|Norv Turner's tenure with the Chargers could be coming to an end after a disappointing season. (US Presswire)|
The Chargers (5-9) and the Jets (6-8) may be eliminated from postseason contention, but players on both teams will have much to play for this Sunday. QB Greg McElroy will be making his first career start for New York. The final two games will also give several Bolts an opportunity to shine and make a case for next season.
“There are a lot of guys that are trying to establish themselves as guys that are going to have careers in the National Football League,” coach Norv Turner said. “A lot of guys want to continue their careers in the NFL.”
SS Brandon Taylor (third round, 73rd overall) saw his first 17 snaps on defense this past Sunday against the Panthers (5-9). “I thought he did fine,” Turner said. “It’s not a true test because obviously they were running the football and trying to get the game over as quickly as they could. He is going to get to play a lot in these next two weeks. It’s what we are talking about. He is a guy that is going to get on tape and show people what he is capable of doing.”
The Bolts' biggest free agent splash this past offseason was WR Robert Meachem (Saints) who was slated to replace WR Vincent Jackson (free agent, Buccaneers). Meachem has virtually disappeared from the offense since he dropped a potential game-winning catch against the Browns in Week 8. Meachem will likely get the start this week because WR Malcom Floyd (ankle) was placed on the reserved-injured list on Tuesday.
“That would be good,” QB Philip Rivers said. “I can’t say enough about how Meachem has handled the whole thing from a professional standpoint. I know that he’s competitive and wants to be out there and be involved. But he’s come every day and hasn’t missed a practice.
He’s stayed ready and come in when called upon and he may be called on quite a bit more these last couple of weeks.”
Meachem admitted the lack of playing time has been tough, but he has done his best to cheer on teammates including WR Danario Alexander who was signed on October 22. “Don’t get me wrong,” Meachem said. “I get bitter and I get mad, but when you take advantage of your opportunities; why get mad at them? I’ve been through a lot in my career and I have learned a lot. When I was first in New Orleans (round one in 2007) I had a knee surgery and all of those guys always cheered and kept me going.”
RB Curtis Brinkley, a third year vet, thought his career may be over when he was released on November 28. Brinkley was re-signed last week and should see significant playing time with RB Ryan Mathews (broken clavicle) also being placed on IR. Brinkley is hopeful this opportunity will keep him in the plans for next season.
“I think it means everything just to try to show more of my abilities,” Brinkley said. “Try to show that I am capable of not only being in the NFL, but playing in the NFL every game. That’s my goal next year.”
Strong-side ILB Jonas Mouton (round two, 2011) has struggled to see playing time on defense after he suffered a preseason shoulder injury that ended his rookie campaign. Mouton may finally get that opportunity this week with ILBTakeo Spikes (hamstring) missing practice.
“I have been playing football my whole life,” Mouton said. “I learned that there are some things that I need to work on and get better at and I feel like I have been doing that. It’s going to be a good opportunity this week to show what I can do.”
With both teams out of the playoffs and guys playing for jobs, Rivers said Sunday may be similar to a childhood backyard pickup game. “When you’re growing up, you play like crazy when no one is watching and nobody cared, but you do care,” Rivers said. “We all do and we want to go out and win just like we were still in the hunt. It won’t mean much to people on the outside, but you’ll see guys in between the lines going after it.”
Harris to start: LT Mike Harris (ankle) has missed the past two starts, but he entered the game last week and is expected to start this Sunday.
Pro Bowl consideration: Pro Bowl ballots were handed out to players on Thursday. Turner said P Mike Scifres and FS Eric Weddle deserved consideration. Rivers has been voted to four Pro Bowls including the past three. Turner admitted Rivers will likely not be honored with an invite this season. “I have never taken it lightly when a guy has made the Pro Bowl in any form because it’s hard to get there and really an honor to be voted by your teammates,” Turner said. “With the struggles we have had it won’t be [Rivers] year. I think he can get back there.”
John Pagano’s brother Chuck cleared for return: The Pagano family received good news; Colts coach Chuck Pagano has been cleared to return to the sidelines in week 17. Chuck has made limited appearances since undergoing chemotherapy treatments after his leukemia diagnosis that was announced on Oct. 1. Chuck’s brother John, the Charger DC, said his brother’s illness and recent tragedies around the league and country has given him perspective in a disappointing season. “It’s great news how his recovery is going,” John said. “It’s one of those things you really look back and reflect on it and you truly understand what he had to deal with.”
Practice report: NT Aubrayo Franklin (knee) and ILB Takeo Spikes (hamstring) did not practice. ILB Demorrio Williams (ankle) was limited. RT Jeromey Clary (knee). LG Tyronne Green (hamstring) and WR Eddie Royal (hamstring) fully participated. Brown and Butler were elevated from limited to full participation.
What’s next: The Chargers will practice in the morning on Friday and then travel in the afternoon.
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