|Chargers wide receiver Robert Meachem is looking forward to going head-to-head with his former New Orleans Saints teammates this Sunday. (US Presswire)|
The Chargers (3-1) completed their preparations for the Saints (0-4) with a walk-through practice on Friday. K Nate Kaeding (groin) and CB Shareece Wright (ankle) will not play, but San Diego is healthier at Week 5 than they have been in recent years.
Coach Norv Turner credited the health of his team to having a complete offseason this year, as opposed to the lockout last season. The Chargers have had major injury issues in previous years, so it goes beyond offseason work.
“We are a lot younger football team than we have been,” Turner said. “We have guys who starting camp were recovering [from injuries] and have not had major injuries we've had to deal with. It's a combination of those things.”
Ground and pound: Big plays are always great, but the Chargers offense will likely take a more conservative approach this Sunday against the Saints because a key to winning the game will be to control the clock while keeping the ball out of the hands of QB Drew Brees. “We don't want the [Saints] offense to get back on the field,” LT Jared Gaither said. “We have to ground-and-pound. Do everything efficiently. It plays a big role when you can demoralize those other guys a little bit, keeping them on the sidelines watching us work.”
Meachem eyes former team: WR Robert Meachem (free agent, Saints) is hopeful he can have a big game against his former team, but does not believe he has a big advantage because he has faced their defense in practice many times. “Somewhat yes and somewhat no,” Meachem said of having an advantage. “They also know all of my tendencies."
Meachem has just six receptions for 92 yards and no TDs this season and is perhaps putting pressure on himself to perform well in New Orleans. He compared the possibility of a good game against the Saints to one of life's most magical experiences. “Just like having a new born baby, it would be a great blessing.”
“It's going to be emotional” Meachem said of his return. “I know a lot of the people who work there and I have been around a lot of the guys.”
Novak capitalizing on familiar surroundings: Nick Novak will kick vs. the Saints in place of K Nate Kaeding (groin). Novak was 3 for 3 last Sunday after being signed on Saturday. It's often difficult for a replacement kicker to perform well because it takes a while to develop timing with a long snapper and holder. Novak, however, played in 15 games for the Chargers last season after Kaeding tore his ACL in Week 1. Novak attributed his familiarity with LS Mike Windt and P Mike Scifres, who holds the kicks as the reason why he could jump in and play at a high level. “It's a lot easier,” Novak said. “Just having the rhythm and the tempo you just know [what to expect]."
Carr ready to contribute: CB Chris Carr, who was signed on Tuesday, does not know what capacity he may be used on Sunday, but is ready to contribute. “I feel comfortable now,” Carr said. “The mental part of the game has always been my strength. Picking up the defense was hard in two days. I feel like I know all the calls and checks. So, I feel confident now that I can go out there and make some plays.”
Garay admits ‘I haven't been 100 percent': NT Antonio Garay emerged as star on the Chargers over the past two years with 105 tackles (74 solo, 31 assists) and eight sacks in 28 games played. Garay, however, has not been on a game-day active roster this season following a foot injury in training camp.
Aubrayo Franklin has started each game at NT with Cam Thomas getting work on third downs. Garay has fully participated in practice since Week 2 and this has left many to wonder why he hasn't played.
“I haven't really got a chance to be 100 percent,” Garay said. “These guys playing as good as they are, we are 3-1. They have given me more of an opportunity to be 100 percent. I would go out there regardless of what my percent is, but under the circumstances we are doing well and all that really matters is that we are winning.
"From that standpoint, these guys are allowing me to get that much better physically health-wise. When I do get an opportunity to play, I will do what I am known for doing.”
Franklin has recorded seven tackles (six solo, one assist) and Thomas has three tackles (one solo, two assists) through the first four games of this season. Garay will likely be inactive again this Sunday.
Injury Report: K Nate Kaeding (groin) and CB Shareece Wright (ankle) are out. LG Tyronne Green (knee) is probable. Green has fully participated in practice all week.
Game preview from a Chargers perspective: Chargers Game Preview: Week 5 vs. Saints
Game preview from a Saints perspective: Saints Game Preview: Week 5 vs. Chargers
Follow Chargers reporter Dan McLellan on Twitter @CBSChargers and @sandiegosports.