The highlight of the special teams activity was the 58 yard field goal by Nate Kaeding. The conditions were optimal, but its impressive to see Nate show off that kind of leg strength and accuracy. In fact, a 60 yard field goal would have been totally in reach for Nate on Saturday. Mike Scifres was excellent as always. On one series, he correctly called out that the team needed one more player on the field. Its that kind of heads-up awareness that impresses me about Mike. He walks around with a relaxed feel to him, but he takes his job very seriously. I'd like to see him in Honolulu next year. On a side note, Scifres would make a fine emergency QB in my opinion. He has a real good throwing arm! Return duties in both Punt teams and Return teams were split pretty evenly. From the looks of it, Darren Sproles is getting the most work with the number ones, but Craig Davis gets his reps and Antonio Cromartie is also returning kicks from time to time. Sproles isn't a lock for the job at this point, but he is getting every opportunity to be successful in that area. Time will tell who emerges the best candidate for the return job. The highlight of the coverage units was Antonio Cromartie. The coaches are using him as the Gunner in place of the non-participating Kassim Osgood. They are also using Cromartie's speed and length to block field goals off the edge. And as mentioned, Cromartie was seeing time as a kick returner.
Head Coach Norv Turner was seen and heard a number of times yelling out at his players. He would either be correcting mistakes or praising the work of certain individuals. He seemed to be particularly frustrated with Billy Volek, but would also get after the team for not practicing in the manner that he wanted. This is Turner's team now, and he wants to practice a certain way. The players are quickly learning how practice operates with Norv Turner at the helm as opposed to Marty Schottenheimer. The highly underrated Coach James Lofton was also often involved with his players. He has a different approach to coaching; he is mellow and teacher-like. As an aside, Coach Lofton is absolutely yoked! Dude looks ready to strap up and catch 10 balls in a game if need be. Defensive Coordinator Ted Cottrell really is a players coach. He's out there like one of the guys. Didn't hear or see too much of him, but with the way the defensive was organized and practicing, he could afford to stand back and let them work. Again, thats credit on his part for having the players prepared and knowing what he expects from them, and at the same time credit goes out to the veteran leadership from guys like Jamal Williams, Marlon McCreee, and Matt Wilhelm. New secondary coach Bill Bradley doesn't hesitate to dish out praise when his players earn it. He is a vocal coach who communicates with his guys very effectively.
The main players in the front office were definitely accounted for. Buddy Nix was watching intently, AJ Smith was on the field the entire time, pausing only for radio interviews, and Dean Spanos also made an appearance. Smith seemed to play close attention to Craig Davis in particular, and seemed pleased at Davis' performance and the applause from the fans whenever Davis made a great play (which a regular event). Its nice to see Smith and Nix on the field observing and evaluating. I couldn't help but wonder if they are making some decisions as to whether or not certain players get contract offers. I've got to believe they are working on a deal with Malcolm Floyd, but I wonder if Drayton Florence is also going to get a competitive offer. With the way that both Florence and Cromartie are performing right now, I could see it going either way. However, the recent acquisition of Paul Oliver could mean the Chargers are headed in a different direction. The worry I have is that the developmental period for Cornerbacks can sometimes be longer than expected. Cornerback typically reach their peak at around year six or seven. Certainly young corners can jump in there and get you some interceptions, but it takes years of experience to reach a level where pro wide receivers no longer are able to beat you with route running tricks, etc
With all that said, that'll conclude our Chargers Fan Fest player coverage. Hopefully you gained some insight on how the bolts are looking right now. The excitement level around this team is high, as well as are the expectations. Anything less than a Super Bowl would be a disappointment, especially considering that this team may in fact be the best team ever.
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