More QB rumblings from Chargers minicamp

Minicamp offered an exciting atmosphere for fans who wanted their first glimpse of Philip Rivers in a San Diego Chargers' uniform. Make no mistake about it, even though Rivers was the media darling for the day, many fans were wearing their Drew Brees jersey, showing their support for a quarterback that has sparked a bit of controversy in Charger land.

For now, they can sit easy. Brees is still taking the majority of the first team snaps. But how long will this last?

In one of the more fan friendly drills, each quarterback had an opportunity to shine with the wide receivers taking on the cornerbacks. Instead of looking like a fourth year veteran, Drew Brees was the one looking like the rookie. Brees was either sailing passes over the receivers' head or badly under throwing them. Understandably, bad days can happen; after all, this is training camp.

Philip Rivers, in an ironic turn, was the one looking like the veteran. In the very same drills, Rivers was 11-for-14 with some absolutely dazzling throws. On a side note, Rivers' release is as quick as advertised, and his release point is right above his helmet (so much for side arm). In addition, Rivers has improved his ball handling. Instead of holding the ball at his waist, he holds it around his numbers. When Rivers can get the ball up around his chin strap, he will be good to go.

What is truly scary is Rivers accuracy and ball placement. His 20-to-30 yard throws were not your typical "jump balls". The ball was noticeably placed over the opposite shoulder of the positioned cornerback. So, either the receiver would come down with the ball or no one would at all. Rivers also showed excellent range in 10-to-15 yard out patterns, which many believe is one of the toughest and most dangerous throws a quarterback could make. If the ball is thrown slightly inside, it is an interception returned for a touchdown waiting to happen. But, Rivers consistently placed the ball on the outside shoulder with his lightning fast delivery.

The one area Rivers does need to work on is the deep ball. Any throw of 40+ yards tended to sail a bit. The spirals were not as tight, and the placement was not as accurate. This, however, should not be too much of a surprise to anyone because this is what most scouts were saying about him coming out of the draft. Fortunately, the size of the receiving core should compensate for this a little.

In all fairness to Brees, Rivers is probably in better playing shape than he is. Up until the draft, Rivers has been in the business of impressing NFL scouts and improving his draft status. On a daily basis, Rivers probably has been participating in drills identical to this or very similar. Brees, on the other hand, probably has not been in nearly as strict of a regiment.

In the 9-on-9 drills, Rivers showed excellent poise. In the morning practice, he started out 4-for-5 and started to develop a rhythm. But in typical rookie fashion, Rivers became complacent. Towards the end of the first practice Rivers called an audible which was a debacle, and then on the next play locked onto his primary target resulting in an interception. Mistakes like these are not the best way to end a practice. Rivers, though, showed good resolve and did not duplicate the same mistakes in the afternoon scrimmages.

Like in the morning session, Brees was working with the first team in the "chain moving drills". Brees ran two different series, one resulting in a touchdown. The drill was a feast or famine type for Brees. He was 4-10 passing but was 2-3 in third down conversions, highlighted by a beautiful twenty yard out pattern. One question remains though; would these (third and longs) have been completed if the drill was full contact? Despite the highlights, more bad can happen than good when you are consistently working from third and long.

In exciting fashion, Rivers only ran one series. But the fans in attendance got to see plenty of action in that series. Rivers lead the Charger offense the length of the football field setting them up in field goal position. The drive was highlighted by a seven yard pass converting on fourth and two. Rivers showed a lot of poise in the pocket and handled the play action pass beautifully. In the series, Rivers was 6-for-8 passing, throwing the ball away once. Rivers being 0-2 on third down was moot also, for his first down conversions generally came on second down. Again, since the drill was non-contact, it is hard to get a good reading on how poised Rivers actually was. But taking the drill for what it was worth, Charger fans had to walk away impressed.

Common sense would dictate that Brees will only get better throughout the camp, which will only create more competition. But if Rivers continues to improve at the same pace, Brees could find himself running the second team squad before the regular season starts. In either case, Chargers fans have to be happy. This is the first time in a long time that they can look on the practice field and see the workings of a potential star behind center. When was the last time they could say that?

Byran Martin can be reached at

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