nostalgia will be in the air on Monday night as the Chargers and Broncos celebrate their 50th Anniversary seasons in the “Legacy Game,” featuring both teams’ 1960s Throwback uniforms. The Chargers will wear white pants and Powder Blue jerseys, while the Broncos will wear their original brown and mustard uniforms. Many other features of the AFL in the ’60s will be prevalent as the field, game officials and even the Charger Girls will take on a retro look as they dance to music of the era.
Denver wore their Throwbacks Sunday against New England, and when asked about the uniforms that feature vertically-striped socks, Turner said, “I tried to adjust my television and it didn’t change it.”
Legends to attend
Former Chargers wide receiver Lance Alworth, running back Keith Lincoln and offensive tackle Ron Mix will be on hand at Qualcomm Stadium for Monday’s contest. Lincoln is a member of the Chargers Hall of Fame, while Alworth and Mix are enshrined in both the Chargers Hall of Fame and the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
All three players were key figures on the franchise’s 1963 AFC Championship team.
Turner also had high praise Monday for Broncos quarterback Kyle Orton and the way he runs Denver’s offense. First-year Head Coach Josh McDaniels, who spent the previous three seasons as the offensive coordinator in New England, calls the offensive plays, and Turner sees Denver’s offense as very similar to that of the Patriots.
“It looked like a mirror image to me watching the two go against each other,” Turner said.
Stuff the ballots
Fans have only seven days to cast their final votes on Chargers.com for the 50 Greatest Chargers before voting ends on Monday, Oct. 19. More than 300,000 votes have already been registered and more votes keep coming in.
Fans have also been voting for the Greatest Moment and may continue to vote throughout the season on Chargers.com and at any of the Brigantine Family of Restaurants.
The final list of the 50 Greatest Chargers will be announced and the men introduced on Nov. 27 at the Chargers 50th Anniversary Block Party in Downtown San Diego.