NFL Nation: Paul Oliver

San Diego inactives

November, 10, 2011
11/10/11
7:37
PM ET
SAN DIEGO –- The only new injury news for San Diego on Thursday is that safety Steve Gregory was hurt this week in practice and he is inactive. He will be replaced by Paul Oliver against Oakland.

Below are the Chargers’ inactives:

DL Luis Castillo

OG Kris Dielman

WR Malcom Floyd

LB Darryl Gamble

S Steve Gregory

LB Shaun Phillips

WR Bryan Walters
When the New Orleans Saints move their training camp to Oxnard, Calif., next week it might be a more pleasant experience for the offense than the defense.

It could have been a miserable week for both units, but the first-team offense finally showed signs it’s getting on track in Saturday night's 27-14 preseason loss to the Houston Texans. It took until the sixth preseason possession, but the first-team offense scored its first touchdown.

Even before that, the Saints looked good on their first two drives. But the first drive ended with Drew Brees getting hit and fumbling in the red zone. Brees completed 7 of 14 passes for 109 yards and the first offense moved the ball well after struggling in last week’s preseason debut.

The first-team defense didn’t have nearly as much success. The Texans scored 17 points against New Orleans’ starting defense. That was a big switch from last week when the defense was dominant against San Francisco.

Although the humidity in Oxnard should be much lower than Louisiana, fiery defensive coordinator Gregg Williams probably won’t notice the difference. He’s going to be looking to fix a lot of things -- and probably won't be in the best of moods -- after Matt Schaub, Arian Foster and Andre Johnson made his defense look bad.

Some other observations on the Saints.
  • I liked the way Sean Payton mixed the playing time for running backs Pierre Thomas, Mark Ingram and Darren Sproles with the first-team offense. All three made contributions and Ingram scored the lone touchdown for the first offense on a powerful 1-yard run.
  • Zach Strief got the start at right tackle after the Saints released former starter Jon Stinchcomb. But Charles Brown also got some playing time and the Saints will soon have to make a decision on which of the two young tackles they want to start. On the Saints’ television broadcast, general manager Mickey Loomis said the team likes both Brown and Strief and “there’s no bad choice’’ for the starting job.
  • Joseph Morgan, an undrafted rookie from Walsh College, continues to be one of the biggest surprises of the preseason. Right after Brees and the starters left, backup quarterback Chase Daniel hit Morgan on a 56-yard touchdown pass. Morgan returned a punt for a touchdown in the preseason opener and is making a strong case for a roster spot.
  • With free safety Malcolm Jenkins sitting out, Paul Oliver got the start. Things didn’t go well for him. He was beaten in coverage several times and missed an open-field tackle on Foster.
  • Jonathan Casillas got the start over Scott Shanle at weak-side linebacker. Casillas was active, but maybe a little too eager to make a big impression. He got flagged for an unnecessary-roughness penalty for a late hit.
  • The Saints have a crowded backfield, but there might be room for Patrick Cobbs, who was signed this week. He looked good as a runner and receiver late in the game. He's also got a track record as a strong special-teams player.

Wrap-up: Chargers 29, Texans 23

November, 7, 2010
11/07/10
4:56
PM ET
Thoughts on the Texans’ 29-23 home loss to San Diego.

What it means: Remember when the Texans jumped out to an early lead in the AFC South? It’s ancient history now. At 4-4 after a harrowing loss to the Chargers, Houston’s even with the Jaguars in last in the division behind the idle Titans (5-3) and awaiting the result of the Colts’ game in Philadelphia that could get Indy to 6-2.

What I didn’t like: A late intentional grounding call against Matt Schaub seemed ridiculous and sunk the Texans’ second-to-last drive. Andre Johnson need to catch the pass, but a drop at the end was a killer, as it ricocheted off his knee and resulted in an interception by Paul Oliver that effectively ended the game. Neither might have mattered if the Texans pass defense could have stopped Seyi Ajirotutu, whose four catches were good for 111 yards and two touchdowns.

What I liked: They did better getting the ball to Arian Foster, who had 27 carries for 127 yards and two touchdown and four catches for 70 more. The 33:49 to 26:11 time-of-possession margin looked good, but it arrived in part because San Diego was making big plays.

Injury question: Schaub appeared to suffer a chest or rib injury late in the third quarter. Did it affect his play from there?

What’s next: The Texans resume AFC South play with a trip to Jacksonville, where one team will be left under .500 when the day is over.

NFC Stock Watch: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

FALLING

Denver Broncos running game: A season-long issue is getting worse. The Broncos had 19 yards on 20 carries at Tennessee. They are ranked No. 32 in the NFL in rushing. Denver is averaging 2.2 yards per carry and 55 yards on the ground per game. Denver is literally getting nothing from its ground game.

Oakland Raiders run defense: The Raiders spent a lot of time and resources on improving one of the worst run defenses in the league. Oakland has had its moments, but overall it is still an issue. After being benched to start the game, Houston’s Arian Foster ripped apart Oakland. He had 131 yards on 16 carries, adding a 74-yard touchdown run. Oakland is just not closing gaps well enough on a consistent basis.

Steve Gregory, San Diego Chargers, safety: The Chargers’ starting strong safety is suspended by the NFL for the next four games for using a performance-enhancing substance. Gregory said he did not knowingly take the substance. Paul Oliver will take the place of the play-making Gregory.

[+] EnlargeKyle Orton
Don McPeak/US PresswireThrough four games Kyle Orton has completed 118 of 175 passes for 1,419 yards.
RISING

Kyle Orton, Denver Broncos, quarterback: Orton is playing out of his mind. He is making up for Denver’s bad running game with stellar performances. He has thrown for 1,419 yards. It is the second highest yardage total after four games in the history of the NFL.

San Diego Chargers defense: The Chargers have allowed four touchdowns in four games. San Diego had nine sacks, including four by linebacker Shaun Phillips, in a win over Arizona. Like San Diego’s offense, its defense is ranked No. 1 in the NFL.

Zach Miller, Oakland Raiders, tight end: Miller is one of the best young offensive players in the league. He had 11 catches for 122 yards in a loss to Houston. Miller is a favorite target of Oakland quarterback Bruce Gradkowski and he is a great safety net for an offense that has an unreliable receiving crew.
LaDainian TomlinsonKirby Lee/US PresswireLaDainian Tomlinson had touchdown runs of 1 yard and 3 yards against the Chiefs.
SAN DIEGO -- LaDainian Tomlinson's days as a great running back are probably behind him. His days as a San Diego Charger may be numbered as well.

But as the Chargers continue to show that they intend to be a team to be reckoned with in January, Tomlinson still has a significant role. It may not be as a game-breaker anymore. But Tomlinson, 30, is still the most dangerous and the most used player in the NFL at the goal line.

When San Diego settled down near the goal line in their 43-14 pummeling of the sloppy and overmatched Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday, everyone in the house knew what the Chargers were going to do.

The entire stadium started to chant, “L.T., L.T., L.T.”

And the ball went to Tomlinson. Tomlinson scored on runs of 1 yard and 3 yards. He tried to get another touchdown, but he was stripped of the ball at the goal line in the fourth quarter. The Chargers challenged the close call, but they were denied.

According to ESPN Stats & Information, Tomlinson leads the NFL with 26 goal-line touches. He has seven touchdowns at the goal line, which is also a league high.

Even though he had only 39 yards on 13 carries Sunday, his work near the goal line shows Tomlinson is still a big part of this team. He said he was motivated when he was introduced as part of the franchise's 50th anniversary team prior to the game. Eleven current Chargers are on the team.

This is far from Tomlinson's last honor. Tomlinson is probably headed to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He moved into 10th place on the all-time rushing list Sunday with 12,257 yards.

“It was a special day,” Tomlinson said.

Tomlinson is on pace for the least productive season of his nine-year career. He has 458 yards on 135 carries and is averaging 3.4 yards per carry, which would be a career low if the season ended today.

It took Tomlinson and the Chargers several weeks to agree on a restructured contract to ensure his return in 2009. There is a good chance San Diego will decide to part ways with Tomlinson after this season.

Although Tomlinson's golden days in San Diego may only be a memory, he continues to show he can produce when it counts.

The following are other key aspects of Sunday's game:

San Diego keeps charging: San Diego is one of the hottest teams in the NFL as its enters December, which has been Charger-friendly in recent years.

San Diego has won six straight games. It is 8-3 and leads the 7-4 Broncos by one game in the AFC West. San Diego, which plays at Cleveland next week, has two games remaining with teams with winning records. The Chargers look poised to make a run at the No. 2 seed in the AFC playoffs and a first-round bye.

The win over Kansas City gave San Diego a 5-1 record against AFC West opponents as it finished division play. The Chargers' only blemish was a home loss to the Broncos, which San Diego avenged last week with a 32-3 win in Denver.

San Diego has registered back-to-back 29-point wins. During San Diego's six-game win streak, it has outscored opponents by 105 points.

The Chargers are smoking into the final stretch, which is good news for them, because they always play well in December. Quarterback Philip Rivers is 14-0 as the Chargers' starter in December. The team is 9-0 under coach Norv Turner in the month.

San Diego plays relentless defense: The San Diego defense has been terrific during its winning streak. It has allowed an opponent more than 20 points just once during the streak. San Diego has surrendered a total of 17 points in the past two games.

[+] EnlargePaul Oliver
Donald Miralle/Getty ImagesPaul Oliver returned a fumble for a touchdown against the Chiefs.
Pressuring the quarterback has been a big part of the Chargers' defensive success. San Diego made Kansas City quarterback Matt Cassel uncomfortable all game. The Chargers had one sack, but Cassel was pressured into throwing an interception and he lost one of two fumbles. The lost fumble was returned by San Diego safety Paul Oliver for a touchdown.

“I think we're really playing well as a defense,” San Diego cornerback Quentin Jammer said. “The pressure is a big key.”

Charles and Chambers continue to shine: The reason there is hope for the 3-7 Chiefs is that their two best offensive weapons are still just getting acclimated.

Second-year running back Jamaal Charles had 93 yards on 14 carries. Receiver Chris Chambers continued to shine with a team-high seven catches for 70 yards and a 7-yard touchdown catch against his former team.

Charles has taken over this month as the Chiefs' top back in the aftermath of Larry Johnson's release. Charles is a game-breaker who looks like he could have a future in Kansas City.

Chambers has been fantastic for the Chiefs in the four games since the team claimed him off waivers earlier this month from San Diego. Chambers has 17 catches in four games and he looks like Cassel's favorite target.

When Dwayne Bowe returns from a four-game NFL suspension in two weeks, he will have some work to do to reclaim being the Chiefs' top receiver.

Halftime notes from San Diego

November, 29, 2009
11/29/09
5:51
PM ET
SAN DIEGO --- Halftime notes where the Chargers are handling the Chiefs, 28-7:
  • The Chiefs were in the game, but the Chargers scored 21 unanswered points in the second quarter. The rout was on when Kansas City quarterback Matt Cassel let a ball slip out his hands. San Diego safety Paul Oliver caught the ball and brought it back for a touchdown to give San Diego a 28-7 lead.
  • LaDainian Tomlinson has had more goal-line carries than any player in the NFL this season and he scored his sixth touchdown near the goal line Sunday. Tomlinson is now ninth in the NFL in all-time rushing yards.
  • San Diego tight end Antonio Gates is fourth in the all-time list for touchdowns by a tight end with 55.
  • San Diego safety Eric Weddle returned to the field after missing some time with a knee injury. San Diego linebacker Shawne Merriman (foot) left the game in the second quarter. He is questionable to return. He has been dealing with the injury for weeks. With San Diego leading big, Merriman may not return.
  • Oliver was called for another facemask penalty. He could be fiend or the second in a week for the infraction. He was fined $5,000 by the league for a face-mask penalty against Denver last week.
  • Kansas City running back Jamaal Charles has 71 yards on eight carries.
  • Former San Diego receiver Chris Chambers has five catches for 47 yards and a touchdown for Kansas City.

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