The San Diego Chargers’ Friday practice went by quickly, but left excited fans and media, speculating incessantly on the sidelines. Early training camp practices are run with basic offensive and defensive schemes, but Charger fans didn’t care, they cheered as if they were at a Super Bowl.
A 90-player roster was given to members of the media and fans upon entrance to the camp site. Sixty-six of those players are veterans or players who’ve been in the league more than 1 year. The other 24 players were rookies who either were selected in the 2012 draft or signed as undrafted free agents. Looking at this vast roster, it is easy to see how hard it is to make it in this league.
Rookie punter ROBERT MALONE is being worked out as an extra leg for punts. On Friday he punted and worked with the special teams on some fake punt drills. Rookie receiver JASON BARNES had some solid catches near the sideline and near the middle of the field, but blocking was where he saw most of his work. Punter MIKE SCIFRES didn’t get a chance to work on distance punting but one could tell he was around when the Chargers did punt return drills.
New veteran free agent quarterback CHARLIE WHITEHURST was not in pads as he wore the customary red “don’t hit him” jersey and a leg brace. Rookie receiver PHILLIP PAYNE was one of the more interesting players to watch, showing athleticism on many of his catches and routes.
Quarterback KEVIN O’CONNELL who is on his fifth team since he was drafted by the New England Patriots in 2008, worked with the number 2 and 3 offenses on Friday. He didn’t get a lot of chances to throw as he mostly handed off to his running backs. On one instance he threw a pass into the grass a few yards in front of him when all his receivers were covered. But he did execute a nice run near the right sideline that had fans cheering. Backup kicker NICK NOVAK did some punting and he executed some fake punts too as he took up the slack for starting kicker NATE KAEDING who didn’t suit up Friday.
Free agent receiver EDDIE ROYAL, a key veteran pickup, didn’t practice. Fellow free agent receiver ROBERT MEACHAM was one of the stars of Friday’s practice as he went up high for catches and showed off his deep speed. Receiver ROSCOE PARRISH also didn’t practice as he had his jersey on and shorts but no pads. Unfortunately receiver and return specialist RICHARD GOODMAN didn’t practice either, as he would have been a sure hit for Chargers fans in the return game or as a complementary receiver.
2012 NFLPA Collegiate Bowl participant JARRETT LEE worked with the third team and the rookie dominated offenses. His job on Friday was to be conservative with his reads and to hand off to running backs. PHILIP RIVERS on one play actually lined up at receiver which excited the crowd but he was merely a decoy on the play. He was in fine form on Friday, putting a lot of zip on his passes.
Stud cornerback ANTOINE CASON didn’t practice but was deluged by fans wanting his autograph. Fullback JACOB HESTER did most of his work in running back drills. QUENTIN JAMMER was also quiet today but he did a lot of tutoring for younger defensive backs with defensive back coach RON MEEKS.
RYAN MATHEWS was one of the big draws at practice, as he showed his characteristic boundless energy, toughness, and burst through holes. His brownish-blonde Mohawk got nearly as much attention as his actions on the field. One of his biggest plays was when he took a handoff from his quarterback and was held up in the backfield by defensive tackle ANTONIO GARAY, but Mathews refused to be stopped as he gave Garay a strong punch to the chest and broke free down the left sideline.
Running back RONNIE BROWN showed on Friday that he is ready to resurrect his career. He showed quickness through the hole, solid speed, and received oohs and ahhs from the crowd because of his determined and downhill style of running. Provided he and Mathews stay healthy, they could form one of the better running back duos in the AFC. CURTIS BRINKLEY quietly had a solid practice as he attempted to show the Chargers that he can help them as relief for Mathews and Brown. MICHAEL HAYES, a tremendous physical specimen, gave the crowd a reason to believe that he can be a complementary back. JACKIE BATTLE was one of the big hits as he showed live legs and a penchant to get free as a backup running back.
Safety DARRELL STUCKEY had a quiet practice Friday while strong safety ATARI BIGBY was a fan favorite with a big hit on one of the tight ends and also for his affable personality. Rookie running back EDWIN BAKER didn’t really get to show much of what he could do today. His primary work was in running back drills. BRANDON TAYLOR was decent in coverage and as a possible run defender. Cornerback SHAREECE WRIGHT was around and in pads.
Rookie GREG GATSON like many other rookies was busy learning and getting acclimated to the Chargers defensive packages. Safety ERIC WEDDLE was his usual vibrant self as he used his range to cover so much field, plus he also got in some punt returning time. LE’RON MCCLAIN showed that he is not just a blocking back, but he also can carry the mail if needed. He will also be one of the Chargers’ most vocal leaders. McClain is a very unselfish player.
Rookie cornerback ARTHUR HOBBS is a work in progress but he has good body movement and athleticism. MARCUS GILCHRIST was on a mission Friday to let the Chargers know that he wants to contribute. Talented rookie DEANDRE PRESLEY is a confident and easy to coach player who wants to learn all that it takes to make it as a corner in the NFL. He is making the transition from quarterback at Appalachian State to cornerback. COREY LYNCH looked smooth and aware as a deep safety in 11 on 11 drills. Rookie free safety SEAN CATTOUSE also practiced.
Long snapper NICK GUESS auditioned while starting long snapper MIKE WINDT didn’t practice. Tight end BRAD TAYLOR, PATRICK DOYLE and former Arizona Wildcat defender RICKY ELMORE were also present.
Linebacker TAKEO SPIKES drew a lot of attention from the fans and media during and after practice. LARRY ENGLISH was decent as an alternate at outside linebacker. DARRYL GAMBLE saw most of his action on special teams. Rookie first round draft pick MELVIN INGRAM worked mostly at right outside linebacker and on the punt team. He showed some pass rush skills, anger, and athleticism but he is a work in progress. Inside linebackers DONALD BUTLER and JONAS MOUTON were also present. There wasn’t much of a sighting of inside backer DEMORRIO WILLIAMS Friday. ANDREW GACHKAR was decent Friday at inside linebacker.
DAVID MOLK is trying to nab that number two center spot behind starter NICK HARDWICK. Hardwick was solid and his usual hard working self in offensive lineman drills. BRANDYN DOMBROWSKI didn’t practice and wasn’t seen around practice. Rookie offensive tackle CORDELL BELL is a competitor and he worked hard in drills on Friday. No sighting of rookie offensive guard JOHNNIE TROUTMAN.
COLIN BAXTER was visible. LUIS VASQUEZ is a physical specimen with a booming and commanding voice to match. He was his usual workman-like self at guard on Friday. JEROMY CLARY worked at right tackle and did a good job in protection with the first team offense. Veteran REX HADNOT was visible mostly in offensive linemen drills. Offensive guard TYRONNE GREEN was around.
STEPHEN SCHILLING is in a developmental stage of his young NFL career. LOGAN HARRELL was visible as he is competing to make the team as a backup defensive end. No sighting of PHIL TRAUTWEIN. 2012 NFLPA Collegiate Bowl participant EDDIE BROWN was not seen Friday while
Rookie tackle JOHN CULLEN was. Defensive tackle JACQUES CESAIRE was full of energy and verve as an interior and exterior defensive lineman on Friday. Former Oakland Raider MARIO HENDERSON worked at left tackle and is huge in person. On the roster CAM THOMAS was listed at number 76 but he actually wore 93 and he did a serviceable job in limited action. CHARLIE BRYANT was around while JARED GAITHER did not practice.
MIKE HARRIS, a rookie of out of UCLA was full of energy. MALCOM FLOYD was also a big hit on Friday as he took many of his catches for long gains. Tight end RANDY MCMICHAEL saw limited action as a blocker. KORY SPERRY was around, but it would have been nice to see him used as a receiver though. TAYLOR EMBREE flashed some of the ability that went unused for much of his UCLA career. ANTONIO GATES was limited Friday but he had a few plays that had fans giddy with excitement.
VINCENT BROWN was limited as far as reps or passes thrown his way. MICHAEL SPURLOCK showed that he can help the Chargers as a complementary receiver. DANTE ROSARIO was used mostly for blocking or in two tight end sets. LADARIUS GREEN could be a star in this offense but he is learning the ropes and serving as an understudy to the veteran tight ends.
AUBRAYO FRANKLIN was around. Rookie KENDALL REYES showed burst and athletic skills at defensive end; he moves well for his size. VAUGHN MARTIN was solid Friday. COREY LIUGET was an intriguing player to watch with his long arms, athletic ability, strength, improving technique, and size. SHAUN PHILLIPS was around. JARRET JOHNSON quietly had himself a solid practice as he was asked to be a reacting and chase player Friday. BRONT BIRD is a young player who in time could help the Chargers on special teams or as an alternate inside linebacker. He has enough athleticism to play outside backer. ANTWAN BARNES was around as was defensive tackle GARRETT BROWN.
By Matthew Robinson