Camp Notes: Secondary

We talked so much about the receivers during camp, but we all know the San Diego Chargers offense will be explosive. The important question is how does that secondary look?<br><br> The good thing for all of you who are looking for some receiver knowledge there is plenty here since the secondary had to cover somebody when they were not in individual drills.

During the individual session the defensive backs were practicing individually going up for balls facing the quarterback and jumping backwards. Of course they were moving at full speed as if they were covering a receiver at the time.

It was a picture out of Madden 2003 seeing these guys leaping to catch balls out of the air. The drill is designed to simulate real play and knowing to defend the play they must have an eye on the ball.

On a ball thrown beyond hope and reach Kwamie Lassiter chased it down to make an over the shoulder catch playing the role of wide receiver. The drill didn't always go as planned.

Quentin Jammer was making a few leaping grabs and getting vertical to do so. The height on his jumps was impressive and he was hauling the balls in at their highest point.

Hanik Milligan made a tough catch look easy. Running the same drill as mentioned above, Milligan had to race towards the sidelines to catch up with a ball and jumped backwards to snare the ball out of the air. The momentum carried him towards the sidelines as he fell down but still managed to have the presence of mind to keep his feet in bounds.

Once the offense versus defense drills began the real fun began.

The first big play of the day went quickly to the defense. Kevin House, in coverage against Grant Mattos, stepped in front of the undrafted rookie to pick off a pass. The defense went up one early.

House had a great day out there in fact. He had a chance for about three or four picks on the day but ended with two. With Brian Sump blowing by Tay Cody and open near the sidelines a slowly delivered ball cost the offense dearly. Sump pulled up on his route and was waiting for the ball to arrive when House closed the gap and picked the pass off scampering up the sidelines.

A few minutes later House had a chance at another ball. A pass by Seth Burford intended for Boston was on target but House again cut in front of the talented receiver and had the ball hit him in the hands before falling incomplete.

A little later in the session two consecutive passes went towards Reche Caldwell as the quarterbacks looked to exploit the shorter Tay Cody. Cody was providing solid coverage but it would not matter when both passes were overthrown. Cody continued providing solid coverage for most of the day but somehow ended the day with a lot of passes caught against him. The bigger receivers the Chargers had out there were able to use that height to make catches despite Cody being wrapped about their ankles. The only man to beat Cody bad was Onome Ojo who used his long stride to torch Cody and then proceeded to make a nice catch on a terrible pass by Drew Brees.

I didn't see Sammy Davis get thrown on much in coverage. In fact he may have been too good. He was draped all over the back of Brian Sump on one crossing route and was with him stride for stride yet Sump still made the catch. Davis could not have done a better job in coverage. One particular tendency I picked up was some bad reads during running plays. He would drop back into coverage looking at his man before realizing the play call was a run. With so many drills being passes it could be he was expecting a pass every down. I expect this to be worked out quickly in game.

Kassim Osgood made a nice catch in front of Drayton Florence. Florence showed nice closing speed and was always in position to at least make a tackle. He had good breaks on the ball and seemed to be communicating better with his safeties that would back him up often. Florence had another play where he broke on the ball smelling interception but was disappointed when the ball from Brees to Ojo was delivered low. Florence would get his interception later when the defensive line brought the house and pressured Brees into delivering the ball too soon. Knowing the play call Florence sprang into action and went up high to snare a ball.

Jammer was not fooled when Dondre Gilliam ran a curl route. Jammer stayed with him through the route and deflected the ball away. Jammer was just as good defending the run. On a direct snap to Chatman, while the rest of the defense was asleep, Jammer burst into the backfield and got Chatman from behind as he tried to run through the tackles.

Ryan McNeil again took the lead on the field. He could be often heard calling out signals and would call out "Shuffle, shuffle!" if there was motion and he wanted the defensive backs to shift their assignments.

Lassiter recognized a running play quickly but fell victim to a pulling Alex Tuttle who smothered him.

One thing that surprised me on Saturday was the amount of blitzing the secondary did. With the Chargers lacking speed in the secondary last season they were unable to blitz much with the safeties or corners. Early on it appears there has been a change in philosophy.

Hanik Milligan, the hard hitting sixth round draft pick out of Houston, was the first to bring the heat. Nick Maddox picked him up beautifully and allowed the quarterback time to deliver a completion downfield. Sump would turn the burners on later and toast both safeties, Milligan and Cedric Wilson, but a poorly thrown ball saved the defense the embarrassment of what would have been a long play.

Another blitz, this time by both Quentin Jammer and Drayton Florence, was executed to perfection. Antoineo Harris went out to meet Florence leaving the other side free for Jammer to stalk. Cleo Lemon sensed the pressure and lofted a ball up for David Boston but Terrence Kiel anticipated the early throw and jumped Boston to make a pick. Jammer actually pulled up on the play and would have had a sack before the ball was ever released.

A little trickery by the offense resulted in a broken play. Caldwell took a direct snap from center with Cleo Lemon out wide as a receiver. Cody broke off from covering Lemon and rushed into the backfield. He quickly crossed the distance between himself and Caldwell before pulling up, a sure sack. Caldwell did get a throw off and complete a pass to Tim Dwight downfield, but long after the "sack".

Chatman had to resort to holding a blitzing Wilson as Wilson was rounding the corner and closing on the quarterback fast.

Tomorrow we focus on the trenches…

Denis Savage can be reached at safage@cox.net or via the following link: Denis Savage

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