Chargers 2009 Training Camp Impressions

The San Diego Chargers kicked off the start of training camp today with the rookies reporting as they get the opportunity for a head start on the veterans, who come in this weekend. As only the first day of camp, and without the traditional crows of fans, Monday's practice had a subdued and deliberate feel to it. There wasn't a whole lot going on today without the veterans on hand, but nevertheless, I came away with a few observations I'd like to share with you.

ALSO SEE: Chargers 2009 Training Camp Pictures

Gartrell Johnson Impresses

Gartrell Johnson is a guy who continues to impress me each and every time I watch him practice. He's not hard to miss out there; dreadlocks burst out of his helmet and whip around as he runs. He is thickly built with a strong lower half, displays excellent vision, and is very explosive in his cuts. Johnson practices hard and is quietly becoming a coach favorite. As I asked Coach Turner about his impressions of Johnson, coach's eyes light up, "I'm excited about Johnson. He's got some good instincts, that's why we drafted him. Now we haven't been in pads one's tried to tackle him yet and he hasn't tried to avoid a tackle yet. We have a lot of evaluating to do with all our players." With only two running backs reporting to camp today, Gartrell Johnson got lots of work; "They can't wear me out," he insisted.

The preseason is going to be Johnson's opportunity to shine; with Ladainian Tomlinson and Darren Sproles ahead of him on the depth chart, there simply wont be a lot of extra carries for Johnson in the regular season. Of course, if Johnson continues to impress he'll have a shot at stealing some carries here and there. Johnson brings some unique talents to the table, and could be a nice change of pace for Ladainain Tomlinson to lean on. Johnson welcomes contact and prides himself in his ability to be difficult to tackle. "That's kind of what I'm known for," he tells me.

It's still early on, and the pad's have yet to start popping, but Gartrell Johnson could become the next Michael Turner. I think Johnson is flying a bit under the radar right now, but I can't wait for you guys to see him in action.

Kory Sperry Displays Excellent Ball Skills

Tight End Kory Sperry made a few excellent catches today. As a former basketball player, Sperry has shades of Antonio Gates in him. Sperry plucks the ball out of the air and using his body to shield defenders. He extends for his catches and has soft hands. Sperry could become a nice player for the Bolts.

Vaughn Martin Ridiculously Athletic

Vaughn Martin showed off his natural athleticism today, using explosive movements at the snap and move much faster than most guys his size. Martin is a load, but light on his feet. I've compared him to a mix between Luis Castillo and Igor Olshansky in the past, and I think that's a pretty accurate assessment. Martin's has a nice rip move that he's been working on, it is shows. He was lined up at right defensive end most of the time, and on a couple of looks was lined up at what seemed like a wide 5 technique on the back side. On these plays, Vaughn really had to hustle in pursuit as the ball was being run to the opposite side.

Martin still has a lot of learning to do, both technique-wise as well as in the playbook. That will all come with coaching. What can't be coached, however, is the man's pure athleticism. Martin's another guy to watch once the pads come on.

Kevin Ellison Still Unsigned

It's disappointing to hear that Kevin Ellison is still unsigned. He wasn't at practice today and his continued absence will only slow his progress. It's hard enough for a college player to make the leap to the pros, but safeties have so much to learn that missing valuable practices like today's is not good. Head Coach Turner wasn't too pleased that Ellison missed the start of camp, and warned that Ellison isn't guaranteed to make the final roster simply because he was drafted. "I'm disappointed that Kevin's not here," Coach Turner said. "He's a sixth round pick. I just hope it doesn't keep him from making the football team. Every day he's not here, it's going to hurt him. It's a big deal for a young player to miss, especially for a young guy who's fighting to make a very good roster. It's real big."

Philip Rivers Looks Excellent

Although rookies are the focus at the start of training camp, Philip Rivers and the other QBs were in camp throwing and working with the young guys. Rivers looks fantastic; probably the best shape I've ever seen him in. For all the talk that Rivers isn't a very mobile QB, he actually throws on the run quite well. I'd like to see more of that going forward. He practiced today without his knee braces, but he says he'll wear them during the season.

July 27, 2009

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Olive Tree Guitar Ensemble said... Jul 27, 2009, 10:13:00 PM

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I could tell how much efforts you've taken on it.
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Justin said... Jul 28, 2009, 10:25:00 AM

Wonderful...I have a feeling we've added some more of AJ's gems this year. I can't wait for the season to start!

Big Mike said... Jul 28, 2009, 12:02:00 PM

This is awesome stuff man, we out-of-towners appreciate the insight

Anonymous said... Jul 28, 2009, 1:25:00 PM

nice work. thanks for the update.

Anonymous said... Jul 28, 2009, 6:51:00 PM

fuck the Chargers

roland said... Jul 28, 2009, 7:11:00 PM

i'm really excited to see gartrell play. actually, our whole running back squad in general. we've got a lot of talent behind tomlinson and sproles. i can't wait to see jacob hester play, as well as mike tolbert. and this kory sperry sounds nice. i'm looking forward to watching him during the open-to-the-public training camps.

Anonymous said... Jul 28, 2009, 10:11:00 PM

Who will be on the outside looking in at RB/FB? Right now on the roster we have:
Kris Wilson(listed as FB on
2 UFA's as well

Considering initial feedback on Gartrell I be Bennett will be on the outside since his salary is $1 million/basically double that of everyone outside of LT and Sproles.

Should be interesting.

Billy Da Kid said... Jul 29, 2009, 3:42:00 PM

See now you got me all excited about this Gartrell Johnson dude. Hope he lives up to the HYPE haha

Chris said... Jul 29, 2009, 9:06:00 PM

Gartrell Johnson is a banger like Michael Turner. But it remains to be seen how effective he will be in the NFL without a lot of speed. Flying dreadlocks is no replacement for speedy wheels. Michael Turner had some wheels.

Anonymous said... Jul 31, 2009, 1:56:00 PM

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