This One Time... at Mini Camp...

There were more questions raised than answers found at the Chargers recently concluded minicamp;

Q: Where does 325 lb Solomon Page fit in?

With incumbent Vaughn Parker out with a shoulder injury, Page filled at Right Tackle. With not-so-durable Damion McIntosh at LT, and Parker and/or Page both strictly on the right bookend, who backs up at Left Tackle?

3rd round pick Courtney Van Buren worked at LT with the second team, showing impressive lateral movement for a 350 lb (350 plus with a capital P) Tackle.

Page was supposedly signed to fill a hole (capital H) at one of the Guard positions, yet Toniu Fonoti was in at LG and Kelvin Garmon at RG with the first team.

This raises another question;

Q: Why is Toniu Fonoti playing on the blind side?

A liability in pass protection, Fonoti must quickly develop those skills if he is to start this season. His run blocking abilities are more suited to the right side, as he can be absolutely dominating in opening holes for LaDainian Tomlinson.

Fonoti played on the left at Nebraska, and coaches may feel he is more comfortable there, but to play him on the QBs blind side exposes his weaknesses and does little to exploit his strengths. So why put him there?

Perhaps to force Fonoti to improve his pass blocking technique with the pressure of protecting the passer as his primary responsibility.

These summer school drills are without pads, and proper technique is the main focus of these practice sessions.

While I fully expect to see him back at RG by preseason, his college history at LG still raises enough question as to whether he can make the adjustment to the right, where hand and foot positions are reversed. Some players never do make the adjustment.

Q: Whose ass will Drew Brees put his hands under?

Last year, undrafted rookie free agent Jason Ball was thrust into the starting center job by a season ending injury to Cory Raymer, a big money free agent Marty Schottenheimer brought with him from Washington.

With no prior NFL experience and barely enough time to learn the playbook, Ball ran with the opportunity, overcoming many obstacles to have a very solid season. A feat even more impressive because he was entrusted with making the line calls.

Ball is an intelligent player who went undrafted largely due to his seeming lack of commitment in the training room.

With the veteran Raymer now healthy and ready to reclaim his job, will Ball be able to hold him off?

Ball was out of action with a minor knee injury, leaving Raymer working with the first team... but what does that prove? Nothing.

Stay Tuned.

Q: Will Drew Brees go deep?

Or, CAN Drew Brees throw deep?

No one really knows, because Brees has mainly been relegated to handing the ball to All-Pro RB LaDainian Tomlinson.

No one can dispute the logic in going with the strength of an offense that featured one of the great young stars of the game at tailback, but this year there is also speed to burn at Wideout. David Boston, Tim Dwight, Eric Parker, and Reche Caldwell can all stretch a defense vertically, and that is a scary thing for teams used to stacking the box with extra run defenders, at times almost daring the Chargers to throw.

We shall soon see if Brees can get the ball deep without too much air under it, on a consistent basis.

If not, the Bolts could be in way-too-deep.

40-year-old Doug Flutie is the alternative, and anyone who has watched him throw downfield lately is cringing at those deep thoughts.

Third string QB Seth Burford has the arm strength, but lacks control of his thunderbolts. Burford deposited many throws behind or out of reach of his targets during the recent practices. Curiously, undrafted Rob Adamson was running the scout team while undrafted and out-of-football-for-a-year Cleo Lemon got loads of snaps during the 9 on 7 and 11 on 11 drills. Lemon showed good mobility while floating several passes like wounded ducklings. The strong-armed Adamson showed nothing more than patience on the sidelines.

Q: Who will back up LaDainian Tomlinson?

It was obvious to anyone who attended minicamp;

260 lb FB Andrew Pinnock hits the hole like a diesel, and he drags the people he doesn't run over along with him.

A slight knock on this monster is a propensity for putting the ball on the ground. He will likely get some opportunities to work on it.

The real question is how many running backs will the team ultimately carry?

Pinnock could back up Lorenzo Neal at fullback AND Tomlinson at tailback.

Perhaps a dual role for Pinnock would allow the Bolts to keep an extra WR, DB or a 3rd kicking specialist? ...Once again, more envelopes are opened than sealed.

The also-ran Backs;

Five-foot-eight Jesse Chatman looks a lot like Terrell Fletcher did when Fletch was here.

Jesse be nimble. Jesse be quick.

Jesse might snap like a candlestick.

The Chargers had phased Fletcher's "scatback" abilities out of their offense in recent seasons, and the team would really prefer to use more of a "battering ram" approach on opponents, when they spell Tomlinson late in games.

Unfortunately, this works against Chatman, and those like him.

Those like him;

Nick Maddox has marginal speed. He won't beat out Chatman.

PJ Mays (Whoops, they just released Mays).

DeMarco McCleskey is slow to the hole, yet he may be quicker to the bus terminal.

Antoineo Harris is a special-teams warrior. It might be his only shot.

Dahrran Diedrick played in an Option offense at Nebraska, and it actually hurt him on draft day.

Of the group, only Harris and Diedrick fit the power runner mold.

One of them could see time as a spare part if Pinnock can't cure his fumbling habit.

So... who, and how many? I'd call it a crap shoot.

Q: With all the talent at Wideout, who gets the ax?

Lack of arm-strength at the QB spot notwithstanding, the team will likely go with all four of the speed demons. Cam Cameron's offense (and Norv Turner's before him) is predicated on running the ball to set up a single play pass that when executed properly, surprises the opposition like a sudden knife attack.

This means that speed is the name of the game, and David Boston, Tim Dwight, Eric Parker, and Reche Caldwell all have it.

You can never have enough speed at wideout. Speed sets up mismatches all over the field, and four WRs with speed provide severe headaches for any defensive coordinator.

At 6-2, 240, Boston also offers size. To complete the WR package, the team would like to add one more really big target opposite him, especially for goal-line situations.

Separating the wideouts from the wipeouts, here are the SIZE guys;

Kassim Osgood, 6-5, 209, a local hero from SDSU, Osgood has had some very good practices and is probably the front runner.

Onome Ojo, 6-4, 205, an African soccer player with 2 years of college football, Ojo is a quick study who has impressed his coaches.

BJ Lovett, 6-4, 208, as if the name wasn't bad enough, the Chargers issued him number 16. This kid has no luck, I'd avoid him.

Terry Charles, 6-3, 207, a product of Mouse Davis's run & shoot at Portland State. Let's see what he does in a pro offense.

Tim Baker, 6-5, 215, he's big. Tall actually... yep, tall and big... nothing much else to say about him, really.

Grant Mattos, 6-2, 220, had 180 career receiving yds at USC. "180". What is he doing in camp? Who is the Mole?

The other guy and the other, other guy;

Brian Sump, 5-11, 185, Colorado School of Mines? They find this guy under a rock? Sump actually has a good shot as a kick returner.

Dondre Gilliam, 6-0, 185, Gilliam's 3rd camp with the Bolts. He must be doing something right, but I still have no idea what that is.

Q: Where will Tim Dwight line up?

I don't know, he's not inside number 85 anymore unless Terry Charles has eaten him. Ok, so he's wearing 87 now... also, Steven Alexander switched to 80, but that was Kellen Winslow's number, so he gets no slack from me. How big a problem has identity theft become, when innocent football players are forced to switch numbers? This is becoming a national crisis. His contract has 2nd WR numbers in it, but Dwight would be better served moving to the slot where he can avoid the bump and gain separation quicker.

Will it happen? Who knows, these guys aren't even in pads yet.

So what have we learned so far?

Absolutely nothing, that's what this summer's training camp is for.

The Chargers will open their first training camp at the Home Depot Center in Carson, a suburb of Los Angeles, on July 22.

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