Post-Fouts Chargers Take On Rams Tonight

Times Staff Writer

The Rams and the San Diego Chargers are going through some major mood swings these days.

Think about it. In two years, the Chargers have gone from Dan Fouts to Babe Laufenberg at quarterback, the Rams from Dieter Brock to Jim Everett.

So guess which team is swinging without a net?

"We don't have an established starter or an established backup," Charger Coach Al Saunders said this week. "We may be the only team in the league looking for two quarterbacks."

Tonight, in the second installment of Saunders' whirling quarterback derby, it's Laufenberg who gets the start against the Rams in the Rams/Times Charity game at Anaheim Stadium.

The thought of Laufenberg starting a game for San Diego a few years ago would have sent Charger fans screaming toward the exits. But these days, without Fouts, you do what you can.

Laufenberg, remember, has not thrown a regular-season pass in five seasons. His career has been mostly spent as quarterback gypsy, roaming from camp to camp in search of work.

Finally, perhaps, he has found a spot to pitch a tent. Saunders is rotating Laufenberg this summer with Mark Malone, formerly of the Pittsburgh Steelers, and second-year player Mark Vlasic.

At the end of camp, Saunders hopes a starter will emerge.

Last week, Laufenberg led his team through a 21-point fourth quarter to a come-from-behind victory over the Dallas Cowboys. He completed 13 of 23 passes for 149 yards and 2 touchdowns.

Strangely, though, any comparisons to former Charger quarterbacks or offenses must be made through the eyes of tonight's opponent, the Rams.

It's the Rams who have San Diego's former offensive coordinator, Ernie Zampese. It's the Rams who think they have the next Fouts in Jim Everett.

Tonight even marks the Ram debut of one of Fouts' favorite targets, tight end Pete Holohan, who had 171 receptions for 2,073 yards and 7 touchdowns in 7 seasons with the Chargers.

The Rams acquired the 29-year-old Holohan on draft day for a fourth-round draft pick. Holohan missed the first two exhibition games with a hamstring pull but will play in tonight's exhibition against his old teammates.

"It's kind of neat," Holohan said. "It's not as though I needed added incentive, but it's nice."

Holohan doesn't envy the task of the next Charger quarterback.

"I'd hate to be the guy coming in after Dan," he said of Fouts, who retired last spring after 15 seasons.

Holohan also thinks he escaped San Diego just in time, with a chance now to hook on with a team and a quarterback on the rise.

In two exhibition games, Everett has completed 23 of 33 passes for 240 yards. More important have been the increased quickness of Everett's feet and his sense of timing. So far, he's done a pretty decent Fouts imitation.

Holohan said there are similarities in the quarterbacks, and a few differences.

"Jimmy's got one of those tremendous, high-powered arms," Holohan said. "The difference is that Dan was in the system so long. He had that drop where he could get rid of the ball on the fourth or fifth step. But Jim's arm is so strong it's unbelievable."

Ram Notes

The Rams have released wide receiver Paul Jokisch and tight ends Woody Knipple and Malcolm Moore. . . . The Chargers are hurting on defense. Defensive end Lee Williams, linebacker Chip Banks and defensive end Joe Phillips are holdouts, and nose tackle Mike Charles just returned this week and won't play. Starting inside linebackers Gary Plummer and Thomas Benson are out with injuries and will be replaced by Chuck Faucette and Cedric Figaro. . . . Remember Barry Redden, the former Ram tailback who was traded to the Chargers for Buford McGee and a second-round choice in 1987? Redden carried just 11 times for 36 yards last year and is currently the fourth-string tailback behind Tim Spencer, Gary Anderson and Lionel James. In his defense, Redden missed the first three weeks of camp with a hamstring injury.

Other Chargers who won't play: tight end Kellen Winslow (knee), tackle John Clay (hip flexor). . . . Former UCLA lineman David Richards starts tonight for the Chargers at right tackle. . . . The Rams say wide receivers Henry Ellard (groin) and Willie Anderson (wrist sprain) are questionable. . . . Tonight should also mark the season debut of lineman-turned-fullback Donald Evans, who has been bothered by a pinched nerve in the neck and the flu. . . . Quarterback Hugh Millen will play the second half for the Rams tonight as his battle continues with Steve Dils for No. 2. . . . Ram Coach John Robinson said he'd prefer to keep just two quarterbacks this season.

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