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Chargers Team Report - 07/17/09

Discussion in 'Latest Chargers News & Headlines' started by robdog, Jul 22, 2009.

  1. robdog

    robdog Code Monkey Staff Member Administrator

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    Source: <a href="http://www.usatoday.com/sports/football/nfl/chargers/home.htm" target="_blank">USA Today</a>
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    <div class="alignright"><a href="http://cdn3.sbnation.com/entry_photo_images/52943/487446714_20752bc384_large.jpg"><img title="Chargers fans at taining camp" src="http://cdn3.sbnation.com/entry_photo_images/52943/487446714_20752bc384_large.jpg" alt="Chargers Training Camp" width="227" height="151" /></a></div>

    Imagine if an NFL team held a training camp and no fans attended?</div>
    Welcome to Chargers Camp 2009, which will be unlike any other camp held locally.

    Players, get ready to work.

    Fans, get ready to be disappointed.

    With Padres among major league baseball's most dismal teams, it's hard to overstate how much San Diego fans are looking forward to the Chargers set to open another season.

    And that usually means treks to Chargers Park - and before that, the University of California, San Diego - where thousands of Chargers boosters get close up and personal with their favorite squad.

    But a water pipe burst at the team's facility in February - and as hard as it is to believe - it has not been fixed some six months later.

    So right where the bleachers are usually constructed, that area has been deemed unsafe by the Chargers and city officials.

    "Training camp is a special time for our fans, and the decision to close camp this year was made very reluctantly," said Jim Steeg, the Chargers' Chief Operating Officer. "We share the city's goal of completing these critical repairs during the dry summer months so in the end, we had no alternative but to take this step."

    The area's drainage system failed during heavy rains in February, causing significant flooding of the Chargers' practice fields and training facility. Repairs are ongoing, with the Chargers and the city of San Diego making the repairs

    But the repairs, the club said, won't be done until the fall. And that's long past the training camp exercises are done.

    "The unfortunate closing of our training camp means that the entire Chargers' organization will work to find other ways to provide our fans with the chance to see the practices that they enjoy during training camp," Steeg said.

    Fans will get at least three opportunities to catch practice when the teams works out at Qualcomm Stadium on Aug. 5, 8 and 12.

    The Chargers have held training camp at Chargers Park since 2005, after a two-year experiment of the team working at the Home Depot Center, near Los Angeles.

    That was considered a public-relations disaster as just a handful of Chargers fans made the 100-mile trek up to Carson, and the team's workouts barely registered a blip on the Los Angeles sports radar.

    Before leaving for the Home Depot Center, the team's long-time camp home at UCSD was considered among the finest in the NFL.

    After two years in Carson, the team returned to Chargers Park where the workouts were a hit with the area fans.

    But this summer will mark one of the strangest camps in team history with the team unable to entertain their fans. And those fans - many who can't afford tickets to NFL games - will be shut out from seeing one is expected to be one of the top teams in Chargers history.

    <strong>CAMP CALENDAR:</strong> July 26: Rookies and select veterans report.

    July 27: Rookies and select veterans work out.

    July 30: Balance of the squad reports.

    July 31: First full squad workout.

    Aug. 5: Practice at Qualcomm Stadium.

    Aug. 8: Practice at Qualcomm Stadium.

    Aug. 12: Practice at Qualcomm Stadium.

    Aug. 28: Team breaks camp.

    <strong>NOTES, QUOTES</strong>

    -QB Philip Rivers is no LeBron James - at least when it's being shown up at his own camp. While James, or his handlers, confiscated a tape of him being dunked on at his offseason camp, Rivers just shrugged when he was defeated in a quarterbacks competition by a high school kid at his camp in Alabama. Rivers participated in a quarterback skills challenge that was won by Huntsville, Alabama's Will Nunn. Video clips of it hit the Internet and Rivers has been hearing about it.

    "I didn't know it would be such a big hit," Rivers said. "It was a lot of fun."

    Rivers joked the setting wasn't to his liking.

    "The tires were about has high as my (1-year old son)," Rivers said. "I'm used to throwing to big targets. Besides, how bad would it have looked if I won the QB challenge at my own camp against a local high school kid?"

    -Curtis Brinkley is back at home in Philadelphia, roughly a week after being shot. The Chargers running back, signed as an undrafted free agent out of Syracuse, was released from the hospital after spending about three days there while recovering from gunshot wounds inflicted early the morning of July 10.

    "I'm just happy to be alive," Brinkley said. "Now my focus is to get healthy and get back to being a productive football player." Brinkley was shot when sitting in a parked car waiting for his sister to get off of work.

    -DT Jamal Williams shows every bit the wear and tear of 11 years in the drenches. But he said what keeps him around is ignoring the pain which is never far away.

    "Over the years I've been through a lot of bumps and bruises," he said. "A lot of people on the outside don't realize certain things I've gone through to get prepared to play. You have to take care of your body. This game is 80 percent mental, 20 percent physical. When your body starts to give way at certain points of the year, you have to have that mental aspect that pushes you forward."

    -The latest news in the team's quest to find a replacement for Qualcomm Stadium is it focusing on the Del Mar Fairgrounds, some 25 miles north of San Diego. With California suffering through a financial meltdown, it is considering selling the land it owns at the Del Mar Fairgrounds and the Chargers just might be interested.

    <strong>QUOTE TO NOTE:</strong> ""It's getting close. The quarterbacks are probably more fired up than anyone. We don't get hurt. We work and get after it but certainly we have a fun deal. I can't wait to throw the first pass. When you get to this time of year, there's a little more football on the news and you start to sense that it's just around the corner." - QB Philip Rivers, on training camp being on the horizon.

    <strong>STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL</strong>

    Among the people to watch at the Chargers' training camp is defensive coordinator Ron Rivera.

    With the Chargers' 2008 season threatening to circle the drain, the team fired defensive coordinator Ted Cottrell and inserted Rivera.

    The difference was recognizable as the unit went from a read-and-react mode to one which became more attacking. Sacks went up; yardage and points went down with Rivera calling the plays.

    Now let's see what Rivera can do with a full offseason to implement his approach and schemes.

    Plus, he has the luxury of welcoming back linebacker Shawne Merriman. If Rivera can utilize Merriman's skills and improve the production of others with Merriman being on the field, the Chargers' defense could become a force again.

    UNIT-BY-UNIT ANALYSIS

    QUARTERBACKS: Starter - Philip Rivers. Backups - Billy Volek, Charlie Whitehurst.

    Coach Norv Turner has the luxury of having one of the top NFL quarterbacks run his varied offense in Rivers. Entering his fourth year as a starter, Rivers is coming off the best season of his career when he set team records for touchdown passes (34) and quarterback rating (105.5). Rivers' uncanny accuracy gives Turner the confidence to put the ball in Rivers' hands no matter the situation. Volek supplies what every NFL team wants - a backup with starting experience. The team remains high on Whitehurst, but it's obvious his big chance will likely come with another team down the road.

    RUNNING BACKS: Starter - RB LaDainian Tomlinson. Backups - RB Darren Sproles, RB/FB Jacob Hester, FB Mike Tolbert, RB Michael Bennett.

    Tomlinson returns, eager to prove he has plenty left in his tank after producing a career-low 1,110 rushing yards and having turned 30 in the offseason. But Tomlinson will get plenty of help with Sproles, the electric back who's speed makes him a threat to score a touchdown every time he touches the ball; look for him being involved in more than third-down packages. Hester needs to rebound from a so-so rookie year when he seemed overwhelmed at times. Tolbert needs to show something in camp to earn a roster spot; Bennett is an insurance policy.

    TIGHT ENDS: Starters - Antonio Gates, Brandon Manumaleuna. Backup - Kris Wilson.

    Gates continues to be among the top players at his position in the NFL. He will also be playing for a new contract, which will give him even more motivation. More important is that his toe injury is behind him and he seems primed for a big season. Manumaleuna, although possessing soft hands, is asked to block in this scheme. But don't go to sleep on him, especially in the red zone.

    WIDE RECEIVERS: Starters - Chris Chambers, Vincent Jackson. Backups - Malcom Floyd, Craig Davis, Legedu Naanee, Kassim Osgood.

    Jackson replaced Chambers last year as the Chargers' No. 1 wideout and he responded with a 1,000-yard season. With his size and speed, Jackson could be ready to have his name mentioned among the game's brightest emerging wide outs. But he has had some issues off the field and is being watched closely by GM A.J. Smith as he decides whether he can count on Jackson to be a consistent contributor. Chambers seemed to disappear during long stretches last year and he was also slowed by an ankle injury; he's fit and ready to produce. Floyd gives Rivers a familiar target and a solid one of the red zone. Davis, a former first-round pick, needs to prove he can stay out of the trainer's room or his time may be up in San Diego. The versatile Naanee, surprisingly, has a hard time getting on the field. Osgood contributes on special teams and isn't in the receivers mix.

    OFFENSIVE LINEMEN: Starters - LT Marcus McNeill, LG Kris Dielman, C Nick Hardwick, RG Kynan Forney, RT Jeromey Clary. Backups - LT L.J. Shelton, LT Corey Clark, C/RG Scott Mruczkowski, RG Louis Vasquez, RT Corey Clark.

    This unit needs to bounce back from a less-than-stellar showing in 2008, especially when it comes to run-blocking. The group is feeling confident with McNeill back from a neck injury and Hardwick another camp removed from his foot injury which kept him from working last summer. The key is the right tackle spot, where Forney or Vasquez will be asked to replace veteran Mike Goff.

    DEFENSIVE LINEMEN: Starters - LE Ryon Bingham, DT Jamal Williams, RE Luis Castillo. Backups - LE Jacques Cesaire, DT Vaughn Martin, DT Ian Scott.

    Bingham is being asked to replace Igor Olshansky, as he exited for Dallas as a free agent. Bingham has played well in spurts, but most prove he can do it as a starter. Williams returns for his 12th year and - his knees willing - remains the key force in the 3-4 alignment. Castillo was decent last year and not much more - he certainly didn't play to the rich contract he was given about a year ago as he had no sacks and was neutralized too often on running plays. The key here is Williams, as his play sets the tone and sends ballcarriers into the direction of eager linebackers.

    LINEBACKERS: Starters - OLB Shaun Phillips, ILB Stephen Cooper, ILB Tim Dobbins, OLB Shawne Merriman. Backups - OLB Larry English, ILB Matt Wilhelm, ILB Kevin Burnett, OLB Jyles Tucker, OLB Antwan Applewhite.

    How Merriman comes back from a serious knee injury will be watched closely in camp. His presence - if healthy - gives the entire unit a significant boost. Merriman will command offensive coordinator's attention, which will give Phillips and English, a rookie, more room to roam and create havoc. The inside linebackers are led by Cooper, who led the team in tackles last year despite being suspended for four games. Wilhelm needs a solid camp or he could be sent out the door. The team is hopeful Burnett, a rare free agent signed by the Chargers, can push Wilhelm.

    DEFENSIVE BACKS: Starters - LCB Quentin Jammer, RCB Antonio Cromartie, SS Clinton Hart, FS Eric Weddle. Backups - CB Cletis Gordon, CB Antoine Cason, CB Brandon Hughes, SS Steve Gregory, SS Kevin Ellison, FS Paul Oliver.

    Cromartie was a huge disappointment last year, one year removed from leading the NFL with 10 interceptions. He claims to be slowed by a fractured hip, and the team has its fingers crossed that is the case. If Cromartie, who had two picks last year, falters, the Chargers will insert Cason - he had a solid rookie year as a nickel back. Jammer seldom gets beat deep and is a steady in his run-support. Hart has to prove he is healthy and can play at the level the Chargers expected when naming him the opening day starter last year. If not, Gregory and Ellison, a rookie, will get a long look. Weddle is undersized at free safety and doesn't deliver the big hits which can cause fear for opposing pass-catchers. But he is usually around the ball, although he has a knack for being in the wrong position at critical junctures in a game.

    SPECIAL TEAMS: K Nate Kaeding, P Mike Scifres, KR/PR Darren Sproles, LS David Binn, KR/PR Cletis Gordon, Antonio Cromartie.

    Kaeding is making his mark as one of the NFL's most accurate field-goal kickers; his distance on kickoffs continues to be an issue. Scifres set a team mark last year with his net yardage allowed and was sensational in the playoff game against the Colts when all six of his punts landed inside the Indy 20-yard line. Sproles has proven with his speed that he can be a weapon returning kicks and punts. If Sproles gets dinged, look for Gordon or Cromartie to replace him.
     

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