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Bolts have dual purpose in game with Falcons

Discussion in 'American Football' started by Johnny Lightning, Aug 28, 2009.

  1. Johnny Lightning

    Johnny Lightning Go Bolts

    Feb 7, 2006

    Offense needs to protect QB, defense looks to stop Turner

    By Kevin Acee
    Union-Tribune Staff Writer
    7:55 p.m. August 28, 2009

    ATLANTA — The Chargers spent this past week working on things they'll see and use against their early-season opponents before spending the final day of practice preparing for their exhibition here Saturday night against the Falcons.

    It's been that kind of dichotomy of focus for the Chargers the past few weeks. With a realization there is fine tuning to be done but also believing they are better than ever, the Chargers are ready for anticipation to give way to happening.

    “I want to fast forward because I want to see where we really stack up,” linebacker Shaun Phillips said, voicing a sentiment held almost team-wide. “We've still got work to do, but I just want to get through these games and see where we stack up.”

    Even in readying for the Falcons, the Chargers had a dual purpose.

    The third preseason game is always the one most resembling a regular-season contest, with starters playing beyond halftime. They'll look tonight to make sure their quarterback spends less time on his backside, to perhaps create more pressure on the opposing quarterback (first-round pick Larry English debuts) and to continue to play well against the run, this time with the challenge of stopping old friend Michael Turner.

    This week, though, was bigger picture as well.

    On Monday, with three weeks remaining before the season opener, head coach Norv Turner declared this to be “really a big week for our football team, in terms of our preparation.”

    The Chargers went as far as to pipe in crowd noise to Thursday's practice as they worked on a limited game plan for tonight's game. In the week's previous practices they continued to devote periods to getting ready for games in the season's first month.

    It was part of an accelerated camp designed to make sure September isn't so sad this year.

    “We're getting ready for the season,” safety Clinton Hart said. “We're not waiting for two weeks from now.”

    The early concentration on the regular season was unprecedented in a Turner camp, and none of the Chargers could remember doing this much this early.

    “I think every year you're together,” quarterback Philip Rivers said, “you can fine tune how you prepare.”

    While there remain more than two weeks until the Chargers play for real, Sept. 14 at Oakland, training concluded this week with the team reflecting on a time that seemed more businesslike than any Chargers camp involving these players.

    “I think we were more focused,” LaDainian Tomlinson said.

    “I'm excited about our players' approach to training camp,” Turner said. “We've been very aggressive in what we've been trying to get done. ... I thought players have a greater understanding of what we want to accomplish, and I like the way they've responded.”

    A coach is never going to say his team is ready for the regular season this early, and Turner and his staff have things they need to see improve (primarily tackling, blocking and some leaks in zone coverage) and some players they need to evaluate.

    When right guard Kynan Forney had his neck jammed in a practice two weeks ago, it seemed a minor setback. The recovery from that strained muscle, however, coincided with rookie Louis Vasquez's foot getting healthy. Now, the starting spot would appear to be less certain in Forney's grasp. Vasquez will start tonight, though Forney is expected to get significant time.

    “It's a very, very competitive spot,” Turner said. “That decision won't be made until we get ready to play the opening game.”

    Further down the line's depth chart, the Chargers are tinkering with their reserves. They like Brandyn Dombrowski enough that they are working him at left tackle and left guard. Corey Clark is now a guard as well as a tackle. Whether either one of them can unseat veteran L.J. Shelton will take the next two games to decide.

    So, too, will proceed the battle for depth at defensive back.

    The Chargers have just three proven cornerbacks after releasing Cletis Gordon, and the battle for the fourth spot is between fifth-round draft pick Brandon Hughes and Simeon Castille, who spent last season with the Cincinnati Bengals. Neither has been all that impressive.

    Meanwhile, there appears an abundance of safeties.

    Undrafted free agent C.J. Spillman, who might have been the Chargers' pick in the sixth round if Kevin Ellison had not been available, has been making plays. Coaches believe he deserves a spot on the roster, but there might not be room.

    “There are some things I'm really interested in seeing in the next two weeks,” Turner said. “There are some guys who have gotten to play a fair amount of snaps who are going to get to play a whole lot more snaps that will make a determination how much they play on special teams, as backup guys or if they make the football team.”


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