Defense shines in Day 4 of Chargers camp
The defense had its best day of training camp, playing with energy and forcing a few turnovers.
Ryan Mathews spent his summer losing weight and gaining speed. He looks slimmed down but his strength is still there. The running backs got some work in on the sled and Mathews showed he's still the strongest back on the team.
Le'Ron McClain was back in full pads after missing the previous two days. He was making the sled look easy, but after the drill his knee seemed to be giving him trouble. Eventually, he took himself out of the individuals and went to the training staff.
Robert Meachem was dropping passes in the end zone early in practice. The Chargers still owe him $5 million, so it looks like the team will have to keep him on board regardless of his training camp performance.
David Rolf, the rookie tight end out of Utah, has a lot of competition ahead of him if he hopes to make the roster. He looked sluggish during some hitch routes in the end zone, letting the ball come to him instead of running through the catch.
Another rookie tight end, Ben Cotton, struggled with two drops during the period.
Towing the Line of Scrimmage
There were some new drills thrown into the mix today as the defensive backs worked on holding down the line of scrimmage.
Steve Williams and Johnny Patrick are in competition for the backup corner spots. Neither had standout performances, allowing the receivers to get by them too often.
The cornerback battle got a bit more interesting when the Chargers announced they signed former Jaguars CB William Middleton to a one-year contract. Middleton was thrown into the full-pad practice but did not participate during team drills. He held his own during the drills he participated in -- not a bad performance on his 27th birthday.
Seven on Sevens
Sean Cattouse had another solid day working in and out of the second and third teams. Cattouse snagged his second interception of camp on a Brad Sorensen throw.
On the other side of the field, the linemen continued their camp-long battles. King Dunlap once again spent the day at starting left tackle. He had his hands full with Dwight Freeney, who was back after sitting out yesterday's practice.
One on Ones
Meachem found a rhythm halfway through practice and had an impressive leaping grab as the drills worked just outside the end zone. Meachem came down hard on his leg and limped off the field. But after being stretched out, he returned by the end of the drill.
Malcom Floyd continued to beat up on the secondary as he went over the top of Shareece Wright’s head twice to bring down the ball in the end zone.
Eddie Royal sat out the drill as the training staff worked on his legs. He participated in the rest of practice without any problems. Royal missed significant time last year with a groin injury suffered on the first day of camp.
Sorensen looks to have a lock on the third quarterback spot. The seventh-round pick has shown he has the skills to be worth quarterbacks coach Frank Reich's time.
Red Zone Period One
Today's practice was all about working the red zone. Dwight Freeney brought his one-on-one battle with Dunlap into the team drills as he blew by him into the backfield and quickly got to Rivers. But as the team practices without contact, the play continued, resulting in a 15-yard touchdown to Antonio Gates. The defense followed up the play with a second successful pass rush, this time coming from Cam Thomas.
The offense fought back with another day of impressive run blocking, allowing Mathews to find a large hole for another 15-yard score.
The special teams unit practiced field goals for the first time this camp. The team brought Nick Novak for what will be his first full season with the Chargers. Novak nailed all five attempts, hitting from 35, 38, 42 and 49 yards with ease.
Red Zone Period, Take Two
The defense continued to have its way with the offense. The first-team offense was only able to score once out of five attempts. The second team had little success either, scoring just once on four tries. The third unit was able to get into the end zone three out of four tries. San Diego ranked 26th last year in red zone completion, scoring a touchdown only 46 percent of the time.
Kendall Reyes and Tourek Williams both got to the quarterback during the drill to add to the day's sack count.
Ladarius Green is primed to become a new end zone weapon. After spending all of last year being mentored by Gates during practice, the 6-foot-6 Green, who is two inches taller than Gates, had several catches in the back of the end zone.
Jahleel Addae could manage to squeeze his way onto the roster. The rookie safety had a successful period, forcing several incompletions.
Just for Kicks
Special teams coach Kevin Spencer got to take a look today at the gunners and jammers of the punt unit. Middleton found success getting downfield past Derek Cox and Dan DePalma.
Rookie Josh Johnson could find his way onto the roster through special teams. The coaching staff seemed pleased with his work blocking downfield.
The team got together for one last team drill, this time from outside of the red zone.
Patrick got some work in with the first team at the end of the day. He stayed in to play with the second team and had a big interception along the sideline.
Danny Woodhead has quickly become a fan favorite. He grabbed a 17-yard catch that was lobbed by Rivers. Woodhead has shown excellent speed on the outside.
Vincent Brown participated in warm-ups but was still sidelined. He was joined by Danario Alexander, who sat out practice for the first time this camp. The Chargers are playing it safe rather then letting Alexander push too hard and risk serious injury.
Jarret Johnson sat out for a third straight day.
CB Kenny Okoro, the rookie from Wake Forrest, sat for a second straight day.
New to the sidelines was OLB Thomas Keiser who moved with the linebackers throughout practice and watched.
1.Deon Butler lost his sock and shoe, but still came down with the ball and ran it in for a touchdown. It's been impressive to see this team never give up on a play.
2. Larry English really had to climb the ladder to swat down a pass from Rivers at the line of scrimmage. English was in working with the first team today. The Chargers can really use their former first-round draft pick to play to his potential this season.
3. John Pagano has to be happy with the way his defense worked. After three days of the offense outdueling the defense, Pagano can finally notch a tally in the win column.
1. The offensive line was all over the place. Too many defenders got to the QB. Remember, only 10 days until the first pre-season game against the Seattle Seahawks.
2. Marcus Gilchrist got beat off the line twice, making the decision to move him to safety seem like a smart move.
3. One of last year's practice squad guys, Edwin Baker, had the team's second pre-practice fumble during walkthroughs. Let's not forget work that gets done before and after practice is just as important as the practice itself.