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Inside Slant - 08/20/07

Discussion in 'Latest Chargers News & Headlines' started by robdog, Aug 20, 2007.

  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>

    <img src="http://i2.chargers.com/assets/184/33793_699w393h.jpg" title="Darren Sproles, Chargers.com photo" alt="Darren Sproles, Chargers.com photo" height="196" width="294" />
    <p class="inside-copy"> Darren Sproles is like that certain little train at the bottom of a big hill. Although a long shot to make the Chargers' stacked roster, he never quit saying, "I think I can, I think I can."</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"> Sproles, all 5-6, 181 pounds of him, might have reached the summit of that upgrade and escaped the roster bubble he had been on.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"> In the Chargers' second preseason game, a 30-13 pasting of the Rams, Sproles was sensational –- again. His night was highlighted by an 81-yard touchdown on a punt return, as he left numerous Rams tackling air instead of the shifty Sproles.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"> "It felt good to finally get one in," Sproles said.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"> How good?</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"> Consider after Sproles reached the end zone, the football never left the security of his hands. Although, in reality, this was a means-nothing game, it meant the world to Sproles. That's why he kept the football instead of throwing it to the ground.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"> Many thought Sproles would eventually be thrown under the bring-your-playbook-and-see-the-coach bus. On a team with reigning MVP LaDainian Tomlinson and possibly the NFL's best backup running back in Michael Turner, Sproles being in a Chargers uniform come the Sept. 9 opener wasn't expected.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"> But Sproles, a third-year pro who didn't play last year after breaking his leg in the preseason, just won't go away. Which means the Chargers are going to have trouble chasing him away.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"> "I'm going to go out and play my game," he said. "That's all I can do. I can't worry about that."</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"> What should worry defenses is Sproles' quickness and head coach Norv Turner's way with offensive X's and O's. Although Sproles has some limitations in the regular offense because his size is a concern in quarterback protections, Turner is apt to find some way to use him on gadget plays or as a decoy.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"> "If you're that kind of player, you can find a way to use him," Turner said.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"> What was working against Sproles –- in addition to the talent at his position –- was his inability to consistently field punts. While it was always exciting to see what Sproles would do with the ball once he got it, it was also an adventure watching him try to catch it.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"> So he worked, and worked, and worked. One Charger said Sproles must have set the world record this offseason for how many punts he caught. Now he's fielding them with ease. Then he proves it's not easy catching him.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"> "He just needs to keep playing the way he is playing," Turner said.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"> And it looks like he will do that -– surprise -– with the Chargers.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"><strong>NOTES, QUOTES</strong></p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-MVP LaDainian Tomlinson will continue his tradition of not carrying the ball in the preseason. Tomlinson didn't have a summer carry last year, and it seemed to work out all right.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-Speedy CB Antonio Cromartie is working at returning kickoffs, and coach Norv Turner envisions using him there this season. "We're getting him prepared," Turner said. "You won't see Cromartie in the preseason returning kicks, but at some point in the season, he's getting ready to do it."</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-WR Eric Parker attended his first practice last week since undergoing toe surgery on Aug. 3. Parker will likely miss the first month of the season. "Every day is a day closer to getting back," Parker said. "I'm going to say that what they said was accurate. But I'm trying to get back ASAP."</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-The Chargers dodged a big-time injury when Pro Bowl DT Jamal Williams limped out of the preseason opener. But it was just a sprained foot, and he was able to go against the Rams. It's difficult to overestimate what the massive Williams means to the Chargers' 3-4 defense. "That's the one that we can't replace," OLB Shaun Phillips said. "He's the best in the business."</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-Turner was especially bummed RB Tyronne Gross dislocated his right kneecap in the Rams game. The Chargers like Gross' upside. "Tyronne Gross has worked so hard," Turner said. "He's such a neat kid and a talented player. I was really disappointed to see him get hurt." Gross was on the team's practice squad last season.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-Stephen Cooper seems to be assuming the role of Randall Godfrey just fine. Cooper is replacing the veteran Godfrey at one inside linebacker spot. Against the Rams, Cooper had 12 tackles in the first half. That alone would have represented a career high if in a regular-season game. Cooper had 11 tackles last year in Seattle.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-P Mike Scifres seems to be in midseason form. He was sensational in the win over the Rams, averaging 52.3 yards. His shortest punt of 37 yards was downed at the Rams 6.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-The Chargers waived undrafted DE Barry Cryer.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"><strong>QUOTE TO NOTE:</strong> "The No. 1 thing I was looking for was that improvement from game one to game two. I believe we did that." –- Turner on the Chargers' improved play in the team's second preseason game.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"><strong>STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL</strong></p>
    <p class="inside-copy"><strong>BATTLE OF THE WEEK:</strong> Malcom Floyd vs. Craig Davis at No. 2 wide receiver - This remains the top battle of camp, but Davis might have taken the lead. It was Davis, the team's top pick, and not Floyd, starting the second preseason game. While that might not mean anything when the regular-season opener rolls around, it does show the Chargers are giving the rookie every chance to line up opposite Vincent Jackson when the first team trots out. Davis had but two catches for nine yards, but his presence with the first unit was what caught the eye of Chargers observers. Floyd, though, did well when he entered the game and finished with two catches for a team-high 39 yards.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"><strong>OTHER BATTLE FRONTS:</strong> Clinton Hart vs. Eric Weddle at strong safety - Weddle has been the talk of camp with his athletic skills and wealth of football knowledge –- even though he is a rookie. But Hart has waited for this chance for five NFL seasons and he isn't letting the opportunity slip through his hands. Hart seems a bit more at ease in the secondary and he aided his cause in St. Louis when imitating Willie Mays with an over-the-shoulder interception in the end zone.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-Drayton Florence vs. Antonio Cromartie for starting CB spot - Florence seems to be the leader here as he has started both preseason games. But he has also been flagged in both games and seemed to be picked on by the Rams' Marc Bulger the other night. Cromartie needs to take advantage of Florence's mistakes, but to date, the Chargers seem reluctant to insert the second-year pro in a starting role over Florence. That said, Cromartie is getting plenty of field time as the nickel back.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-Billy Volek vs. Charlie Whitehurst for backup QB job - The Chargers were hoping Whitehurst would push Volek in the competition. Volek continues to enjoy a fine training camp and has been accurate and poised in both preseason games. Volek completed seven of his 10 passes against the Rams and has a nifty rating of 115.8 after two games. In a limited role, Whitehurst, a second-year pro, completed his only pass for 21 yards. Volek has this battle all but sewn up.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"><strong>ROOKIE REPORT:</strong> Versatile Legedu Naanee continues to impress in practice and seems to be a lock to make the roster. "He certainly has had a good training camp," coach Norv Turner said. ... Eric Weddle is getting more comfortable in his reads and continues to show the range that drew the Chargers to him. ... TE Scott Chandler plays the wrong position for this club. That said, he didn't hurt his long-term chances by catching an eight-yard TD pass from Volek in St. Louis. ... ILB Anthony Waters' camp is being slowed by a sore knee, but it's not the one he tore up last year that derailed his final season at Clemson. ... ILB Brandon Siler's name isn't being heard much when talking to coaches.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"><strong>INJURY REPORT:</strong> WR Eric Parker (toe) is out eight weeks after surgery. ... ILB Matt Wilhelm (calf) is probably out two more weeks. ... RB Tyronne Gross (knee) is likely out a week or more. ... DT Brandon McKinney (ankle) is day-to-day. ... ILB Waters (knee) should return this week. ... ILB Marques Harris (shoulder) could return this week. ... G Erik Robertson (leg) could return this week.</p>
     

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