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CHARGERS: Competition remains friendly on defensive line

Discussion in 'Chargers Fan Forum' started by Johnny Lightning, Aug 2, 2010.

  1. Johnny Lightning

    Johnny Lightning Go Bolts

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    BY SCOTT BAIR - Staff Writer nctimes.com| Posted: August 2, 2010 8:14 pm

    SAN DIEGO -- Defensive linemen have their own enclave in the Chargers' locker room. This inlet is unique and entered at one's own risk. It's generally the loudest section of the locker room, equipped with a resident DJ (defensive end Travis Johnson), who provides a soundtrack to friendly banter, trash talk and bawdy exchanges inappropriate for a family newspaper.


    This fun-loving group is a fraternity unto itself, bonded together by the team-oriented style in which they play.


    "(Defensive line coach) Don Johnson does a good job keeping us together and building chemistry among the group," said defensive end Jacques Cesaire, who has been with the team since 2003. "We look to make each other better by competing and by helping one another with criticism and encouragement. It's a tight-knit group. ... Without an established superstar, we're all working together to be a great unit."


    This versatile 10-man unit will get trimmed by three before the season starts.


    Cesaire and Luis Castillo are sure starters, but everyone else is fighting for playing time in a heavy rotation used on game day. Some are fighting for their jobs.


    "We have a lot of guys who are capable of making this team, but there aren't enough roster spots for all of us," Travis Johnson said. "Everybody's practicing for their job. For as close as we all are, we're still competing for a paycheck and to keep the wife and kids fed."


    Oddly enough, the stakes haven't created tension in this carefree group. Don Johnson ensures that they all get a fair shake and that all practice with the first team at times. He organizes team dinners and encourages dialogue during meetings.


    While this happy family will be broken up, this competition is not cutthroat.


    "In this environment, and with as much time as we spend together, it's like you're competing against your brother," Cesaire said. "We generally like each other and we generally want to see everyone get better day by day.


    "There's an understanding that everybody can't stay, but we're all rooting for each other to do well."


    That camaraderie was built during a trial by fire. The defensive line went through a rash of injuries early in the 2009 season that forced Don Johnson and the Chargers' personnel department to adjust on the fly.


    Ryon Bingham was lost for the season in camp. Ogemdi Nwagbuo suffered the same fate near midseason. Travis Johnson, Alfonso Boone and Cesaire played with injuries suffered as the season progressed.


    "We had a lot of transition during the season," Don Johnson said. "A guy would sign on a Wednesday and play on Sunday. It got to the point where they had to count on each other to survive. It definitely brought them together and fostered a bond that has carried over into this camp. That type of unity can do nothing but help us."


    A defensive line operates as a collective. The Chargers implement a heavy rotation that gives most every player 20-25 snaps per game, meaning all linemen are counted on to contribute.


    There isn't much that separates one lineman from another. Save Castillo, who is generally rated above the rest, the defensive linemen's plight become the most interesting training camp competition. That means the cuts could be difficult and controversial when the 53-man roster is set.


    "It's going to be a tough decision for the higher-ups to make," Don Johnson said. "My job is to coach them up and make the decision as difficult as possible. When the dust settles, we'll have seven guys here that must perform in order for us to reach the Super Bowl."
     
  2. ThunderHorse17

    ThunderHorse17 Lone Wolf

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    Hmm for some reason I dont wanna see 3 of em go. Even tho 7 is plenty especialy when the guys that do make the final 7 are guys that play all 3 spots.

    OK well I am in accord with the Linemen and their brotherhood. May the best man win.
     

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