A Shakeup in the Secondary
The Chargers practiced in shells today and the biggest team development was the fact that Paul Oliver
worked in with the safeties in individual drills today while rookie Antoine Cason
stayed with the cornerbacks. This could be a hint that Cason will be the team's nickel cornerback to start the season, while Oliver will have to fight for playing time as a backup safety.
However, Oliver struggled in those drills, dropping three relatively easy balls in a row while everyone else was catching each and every ball. Cason had a slightly better day, although he was beaten twice on deep balls by Buster Davis
. However, Buster dropped both of them, which worked in Cason's favor.
Cason even made some noise at the end of practice, picking off a ball on the sideline thrown by Billy Volek
to Gary Banks
, although the referee ruled him out of bounds. Coach Norv Turner wouldn't have that, and jokingly threw down a red beanie as if initiating a challenge.
Let's Get Physical
Whereas the cornerbacks have spent most of training camp playing 5 to 7 yards off of the wide receivers in one-on-one drills, today the focus was on bump-and-run coverage. While no balls were thrown in this drill, the cornerbacks got a chance to work on being physical at the line of scrimmage, while the receivers got the opportunity to work on beating the press.
was incredible in this drill, as opposing receivers could not find any way of getting disengaged from him and thus had quite a bit of trouble getting open downfield. Another cornerback of note was rookie DeJuan Tribble
, who did not hesitate to step in against the starting receivers whenever he got a chance. He performed admirably, and that hard work paid off when he made a nice breakup in team drills.
More Than Just Pastries
While the defense as a whole struggled to get a strong pass-rush today, they still managed to force some turnovers. Quentin Jammer
tipped a pass to himself intended for Chris Chambers
from Philip Rivers
and then picked it off, drawing cheers from the defense.
A few plays later, Andre Coleman
stuffed Darren Sproles
in the backfield, stripped the ball, picked it up and ran downfield, causing the crowd to cheer in delight as he weaved through the line of backups blocking his way.
Nothing Special Here
continued to struggle with consistency, which led the Chargers to bring in Mike Scifres
to punt some balls in his stead. Scifres proved why he is possibly the best punter in the League by downing ball after ball inside the 5-yard line. While the Chargers coaches must be worried about Scifres getting overworked or injured, he may have to take more reps over the rest of training camp as Vinnedge's struggles are making it harder for the returners to put in real work.
Cromartie also struggled again in catching punts cleanly, barely grabbing one in front of him with his fingertips that would have more than likely been fumbled had the play been live. He looks nonchalant in returning punts, and has struggled several times to secure the ball because of that.
The team worked in some short-yardage and goal line plays, and both sides worked at three-quarters speed in order to keep players healthy. With a limited number of bodies available to them, the team would prefer not to have any unnecessary injuries occur during practice.
made a good play during this period, recognizing a goal line tackle-eligible pass to Jeromey Clary
and swooping in to break it up in the end zone. Hart has a strong nose for the ball, and it was encouraging to see him recognize such an unconventional play that has become a mainstay for the New England Patriots
in recent years.
"Lights Out" Shines Anew
has always been known as a fierce pass-rusher, but it was encouraging to see today that he looks much improved in coverage. This may be due to the fact that he has slimmed down and increased his speed slightly, as he was able to stay step-for-step with the speedy Darren Sproles coming out of the backfield, forcing an incompletion.
Merriman has always been somewhat one-dimensional due to the fact that he hasn't been especially strong in coverage, but that could change this season if he continues to make the progress he has already started to show.
As the Chargers wrapped up their first week of camp, some key pieces of the puzzle fell into place. The battle at nickel back began to come into focus, while the rest of the cornerbacks got the chance to get physical. Although a tepid pass rush didn't make things easier, one of the team's best pass-rushers added a new trick to his repertoire.