SAN DIEGO — Can the Chargers score 50 points against the New York Giants this week?
On the surface, it's a dumb question. After all, the Giants ranked second in the National Football League to the Chicago Bears last year in total defense and rushing defense and were No. 4 against the pass.
The Giants have that old-fashioned concept of football--you win with defense.
But the question remains: Can the Chargers, with an offense that Miami Coach Don Shula called the most sophisticated he had ever seen, duplicate the 50 points they produced against the Dolphins?
Charger defensive lineman Dee Hardison was a member of the Giants defense for the past five years until San Diego claimed him on waivers last week.
When the question of the Chargers' offensive prospects against the Giants was presented to Hardison Monday, he gave it some serious thought.
"I honestly don't know," Hardison, a nine-year veteran, said. "It will be very interesting. I'd like to see myself if San Diego can get 50 on the Giants. It would be a delight if they did.
"I know the Giants have a lot of pride in the way they play defense. If they don't finish No. 1 in the league in defense, they feel they slipped. I know they'll be saying in their locker room this week, 'No way the Chargers will score 50 against us.' "
Hardison, who spent the preseason with the Giants, said the New York defense has been rehearsing for the Chargers since the second week of training camp.
The Giants practiced against San Diego offensive formations every week in an effort to acquire some feeling for the shifting and motion the Chargers employ.
Of course, there was no way to prepare for everything in the complex Charger offensive package, much less the athletic prowess of Gary Anderson.
"Anderson will give them something extra to think about," said Hardison, who seemed as amazed as his teammates and fans by Anderson's one-of-a-kind, 5-yard flight into the end zone over a Miami safety.
Hardison said he was "going berserk" as he watched from the sidelines as the Charger offense ran, passed, and controlled the ball en route to its 50-point afternoon.
The Giants defense, of which Hardison was a member since 1981, is fairly basic in its design, he said.
"They want to push the offense back two yards from the line of scrimmage," he said. "They let the defensive linemen do most of the work and the linebackers make most of the tackles.
"(Linebacker) Lawrence Taylor is still The Man in that defense. He played great this summer. He was awesome."
Taylor reportedly underwent treatment for a drug problem in the off-season.
Hardison said he is somewhat bitter against the Giants for releasing him and will have some extra motivation in this week's game.
"I hope to show them what they gave up," Hardison said. "I know I can play this game. They cut me because they wanted to go with younger players.
"I know my old friends will be wanting to say to me after this game, 'Dee, we kicked your butt.' "
Hardison was used mainly on special teams and as a reserve lineman last year. He started five games in 1984. His best year in New York was in 1983 when he started 13 games and made 2 1/2 sacks.
He said he can help the young San Diego defense in a couple of ways.
Physically, he's strong against the run, which would complement the Chargers' corps of pass rushers, including Lee Williams and Leslie O'Neal. His potential value went up Sunday when rookie Terry Unrein was lost for two to four weeks with knee damage.
"I'll play end, nose tackle, anywhere, just point me," Hardison said.
Hardison's experience could make a bigger difference than his mere physical presence.
"This is a young defensive team, looking for an identity," he said. "It has the potential to go a long, long way. Maybe I can help out with leadership, work hard and set a good example.
"I'll tell you this: If we play hard, run to the ball and hit people, like we did against Miami, we'll do well. This defense can be much, much better than 28th in the league."
The New York defense will learn Sunday if being second in the league is enough to stop the Chargers.