Revamped receiving corps gives Chargers options
SAN DIEGO (AP)
Quarterback Philip Rivers has plenty to work with in training camp after the Chargers imported four NFL veterans - wide receiver Robert Meachem and returners Eddie Royal, Roscoe Parrish and Micheal Spurlock - and retained Malcom Floyd and Vincent Brown.
''We've got a heck of a group,'' Rivers said. ''There's a bunch of guys that can do a lot of great things with the football.''
Jackson led San Diego receivers last year in catches, yards and touchdowns - and had a 10-catch game for 172 yards with two touchdowns at New England in September. The 6-foot-5, 231-pound receiver could run past cornerbacks, bully safeties and bulldoze defenders as a blocker if needed.
''Vincent brought a different dimension to our team,'' Floyd said.
Meachem, lining up outside where Jackson did, will try to give Rivers a deep threat after averaging 16.1 yards per catch the last four seasons with New Orleans.
''I don't have to be Vincent Jackson,'' said Meachem, 27. ''I just have to be Robert Meachem. That's it. Vincent is a great wide receiver. I am, too.''
Floyd and Brown have shown they can make plays downfield, too.
The 6-5 Floyd is adept at grabbing high floaters from Rivers, who isn't bashful about giving him the chance. Floyd, 30, runs well, if not as fast as Jackson, and his 19.9-yard average led the team last year. Hamstring and hip injuries cost him nine games and other snaps over the last two years.
Brown, like Floyd and Meachem, will line up wide and run medium and deep routes. Though he stands only 5-11, Brown ''plays as big as I do,'' said Floyd, no doubt recalling Brown's leaping touchdown grab over an Oakland Raiders defender as a rookie last year.
A third-round selection out of San Diego State, Brown missed most of Chargers training camp last year with a hamstring injury. He returned to catch 19 passes, two for touchdowns.
The Chargers believe Brown is poised to have a big season.
''He really is an easy guy to throw the ball to,'' Rivers said, extolling Brown's smooth actions and strong hands. ''He really is a first-class guy the way he practices and prepares.''
Royal has sat out most of training camp with a groin injury and probably won't play against the Green Bay Packers on Thursday in the team's preseason opener. Four years ago, he caught 91 passes for the Denver Broncos as a rookie. He had 19 last year, losing traction when Denver shifted to a ground-based attack directed by an erratic passer, Tim Tebow.
''I think Eddie will do a great job out of the slot for us,'' Floyd said.
Parrish, like Royal, stands 5-10 and is experienced in the slot, not the Chargers strength last year. He caught 33 passes for the Bills two years ago but just four in the surrounding two seasons.
Returning kicks is a calling card for Spurlock, who has made catches from several receiving positions early in camp.
As with Peyton Manning and the Broncos, training camp for the Chargers is a race against the clock for a veteran quarterback and several receivers new to each other and trying to develop an on-field rapport in time for the season opener.
''I don't think it's there yet,'' Rivers said. ''It's coming, though. Two days ago, I missed Meachem on a few throws and then yesterday we hit those same ones. You have to be patient, but also it has to be a sense of urgency.''
Rivers said Royal's injury, for now, isn't necessarily an obstacle to developing continuity, Rivers said he and the wideouts spend as much or more time studying and discussing details as they do actually practicing on the field. Ultimately, however, Rivers said ''reps, reps, and reps'' are needed for quarterback and receivers to mesh.
''There's certainly a growing period,'' he said, ''but I don't mean growing as in that being an excuse should we miss some things throughout the year.''
Chargers coach Norv Turner's spread-the-wealth offense and Rivers' savvy could help flatten the learning curve.
Turner noted that when Jackson missed 10 games in 2010, largely because of a salary dispute, Rivers and the offense still put up big numbers.
''I don't ever think about replacing a guy,'' Turner said when asked how difficult it will be to replace Jackson. ''I think about putting our offense in. And we have a lot of guys that can make plays.''
Rivers has started every Chargers game since succeeding Drew Brees in the job to open the 2006 season.
''You know who runs us really is Philip,'' said Floyd. ''He does a great job of picking apart the defense. All you have to do is be where (you are) supposed to be and he'll get it to you. Ultimately Philip makes us go. We're fortunate to have him at quarterback.''