The Veteran Invasion

Coach Norv Turner canceled the team's practice on Thursday, allowing the rookies and select veterans to rest up in advance of the first full-squad training camp session on Friday. The time off provides a nice one-day buffer for the rookies, because once all the veterans report, everything changes.

Training camp is about to speed up and slow down simultaneously for a handful of rookies. Take, for example, fourth-rounder Vaughn Martin. The rookie from Western Ontario has been on a crash course this week, taking in individualized coaching and first-team reps, but his development will inevitably slow down as camp speeds up.

For one thing, the presence of Jacques Cesaire, Ryon Bingham and Ian Scott will reduce the number of snaps available for Martin. Additionally, he will now be working against third-string offensive linemen like Dan Gay and Brandyn Dombrowski, as opposed to battling Marcus McNeill like he did Tuesday and Wednesday.

"Every day when I come in, it seems I've got something to figure out, or something else comes up, and we've got to work on that again the next day," Martin said.


RB Gartrell Johnson
Kevin Terrell/Getty

Another of San Diego's fourth-round picks, RB Gartrell Johnson, will see his workouts change dramatically. As was noted inside Wednesday's practice recap, Johnson carried a heavy load during the opening days of camp. But the presence of vets Darren Sproles, LaDainian Tomlinson and Michael Bennett will send him plummeting down the depth chart.

Johnson will still put in plenty of work, as the Chargers need to get him prepared for a spot in this year's rotation, but opportunities will come in smaller doses.

"The game is just faster and I just need to be more alert on things like reading the defense and figuring out keys that rookies will have trouble with or struggle with," Johnson said.

For some rookies, the arrival of the veterans doesn't signal a loss of playing time as much as it does the start of the competition. Two rookies, OG Louis Vasquez and SS Kevin Ellison, will be competing with veterans for starting positions.

Vasquez is in the mix with frontrunner Kynan Forney and five-year veteran Scott Mruczkowski to replace RG Mike Goff. Of the three contenders, Vasquez (6-foot-5, 325 pounds) has the best combination of size, strength and athleticism, but he also has the most to learn after playing his college ball in Texas Tech's spread offense.

Ellison, who missed the rookie portion of camp due to a contract impasse, will jockey for playing time with Clinton Hart and Steve Gregory. The rookie from USC has a prototypical build (6-foot-1, 230 pounds) and outstanding instincts. Even if he doesn't start, he figures to play a prominent role in sub packages and on special teams.


What are your expectations for training camp? Talk about it in the message boards.


Michael Lombardo is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America and a long-time contributor to the Scout.com network. His analysis has been published by the NFL Network, Fox Sports and MySpace Sports. He has followed the Chargers for more than 15 years and covered the team since 2003.

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