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Room for improvement

Posted Oct 3, 2011

Ryan Mathews, Vaughn Martin and Donald Butler are just three of the young players Head Coach Norv Turner expects to get better as the season goes along simply by continuing to play.

SAN DIEGO – Ryan Mathews makes Head Coach Norv Turner repeat himself a lot.

No, not because he doesn’t take instruction well – Mathews has exceled during his second season thanks to more regular practice participation – but because each week Turner explains how much better Mathews has gotten.

Mathews has gained, in yards of total offense, 118, 126, 149 and 149 this season. With 542 total yards, he’s fourth in the NFL behind Wes Welker, Matt Forte and Darren McFadden in yards from scrimmage.

“As well as he’s playing, he’s (still) just getting a feel for what it’s like to play in this league. He can play so much better than what he did yesterday and I can name another 15 guys like that,” Turner said.

“I don’t think we’re playing at the level we can play. I think a lot of guys are playing with great energy and are getting the most out of what they have to offer right now.”

Donald Butler, in his fourth NFL game, had two tackles for loss and two quarterback hits, one of which contributed to a Marcus Gilchrist interception. The starting inside linebacker now has 31 tackles on the season, third on the team.

Vaughn Martin, in line for an increased role entering his third season, was thrust into the starting lineup opposite rookie Corey Liuget when Luis Castillo injured his leg. Martin’s 13 tackles are second on the team among defensive linemen.

“This team has not been together very long. If you look close at the roster, you see this team has gone under unbelievable change over the last two years,” Turner said. “That’s why we can get so much better. Winning helps that.”

GET BETTER: The Chargers have been good at identifying areas of need, creating a plan and producing results in recent history, Turner said Monday.

San Diego is markedly better at running the football, he said, as evidenced by the Chargers’ 82 second-half rushing yards against Miami. The team continues to work on ball security and Turner feels the kick coverage, particularly on kickoffs, has gotten much better.

So what’s the next major emphasis after a 26-16 win against Miami? Red zone offense. The Chargers scored one touchdown on four red zone possessions Sunday.

“We’ve hurt ourselves the last two weeks in the red zone with major penalties,” Turner said, referencing a personal foul call Sunday and two flags that negated Malcom Floyd catches close to the goal line this season.

San Diego did get two Nick Novak field goals and a 1-yard Mike Tolbert touchdown plunge Sunday. Getting points, even three, is better than turning the ball over, Turner said, and he lauded Rivers for being conservative on some red zone throws in the second half, particularly with a lead late in the game.

“(Rivers) was being very careful on the throw to Tolbert. That might’ve been another touchdown in the red zone,” Turner said. “He was being very careful about making sure we end up with the ball.”

INJURY UPDATE: Quentin Jammer worked out on Monday and is expected to participate in at least a portion of Wednesday’s practice if his body responds well.

Vincent Jackson (leg) is not worse than last Monday, giving Turner hope he’ll recover as the week progresses.

Nick Hardwick (neck sprain) and Takeo Spikes (back) are day-to-day.

BOLTS: Ryan Mathews is doing a much better job of running low and being aware of securing the football, Turner said … Larry English now has 3.5 sacks in his last five games and made a career-high two against Miami. “That’s really what we’re looking for from Larry,” Turner said. “Getting the production was big.” … Of Jackson’s 55-yard touchdown catch, which made plenty of national highlight shows, Turner said it didn’t surprise him. “I don’t ever take anything for granted, but … he’s made plays like that in games.”

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