Work in Sports
San Diego Chargers
Questions under center may hamper momentum
The San Diego Chargers open their 2000 training camp at University of California-San Diego in LaJolla, Calif., on July 20. Here are a few questions from Sports Illustrated's Dr. Z, followed by CNNSI.com's perspective on some of the issues facing the Chargers this season. SI's season preview will post Aug. 23.
Dr. Z wants to know:
1.) Has Mike Riley really received enough credit for the magnificent job he did last year, taking an undermanned club one dropped pass away from the playoffs?
2.) What will Bobby Beathard's legacy be, his moves that got the Chargers into a Super Bowl six years ago or his succession of personnel failures of late?
3.) Quarterback Jim Harbaugh, going into his 14th year, has seen his best days. ...Let's see now, there's Moses Moreno and free agent rookie Ja Juan Seider ... and ... am I forgetting anyone?
4.) Somehow, somewhere in the mix of offensive linemen, can the Chargers find a unit that can get a running game going?
The Chargers can make the playoffs if ... Moses Moreno turns into this year's Kurt Warner. Short of that it should be another so-so season for the 'Bolts. The receiving crops is still thin, despite the addition of Curtis Conway from Chicago. Natrone Means is gone to Carolina, leaving San Diego with a committee approach at running back. Jermaine Fazande heads to camp looking to build on his surprising rookie season (365 yards rushing in seven games), with Kenny Bynum, Terrell Fletcher and Fred McCrary also hoping to get carries.
Pivotal games: Nov. 12 vs. Miami; Dec. 10 at Baltimore. The Chargers and Dolphins are two teams that figure to still be in the playoff hunt come early November, making their Week 11 matchup at Qualcomm Stadium a key game for each team. The offensive improvement of the Ravens will challenge the Chargers in their Week 15 visit to PSINet Stadium. San Diego is blessed with a remarkably consistent schedule, featuring only one two-game homestand, followed by a two-game road trip late in the season. Other than that the Chargers alternate home and road games through their first 11 games.
On the hot seat: Moses Moreno is likely to emerge from training camp as the Chargers' starting quarterback, and he probably won't make fans forget John Hadl or Dan Fouts. Moreno attempted only seven passes last season in his second year out of Colorado State, and a mediocre offensive line in front of him will test his mobility from the outset. San Diego's backs and receivers aren't skilled enough to carry a quarterback, so another season of juggling signal-callers likely faces second-year head coach Mike Riley. Free-agent acquisition Curtis Conway is the most talented wideout in San Diego since Tony Martin left after the 1997 season. Conway averaged only 9.7 yards per catch last season before being lost for the year, but the Chargers will likely try to get the ball downfield to Conway and Jeff Graham.
Up-and-comers Jermaine Fazande burst onto the scene with 365 yards in only seven games in his rookie season, and the Chargers are hoping for continued improvement from this bruising young runner. Fazande's bowling ball build will mean plenty of opportunities in goal-line situations, and a large improvement on his two touchdowns in 1999 is likely.