What started off as a lazy afternoon practice session quickly turned into an exciting display of the young but talented San Diego Chargers.
ABSENTEES ALLOW YOUNG PLAYERS TO DISPLAY THEIR TALENTS
There were more than a handful of veteran players either absent from practice or nursing injuries. The well-documented "Big Three" (Shawne Merriman, Vincent Jackson, Marcus McNeill) were obviously not at the facility, but there were a number of other notable players also not practicing. Veteran free agent Tra Thomas underwent a recent knee scope said to be keeping him out a couple of weeks, Scott Mruczkowski had his right leg in a boot, and Antonie Cason, Mike Tolbert, and Legedu Naanee were all in shorts watching from the sidelines. A member of the Chargers staff told me none of the injuries are considered serious, but you never know about what kind of lingering effects these guys might have to battle as the season goes on.
NEW STARS BEGIN TO EMERGE
It's difficult to describe, but when watching a training camp practice some guys tend to blend in with one another while other guys stand out distinctively.
You always know where Philip Rivers is on the field, either by following the voice that seems to carry no matter where you are on the facility or by the bright-red practice jersey he and only two others (Volek and Crompton) wear. Antonio Gates is easy to spot because no one else on the team moves like he does. You almost have to rub your eyes for fear they are deceiving you when you see a man of that size move that quickly and with such grace and athleticism. With his length and leaping ability, Malcom Floyd soars above the rest of the receiving group at Chargers Park.
Those listed above are established players in this league, but there are a couple of guys who are starting to make a name for themselves. Larry English was an absolute bully out there on the practice field. Whether he was shucking an offensive lineman en route to the Quarterback, or showcasing his explosive first step, English was practicable unblockable and making people ask, "Merri-who?"
First-round draft pick Ryan Mathews was also on display, showing off his impressive inside running ability as well as an extra gear getting up the field once hitting daylight. Thickly built with muscles on top of muscles, he isn't an easy tackle. It was encouraging to see him show dedication to improving in the passing game, spending extra time after practice catching balls from the 'Jugs' machine.
Jammer is also a pleasure to watch work as he is undoubtedly an elite, shutdown corner. But another defensive back making play after play was Dante Hughes (not to be confused with Brandon Hughes); entering his fourth season (second with the Chargers), Hughes seems to have an innate sense of where the ball is going to be. He made countless plays on the ball and the only instance I saw him get beat was a premature jump on a route which did result in a positive play for the offense in the redzone. The Chargers seem to be somewhat set at cornerback for the time being, but look for Hughes down the road.
PLENTY OF DEPTH ALONG DEFENSIVE LINE
The Chargers are heavy at defensive line. As a 3-4 team that presents even front fairly often, the Chargers have recruited the type of player than have scheme flexibility. All of their defensive linemen could potentially play all both inside and outside, so this will allow Ron Rivera to liberally employ rotations and keep his guys fresh.
Cam Thomas might be the widest defensive lineman on the team, and will likely get lots of playing time on running downs. He is technically sound, using his hands well and overpowering guys when necessary. In addition to his upside, Thomas also brings a bit of comic relief to the group. Don't be surprised to see Thomas break out in a dance while waiting to be called upon. And when going through drills, you'll frequently see a smile spread across his face as he prepares to execute the exercise.
More thoughts to follow in the coming days. Head over to the BOLTHYPE gallery to see over 600 photos from Tuesday's practice at Chargers Park. We'll also be posting interviews with the players and more of our reactions & impressions all year long, so please continue to visit us here at BOLTHYPE.com - as if you have any questions or comments, feel free to use the comment section below!
Labels: Chargers Practice 2010
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