"If you look at me compared to the rest of the receivers, it's like night and day," wide receiver Josh Reed said.
Those good-hands people of the Chargers could double as a pretty decent basketball team. With former Kent State basketball star Antonio Gates, the tight end, leading the way, the inside game would be fortified by the 6-foot-5 Malcom Floyd and an equally lengthy Vincent Jackson -- if he was signed and in camp.
But one guy here -- although not looking the part -- is the 5-10 Reed. He came over after being cut by the Bills and is finding many passes directed his way during camp.
Especially with Jackson staying away.
"When I came in, the guys really made me feel at home," Reed said. "I was instantly comfortable, which allowed me to do my job of playing football. I'm still trying to find my way in a new offense, but the guys are working with me and I'm progressing pretty well."
Reed isn't the same type of receiver as Jackson. While Jackson can stretch defenses with his speed and can make acrobatic catches with his leaping ability, Reed is more of an underneath, possession target.
"He brings a veteran mentality and a different technique than what the tall receivers have," Floyd said. "There are definitely things we can learn from Josh, especially how he uses quickness getting in and out of routes. He's a smart receiver and a savvy guy who knows how to get the job done."
In six of his eight seasons, Reed has collected at least 30 receptions and 400 receiving yards.
Philip Rivers -- the best quarterback Reed has ever had throwing to him -- is upbeat over Reed's arrival.
"Josh is still grasping the offense and what we do, but he's a quick study," Rivers said. "There's a comfort level with the receivers, most of whom have been in the system a long time. The offense can be complex and Josh has to keep learning, but that's what we have the next month for."
Reed is equally thrilled to be on the business end of Rivers' offerings.
"It's an exciting time," Reed said. "In Buffalo, we never had any consistency and had a tough time getting things established. Here you have one of the best quarterbacks in football. The man makes other people better. If he trusts that you'll be where you're supposed be when you're supposed to be there, he's going to get you the ball. He does a great job finding the open guy."
There are some open spots with Jackson playing keep-away.
Legedu Naanee will likely settle into Jackson's spot, starting opposite Floyd. Naanee was the slot guy, but now that spot will be claimed by either Reed or Buster Davis, the former first-round pick the Chargers hope will finally contribute.
But that's a tall order -- Davis has a tough time staying on the field.
The same can't be said of the durable and undersized Reed.
""Most of them are big and tall, but I can get away with being a little smaller playing slot," Reed said. "Coach (Norv Turner) felt like there was something about my game that he thought could work in this offense, so I want to make sure I do everything I can to get up to speed and learn my role."
CAMP CALENDAR: Aug. 15: Players off. Aug. 20: Walk-through at Marines Corps Air Station Miramar. Aug. 22: Players off. Aug. 23: Final training camp practice.
--Still no sight of the big three: OLB Shawne Merriman, WR Vincent Jackson and LT Marcus McNeill. Merriman is upset that the Chargers won't guarantee he won't be traded; the others are seeking long-term contracts.
--Coach Norv Turner has been pleased in the work of his defense, especially between those participating in the spirited competition along the line. "I'm seeing improvement by the young players along the defensive line which is encouraging," he said. "And it seems like we're getting better in the secondary every day. I'm proud of what that group has accomplished from top to bottom (on the depth chart)."
--Former Chargers defensive lineman Gary "Big Hands" Johnson died last week as a result of a stroke suffered on July 20. He was 57. Johnson, who played for the Chargers from 1975-84, was one of the most dominant defensive linemen in team history. A four-time Pro Bowler, he was inducted into the Chargers Hall of Fame in 1999. The 6-foot-2, 253-pounder was beloved by his old teammates, who were stunned that he could have died so suddenly. "It was shocking because he was such a strong, robust guy," said former Chargers offensive lineman Doug Wilkerson, who played with Johnson in San Diego. "He was a great football player, but a better man. You see old teammates and think that you can't wait to see them again."
--Some players turn their nose up at playing special teams. But not Chargers LB James Holt. "Special teams has always been my meal ticket, even when I was at Kansas," Holt said. "I take it very seriously. It can change the tempo at any point in time, so I'm glad to be a part of it."
--Tyronne Green is a guard by trade but he's getting a look at nearly every position along the offensive line. Recently he has been taking snaps at left tackle. "(He) has worked all over the place," Turner said. "He's a good young player. In a perfect world, you'd lock him up in one spot, but we need him in a utility role right now. The diversity will make him extremely valuable during the season."
--Nearly 10,000 fans showed up for Saturday's practice at Qualcomm Stadium. Turner wants the players, especially the new ones, to get acclimated to the team's home stadium. "It's important for our young players to work in this environment," he said. "It gives them a game atmosphere they can't get anywhere else."
--At that workout, there was a few boos when Nate Kaeding trotted out to kick field goals. Kaeding missed field goals in January's three-point playoff loss to the Jets.
--Turner was the Cowboys' offensive coordinator from '91 to '93 when newly minted Hall of Famer Emmitt Smith rushed for 4,762 yards and 39 touchdown.. "Emmitt's one of the all-time greats," Turner said. "To have been with him and been a part of that for three years, it was a great time and (the Hall of Fame) was very deserving for all three guys (Troy Aikman, Michael Irvin and Smith)."
QUOTE TO NOTE: "My responsibility is to kick field goals now, today. I don't care what happened in the past; that is gone. Other people can talk about it, care about it, but not me. I got to go make field goals and that is my mind-set." -- K Nate Kaeding on rebounding from his three-miss playoff game in January's loss to the Jets.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
The Chargers lost third-round pick Donald Butler, an inside linebacker, to a torn Achilles tendon in practice. Butler was probably going to see most his action on special teams this year, but the team was also hoping to start grooming in to eventually take over for nine-year pro Stephen Cooper.
--ILB Ali Highsmith was signed in the wake of the team losing Butler. Highsmith played for the Cardinals the past two years, playing in 20 games with 17 tackles on defense and 15 on special teams.
--WR Bryan Walters (hamstring) has been placed on Waived-Injured. If he is not claimed by another team, Walters will be placed on the Reserve-Injured list.
--ILB James Holt is among the benefactors of Butler being lost for the season. The team loves his physical play; he was moving up the team's depth chart last year before being lost with an injury.
--CB Nathan Vasher is playing well while getting some extra reps with Antoine Cason out with a hamstring injury. Vasher should continue to push Cason for a starting position.
--QB Jonathan Crompton has had a rough go of late, getting picked off in drills more than the chargers would like. But the team doesn't have many options for a No. 3 guy; it dealt Charlie Whitehurst to the Seahawks in the offseason. There is no panic yet from team officials on their rookie quarterback, but Crompton needs to show more.
BATTLE OF THE WEEK: Brandyn Dombrowski vs. Nick Richmond for the starting left tackle spot.
This isn't exactly how the Chargers had it penciled out. Dombrowski was going to supply depth, along with Tra Thomas, behind two-time Pro Bowler Marcus McNeill. But with McNeill out in a contract dispute, the Chargers had to turn to a Dombrowski-Thomas combo. But Thomas is out after minor knee surgery, leaving the line's most critical position in the hands of either Dombrowski or Richmond for now. Dombrowski has been getting beat pretty regularly by the Chargers' speed rushers; Richmond is an undrafted free agent with tons to learn.
OTHER BATTLE FRONTS: Mike Tolbert vs. Jacob Hester vs. Antonio Garay for fullback.
The Chargers are tinkering with getting Tolbert more carries as a bruising alternative to Ryan Mathews and Darren Sproles. Hester never really has filled the fullback role as the Chargers expected; it seems most of his contributions come on special teams. Garay is a nose tackle by trade but the team is experimenting with his as the lead blocker on short-yardage and goal-line situations. On a crowded defensive line, Garay's ability to play on the other side of the ball could increase his changes for making the team.
Larry English vs. Shawne Merriman for outside linebacker.
Can you have a competition if only one player shows up? Hard to say but the skills English has been showing in camp as he routinely blows by any Chargers left tackle they put out there is impressive. Look, this is Merriman's spot, opposite starter Shaun Phillips. But the more English shines, the less the Chargers are missing Merriman. It's expected Merriman will show up at some point, but until he does, his position is in good hands with an improving English.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK: WR Jeremy Williams, an undrafted free agent, continues to open eyes as he fights for likely the No. 5 spot in his unit. He has benefitted from Vincent Jackson not reporting but getting more looks. Unlike Jackson, Williams is playing the slot position and in Saturday's practice he filled that role running with the first team and performed well. Josh Reed will likely start here -- or Buster Davis if he can ever get out of the trainer's room. But don't discount Williams as his stock continues to rise with the team.
ROOKIE REPORT: RB Ryan Mathews has struggled in catching passes out of the backfield. He is staying after practice to work on the JUGS machine, with it shooting numerous footballs at him. ... SS Donald Stuckey, a fourth-round selection, has been getting a large amount of time running with the first team. ... NT Cam Thomas could be counted on to play on running downs this year; he's done well in camp. ... LB Mike Nixon, an undrafted rookie, is active and showing signs he could compete for a roster spot and then head for special teams.
--LT Tra Thomas is out another two weeks after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery.
--LT Brandyn Dombrowski (groin) is day-to-day.
--OLB Larry English (foot) was absent over the weekend but should work this week.
--WR Buster Davis (hamstring) should return this week.
--OL Scott Mruczkowski (ankle) is day-to-day.
--OLB Antwan Applewhite (knee) is day-to-day.
--CB Antoine Cason (hamstring) missed time last week and the team is hoping this doesn't linger.
--WR Legedu Naanee (groin) should return to work this week.
Who has been most impressive so far in camp? Discuss inside the message boards.
With Marcus McNeill still holding out, the spotlight shines all the brighter on the young offensive…