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Extra Points: McCoy, Chargers fight on
By John McMullen, NFL Editor
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - If the NFL truly is a war of attrition Mike McCoy and the San Diego Chargers are in full retreat.
McCoy, the rookie head coach of the Bolts, thought he landed in America's Most Beautiful City as the architect of the reclamation product called Philip Rivers.
Instead he finds himself in the sequel to "MASH."
In fact, forgive McCoy if he's seeing "Hawkeye," "Hot Lips" and "Trapper John" in his sleep these days because he is probably spending most of his time talking to medical professionals.
A tough rebuilding job for McCoy was only made more difficult by a host of bumps and bruises during training camp and the preseason.
It all started back in May when the Chargers' mentor lost emerging outside linebacker Melvin Ingram to a torn ACL during OTAs.
Things haven't slowed since. From hard-luck wide receiver Danario Alexander's torn ACL to Malcolm Floyd's sprained knee to Eddie Royal's bruised lung and concussion, all the way to rookie cornerback Steve Williams' torn pec muscle, McCoy has to be wondering if there is a Voodoo doll out there with his name on it.
Minor injures like Corey Liuget's balky shoulder or Manti Teo's sprained right foot might be headline news in other cities but they're barely a blip on the radar in Ron Burgundy's town.
"It's part of the game," McCoy said when discussing all of his team's injuries. "It's the unfortunate part when you lose the guys we've lost, but it's an opportunity for the other guys to step up."
Yet no one is going to feel sorry for the Chargers so the mantra almost has to be "next man up" while forging ahead with McCoy's original plan, keeping Rivers clean in the pocket.
Rivers, the veteran North Carolina State product, is obviously still a talented quarterback but he fell on hard times during the final season of the Norv Turner era, thanks in large part to his porous offensive line.
A four-time Pro Bowl pick and a four-time team MVP, Rivers threw for 3,606 yards and 26 touchdowns in 2012, extending his team-record streaks of 3,500- yard passing seasons and 25 touch-down seasons to five. He is one of only six quarterbacks in NFL history who can claim five or more consecutive seasons with at least 25 touchdown passes, joining an exclusive club featuring heavyweights like Peyton Manning (1998-2010), Brett Favre (1994-98), Dan Marino (1984-88), Drew Brees (2006-12) and Aaron Rodgers (2008-12).
Point being, Rivers is pretty good when hitting on all cylinders and if you can keep him upright, he's even better.
Rivers really perks up as a player within an up-tempo environment and McCoy has plenty of experience with that. Perhaps, no one runs a fastbreak offense better than Peyton Manning and the Chargers' new mentor had a front row seat for that in 2012 as the Broncos' offensive coordinator.
"The game is faster (when Rivers is at the controls)," McCoy said. "When Philip is in there (his teammates) play faster."
A year ago, the shoddy offensive line play stunted Rivers' preferred modus operandi and spawned a breakdown in mechanics for the signal caller, a player who is a little like Favre in that he trusts his arm too much and can be prone to throwing off his back foot when in duress.
Turner, for all his acumen as a play-caller, isn't the type who is interested in polishing things like technique, so Rivers' troubles were magnified in 2012.
Whether the 10-year veteran can change some dangerous default settings at age 31 under McCoy should go a long way in determining his and the Chargers' future.
Mission No. 1 has to be getting Rivers to feel more comfortable in the pocket again and rebuilding things up front.
McCoy acknowledged the "lack of protection at certain times" during last Thursday night's 33-28 preseason loss to the Chicago Bears. Rivers completed 5-of-9 passes in that one but was harassed throughout, being sacked three times in four drives.
After the final time he hit the dirt -- caused by a Max Starks' whiff on emerging Bears defensive end Shea McClellin -- Rivers spiked the ball to the turf in obvious frustration.
Despite the hiccups, though, things are slowly starting to turn around.
Drafting D.J. Fluker with the 11th overall pick was a big step in making things better up front. The former Alabama star will step in at right tackle Week 1 and solidify that spot for the next five years or so. Whether veteran tackles Starks or King Dunlap can do the same on the left side is a far murkier question.
But it's one McCoy will embrace at least until he gets the latest MRI results.
08/21 10:00:19 ET