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Training Camp Postcard: Chargers

Discussion in 'San Diego Chargers Hall of Champions' started by robdog, Aug 3, 2007.

  1. robdog

    robdog Code Monkey Staff Member Administrator

    Jun 29, 2009
    Source: <a href="http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2007/writers/bucky_brooks/08/02/postcard.chargers/index.html" target="_blank">SI.com</a>
    <h3>Where is Bucky?</h3>
    <img src="http://i.a.cnn.net/si/2007/writers/bucky_brooks/08/02/postcard.chargers/p1_lt.jpg" title="LaDainian Tomlinson ran for a career-high 1,815 yards and 28 touchdowns last season." alt="LaDainian Tomlinson ran for a career-high 1,815 yards and 28 touchdowns last season." align="right" height="238" width="246" />At Chargers' Park in San Diego, Calif., watching the Chargers work under the lights surrounded by screaming 4,500 fans. The Chargers have hosted their training camp at their facility since 2005, after spending two summers training at the Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif.
    <h3>Scouts' Take</h3>
    1. The Chargers' decision to hire former offensive coordinator <strong>Norv Turner</strong> has allowed them to pick up where <strong>Marty</strong><strong>Schottenheimer</strong>'s staff left off. Turner and defensive coordinator <strong>Ted Cottrell</strong> use similar systems as their predecessors and the team has clearly benefited from the continuity. By not having to adjust to different schemes and terminology, the Chargers have been able to focus solely on the tweaks and adjustments that the new staff has incorporated into the existing scheme.

    2. We know that <strong>LaDainian Tomlinson</strong> will get at least 300 rushing attempts, but after observing seven-on-seven and team drills, I think he could have a bigger role in the passing game. <strong>Phillip Rivers</strong> repeatedly found Tomlinson open on option routes in the middle of the field, and the design of several of the patterns was clearly to create space for him in underneath coverage. With defenses geared up to stop Tomlinson and <strong>Antonio Gates</strong>, the Chargers face a big challenge in trying to find different ways to get their dynamic duo the ball.

    Gates also appears to have an expanded role. The Chargers rolled out several formations that featured various shifts and motions designed to create one-on-one matchups for him in space. This is not a different approach, but the Chargers are placing an emphasis on getting Gates vertical in the passing game. I counted at least seven passes aimed in his direction that would result in gains of 20 yards or more.

    3. Starting linebackers <strong>Stephen Cooper</strong> (eight career starts) and <strong>Matt Wilhelm</strong> (zero starts) are ready to make the jump from special team standouts to big-time starters. Both made spectacular hits during the 9-on-7 inside run drill and showed surprising rush skills during the team blitz period. I questioned why the Chargers let <strong>Donnie Edwards</strong> go during the offseason. But after watching these guys work on the practice field, I understand why GM<strong> A.J. Smith</strong> had so much confidence in his replacements.

    4. Do not underestimate the impact that new linebacker coach<strong> Ron Rivera</strong> will make on the Chargers' D. His defense in Chicago led the league in takeaways last season, and he clearly places a heavy emphasis on creating turnovers throughout practice. Not only did the linebackers do more turnover drills than I have witnessed at a practice, but also the entire defense spent time working on taking the ball away. I don't know if this approach existed prior to Rivera's arrival, but based on the Chargers' low takeaway totals over the past two seasons, I'm willing to guess it didn't.

    5. <strong>Antonio Cromartie</strong> will be a star in this league. At 6-3 and with a ton of athleticism, he's one of the special talents at the position. Coaches have been impressed with his ability to get his hands on the ball and his knack for coming down with interceptions through the first few days of camp. He is pushing <strong>Drayton Florence</strong> for the starting job opposite <strong>Quentin Jammer</strong>, but the Chargers have high hopes for Cromartie even if he's just a nickel corner.
    <h3>Did you know?</h3>
    The Chargers are wearing white helmets for the first time since 1973. Though they did not return to the beloved powder blue of that era, the new uniforms were better looking in person than I had anticipated. Pay close attention to the curved lightning bolt down the pants. I'm told the idea of a curved lightning bolt was inspired by NFL Europe's Barcelona Dragons.
    <h3>Insider Fantasy Tip</h3>
    As a two-time fantasy league champion, I hate disclosing secrets, but here is a tip: Keep an eye on <strong>Vincent Jackson</strong>. The third-year receiver came on late last season and appears to be the top option in the passing game outside of Gates. He averaged over 16 yards a catch last season and should continue to post impressive numbers as the Chargers' main deep threat outside. With defenses loading up to stop Tomlinson and paying close attention to Gates over the middle, Jackson will see lots of single coverage on the outside.
    <h3>Camp Confidential</h3>
    After spending a day watching practice at Chargers' park, I found it apparent that the Chargers are operating under a "Super Bowl or Bust" mentality. But Turner is trying to keep his players' heads on straight and is speaking in typical coach-like cautious terms. "We need to build throughout the season," Turner said, "and make sure that we are playing our best ball heading into the playoffs. We know what we have."

    Safety <strong>Marlon McCree</strong> told me the locker room is "loose," the expectations are not a problem and there's no carryover from the disappointing end to last season. But it's easy to say that in August. We'll see when the season gets here how a team that surprised people by going 14-2 last year handles the pressure of being a championship contender from the start.

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