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Questions at QB, Percentages Working Against the Chargers

Wednesday, September 8, 2004; Page H17

For a long time this preseason, the San Diego Chargers were trying to decide between Philip Rivers and Drew Brees as their starting quarterback. This is sort of like that Garrison Keillor line about the best piece of pumpkin pie he ever had not tasting much different from the worst piece of pumpkin pie he ever had.

Brees was named the starter on Monday, having won 11 of 28 games in his career (39.2 percent). Rivers missed 25 days and 29 practices before finally ending his contract holdout. He went 18 for 30 in his two preseason games with one touchdown and three interceptions.

"It doesn't really change anything for me," said Brees. "There's still a lot of work ahead, and that's what I'm focused on."

Chargers Coach Marty Schottenheimer is 12-20 (.375) in two years in San Diego, and he hasn't exactly surrounded himself with winners. Offensive coordinator Cam Cameron was 18-37 (.327) as a college coach; defensive coordinator Wade Phillips was 49-38 (.563) as the coach in Buffalo; and defensive line coach Wayne Nunnelly was 19-25 (.431) as a college coach.

The coaches aren't very original, either. Running back LaDainian Tomlinson (1,645 yards rushing) had 313 carries and caught 100 passes, meaning he was involved in 43 percent of the team's plays. That's why San Diego wasn't taking any chances with him in the preseason. He was held out of the first two games, participated in eight plays in the third and did not play in the fourth and final game.

He participated in only five plays (with two carries) in the preseason last year.

The offensive line is helped by the addition of starting left tackle Roman Oben (Gonzaga). Left guard Toniu Fonoti, a third-year veteran, is 6-4, 350 pounds and just 22 years old.

On defense, keep your eye on linebacker Donnie Edwards. He had 161 tackles last year; that was 66 more than second-place Jerry Wilson, a safety.

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