At last year's mini camp practice, I had particular interest in watching how the new additions of Antonio Cromartie and Marlon McCree would affect the secondary. Almost immediately I could see how Marlon is a natural field general. He was always in position and would direct the other guys if they were confused during formation calls.
Antonio Cromartie's physical tools were impressive to see in person. He was raw and would make his fair share of rookie mistakes, but then there were moments where he looked dominant on the field. He was eager to learn and would allow himself to be coached, which was an encouraging sign.
Watching Marcus McNeil in practice was an eye-popping experience partly due to his massive size, but equally to the ease of his play. He had the look of a 5-year veteran from the way he carried himself on the field. Marcus was plenty strong enough and displayed an aggressive streak about him. I could see a bright future for him, but never imagined he would go on to earn a Pro Bowl berth as a rookie!
Watching those three players go about their business on the football field would have been enough to satisfy any die-hard Charger fan, so you can imagine what watching the entire team practice is like. If ever an opportunity presents itself, I encourage any Bolt fan to attend a practice and get a feel for how professional the team is. And at the same time, its fun to hear the comedians on the team like Kassim Osgood and Carlos Polk liven up the day's work.
This year, there will again be some new players to get acquainted to and I plan on watching these player's in particular to note the strides in development they are making:
Craig Davis - Can't wait to see his football speed first hand. Obviously in the mini camp environment I wont be able to get a sense of his toughness, which is a notable trait he has. But I will be excited to see what he brings to the punt return game and I want to see him run with guys like Cromartie and Jammer.
Eric Weddle - It should be interesting to see how quickly he can absorb a playbook. If he shows he can be in the correct position a high percentage of plays, then I will feel much better about our Safeties. The Chargers have had a revolving door at Safety for years now. Marlon McCree brought a much need sense of stability to one side - now we just need to nail down the other. Hopefully Eric is the answer for years to come.
Philip Rivers - I have all the confidence in the world in Philip's ability to lead the team and provide stellar QB play. What I am concerned about is the timing and rhythm he will have to adjust to with all the receivers competing for a starting job. The only real lock at Wide Receiver is Vincent Jackson. Watching Rivers throw to Floyd, Davis, Parker, and all the other guys will show me a lot about who will have the best opportunity to start.
The Inside Linebackers - We are pretty set at Outside Linebacker, except maybe some depth (bit of an understatement, no?). What I want to see if how much Dobbins and Waters push Cooper and Wilhelm for starting jobs. No doubt Dobbins and Waters start immediately on special teams, but both Tim Dobbins and Anthony Waters may be our most aggressive players besides Shawne Merriman. Experience is going to be the deciding factor in who starts at Inside Linebacker, but I would like to see what Anthony Waters brings to the table. He may remind Coach Rivera a little bit of his former player, Brian Urlacher. So I expect Waters to be a bit more versatile than Tim Dobbins, but it will all depend on knowing the playbook.
Of course, I'll be watching the entire team and providing a full recap of the day's two practices. Hopefully I get a player interview in as well, so keep checking back!
UPDATE: Mini Camp report is up! Check it out here, and be on the lookout for more reports once Training Camp gets under way
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