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Health is biggest obstacle for Chargers as camp approaches

2007 season recap

Getting closer. Maligned coach Norv Turner did what he was brought in to do, get the Chargers a playoff win. The Chargers got two, including a road playoff win at Indianapolis. Injuries helped end the Chargers playoff run in New England in the AFC Championship Game.

Key camp questions

Are the Chargers healthy?
Quarterback Philip Rivers, running back LaDainian Tomlinson, tight end Antonio Gates and center Nick Hardwick were all recovering from injuries during the offseason. Tomlinson was the most publicized, but he will be ready for training camp coming back from an MCL injury. Rivers played in the AFC Championship Game with a torn ACL and had surgery a few days later. But he's a fast healer and doing well. Hardwick is coming back from a foot surgery, while Gates missed offseason workouts with a foot injury. The Chargers signed Jeremy Newberry as an insurance policy for Hardwick. Hardwick and Gates are imperative to the Chargers success this season, so they will be watched closely in training camp.

Is Eric Weddle ready to step in?
The Chargers certainly think so. The team released second-year safety Marlon McCree to make room for Weddle, who was a second-round draft pick last season. Weddle played well as a nickle back last season and backed up Clinton Hart at strong safety last year. Weddle showed an uncanny ability to make plays. Weddle played cornerback in college and should have no trouble sliding over to the free safety spot for the Chargers. Weddle impressed Chargers officials in offseason workouts so that should continue through training camp.

What does Derek Smith still have left?
The Chargers brought in Smith to add some veteran depth to the linebacking corps. Now the team will have to cash in that insurance policy in the wake of Stephen Cooper's four-week suspension to begin the season. Smith will be counted on in the Chargers 3-4 system. Smith was the 49ers leading tackler from 2001-05, but lost his job in 2007 to Patrick Willis. If Smith can't win the job in training camp, Brandon Siler also could step up and take the position.

Key position battle

Backup running back:Darren Sproles seems to be the favorite to be Tomlinson's backup, but don't be so sure. The team is pretty high on third-round pick Jacob Hester. The Chargers will likely use Hester in a variety of different roles during training camp. Hester is versatile enough to line up at running back, fullback, H-back and possibly receiver. Both players, however, could end up contributing to the team in a variety of different ways.

Rookie spotlight

RB Antoine Cason: The Chargers first-round pick was a standout in the team's offseason workouts. Cason is listed behind Quentin Jammer on the depth chart, but is a candidate to see some playing time during the regular season.

Player on the spot

WR Vincent Jackson: The key question for Jackson is if he will be the underachiever who seemed to drift through the regular season, or the big-play target who was huge for the Chargers in the playoffs. Jackson led the Chargers with 18 receptions for 300 yards and two touchdowns in three postseason games for the Chargers. The team is looking for Jackson to duplicate that performance in the regular season.

Fantasy focus

RB LaDainian Tomlinson: The sure-fire top pick of the fantasy draft in recent years is being met with some doubts this season. Some fantasy football players are leaning towards Minnesota's Adrian Peterson. No matter where you lean on the Tomlinson-Peterson debate, LT is still one of the top running backs in the game and there should be no concern about his MCL injury from last year having an impact on this season.

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