Philip Rivers bounced back quicker than expected after knee surgery, but the No. 2 spot on the depth…
Training Camp: Big Hits and Big Expectations
Thousands of Chargers fans flocked to Chargers Park on Friday to see the Bolts open up training camp, and it was evident from the start that expectations are sky-high this year. Many more fans were present than on this day last year, almost all of them wearing Chargers gear. There was barely even standing room as fans were packed against the fence like sardines trying to get a look at their favorite players.
One fan wearing a Stan Humphries jersey spent the entire practice walking around with a Lombardi Trophy crafted out of aluminum foil raised above his head. He carried it around to the cheers of the fans while shouting, "Nothing Less!"
Hester Makes His Mark
Rookie running back Jacob Hester got a rude awakening to the NFL at the beginning of the practice, as he rushed up the middle in a 9-on-7 drill only to be dropped to the ground by defensive end Jacques Cesaire. A battering ram of a running back out of LSU, Hester is quickly learning just how physical the NFL can be.
However, Hester learned from his mistake and really stood out when running routes as a receiver. Split out wide at times with the first- and second-team offenses, he made several good catches, including one where he beat linebacker Matt Wilhelm down the sideline and made an effortless catch over his shoulder for a big gain.
Hester is an offensive weapon from nearly any spot on the field and Norv Turner is looking to find favorable matchups for him in any way possible, whether it be in the backfield, in the slot or split out wide.
Rivers on Track
Philip Rivers looks to be back to full strength after tearing his ACL in the playoffs last year, and by the way he moved on the field, one wouldn't even think he is recovering from such a catastrophic injury. The only telltale sign is the brace on his right knee, but it did not seem to affect him at all. He even looks like he has slimmed down considerably, which may help him add to his less-than-blazing speed when forced out of the pocket.
The off-season did him some good for other reasons, as well, as he looked to be on the same page with receivers Vincent Jackson and Chris Chambers on just about every snap.
Insurance Policy is Money
With Antonio Gates out for the foreseeable future while rehabbing his injured toe, his understudies showed that they are ready for prime time. Brandon Manumaleuna, better known for his blocking, looks to have gotten faster in the offseason, which actually threw off the timing with some of the backup quarterbacks who did not expect him to get down the field so quickly.
But the real star at the position was second-year pro Scott Chandler, who caught everything in sight as he built on last year's training camp success. Rivers already looks quite comfortable with using Chandler as a safety net on broken plays, but Chandler has also begun to prove that he can get open on his own. He even made a couple of acrobatic catches in traffic, including one between Eric Weddle and Antonio Cromartie.
No Holes on the Offensive Line
The starting offensive line had no difficulty picking up blitzes and keeping Rivers comfortable in the pocket until he found his receivers. On a screen pass to LaDainian Tomlinson, Kris Dielman put a charging Shawne Merriman on his back to the delight of the thousands in attendance.
Jeromey Clary took the first-team reps at right tackle, with L.J. Shelton working with the second team at left tackle. However, Shelton struggled at times with speed rushers such as Jyles Tucker. Shelton seemed to be able to handle larger, stronger defenders, but fans should keep an eye out for his matchups with quicker defenders.
Scifres is Special
Mike Scifres put on a clinic as he showed fans why he is one of the best punters in the NFL, blasting punt after punt deep into opposing territory. In special teams drills, his shortest punt measured at 59 yards, and each one sent the returner backpedaling to catch up with it.
Cromartie even got some reps returning punts, although he is unlikely to do it regularly during the season. But he made five coverage players look silly with a single cut on one return, which must have Chargers fans salivating at the thought of him returning punts and kicks in key situations.
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