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Rivers unlikely to challenge Brees

Discussion in 'San Diego Chargers Hall of Champions' started by robdog, Aug 9, 2005.

  1. robdog

    robdog Code Monkey Staff Member Administrator

    Jun 29, 2009
    <strong>August 9, 2005</strong>
    Source: <a href="http://insider.espn.go.com/nfl/trainingcamp05/columns/story?columnist=clayton_john&id=2129633&action=login&appRedirect=http%3a%2f%2finsider.espn.go.com%2fnfl%2ftrainingcamp05%2fcolumns%2fstory%3fcolumnist%3dclayton_john%26id%3d2129633">ESPN Insider</a>

    <img src="http://bolttalk.com/images/brees01.jpg" class="left" alt="Drew Brees" title="Drew Brees"/>SAN DIEGO -- Here are five observations on the San Diego Chargers, based on their Aug. 8 practice:

    In his first training camp, backup quarterback Philip Rivers is having some growing pains. Though Rivers is known for his accuracy, he is having good days and bad days in camp. He is throwing too many wobbly passes, and often missing his target.

    "Some of it is being rusty," Rivers said. "I'm excited about my progress, but yeah, I've made some mistakes and had some tough days."

    No worry. Drew Brees is the unchallenged starter at the moment, and Rivers will have most of four preseason games to gain some confidence. He threw just eight passes last season as a rookie and missed too much of training camp to be counted on as more than just the third quarterback.

    The release of Doug Flutie makes Rivers the backup, and he has plenty of time to get ready. No one knows how the quarterback position will shake out after the season. Rivers is on a six-year contract. Brees is on a one-year franchise contract. If Brees has another Pro Bowl season, Rivers might be traded. He's a big quarterback at 6-5, 228 pounds. He throws the ball close to his body, but his delivery isn't sidearm.

    The Chargers are amazed at Brees' new arm strength. Credit LaDainian Tomlinson and Brees' work ethic with the assist. A year ago, Tomlinson got involved with "core" training in which he uses a rigorous workout program to strengthen the stomach muscles below his chest. The workouts are considered ahead of their time, and use a big ball to build strength in the stomach.

    Brees followed the core training, along with doing more lifting to strengthen his shoulders. Dan Marino or Brett Favre he isn't, but Brees is throwing more fastballs than in past years.

    "I can tell you with certainty he has far more velocity on his ball than he's ever had," coach Marty Schottenheimer said. "He worked on his core body strength. If you watch practice, the ball goes with a lot more rpms than it did two years ago."

    That's not all Brees has done. He also has worked to strengthen his eyesight. He does a lot of closed-eye activities to improve his balance. "You need to have great balance as a quarterback," Brees said.

    Last year, the team learned it could win even though halfback Tomlinson played at less than 100 percent because of injury. Tomlinson refused to rest and still ended up rushing for 1,335 yards, but his average yards per carry dipped to 3.9. Tomlinson changed some things in his hard training this offseason that should allow him to return to the top of the league's rushing totals.

    "I think last year, to be honest with you, I got burned out," Tomlinson said. "What happened was at the end of that terrible 2003 season, I started working out two weeks after the season. I didn't give my body a chance to heal. I was mad with the season we had; I started working out, and with the long training camp and beating down my body, I just wore down."

    Tomlinson started his training in March this year. He looks fresh and confident.

    The raw potential of first-round choices Shawne Merriman and Luis Castillo can't be underestimated, but it's still hard to make the adjustment from college to the pros in the first camp. In Merriman's first practice he shocked the crowd by barreling through fullback Lorenzo Neal, perhaps the most fearsome blocking fullback in the game. In their next head-to-head play, Neal put Merriman on the ground with a block.

    Merriman missed the entire offseason program and most of the first week of camp because of contract troubles. At 271 pounds, he has the speed and quickness to be an impact pass-rushing linebacker. Still, his head is swimming as he tries to catch up and learn the defense. A tight hamstring and a toe injury that forced him to remove a toenail has him sidelined for a couple of days.

    Merriman is taking a lot of heat from Castillo, who is his roommate, for having a toe injury slow him down. On Sunday, though, Castillo dropped a suitcase on his own foot. Now he, too, will have to have a couple of toenails removed. "It's crazy having choices 1-A and 1-B standing off on the sidelines," Castillo said.

    The most exciting addition to the team is fourth-round choice Darren Sproles. The guy is electric, even though he's only 5-6, 181 pounds. He reminds people of Barry Sanders with his quick cuts and explosive runs. The plan is for Sproles to be the kickoff and punt returner. He prefers the kickoffs because he has a running start before he makes a move, but he's very elusive with the punts and is dangerous.

    But don't just limit Sproles to special teams. He's a legitimate running back threat. He set 23 school records at Kansas State and averaged more than 1,600 yards rushing a season in three years as the starter. Ideally, the Chargers would like to find a way to create packages and let Sproles get five to eight carries a game. He is particularly dangerous on plays in which tall offensive guards are pulling because defenders simply can't see him while the play is moving.

    "When somebody is pulling, defenses have to guess," he said. "They really can't see me. My favorite play's those inside zones where you have one cut and go."

    Sproles is the team's third halfback behind Tomlinson and Michael "The Burner" Turner. Sproles has 4.41 40 speed, but handheld clocks time him in the high 4.3s.

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