Chargers see something in Malcom Floyd

Last season San Diego Chargers superstar LaDainian Tomlinson paced the National Football League by gaining 2,370 yards from scrimmage. En route to doing so, he also became the first player in NFL history to register 100 receptions and rush for over 1,000 yards in the same season. On top of all of that, he rushed for thirteen touchdowns, caught four touchdowns, and even threw a touchdown for good measure. And despite the fact that he logged 413 touches last year, he did not lose a single fumble.

What was the result of this performance for the ages? A 4-12 record and the rights to an arrogant whiner named Eli. So if the Chargers offense is to help lead the charge in digging this team out from the bottom of the AFC West cellar, the team's young wide receivers are going to have to pick up the slack considerably. After replacing the very talented, but even more troublesome, David Boston with veteran leader Kevin Dyson and adding some other young hopefuls, the team is optimistic about its passing attack this upcoming season.

"We need guys to step up and raise the level because 4-12 is not taking it," said Tim Dwight, the senior member of the Chargers receiving group. "I expect the wide receiver group, guys like Eric Parker and Kevin Dyson and Kassim Osgood and Reche Caldwell to come out and take my job or I take their job. We love each other and we are fighting out there but at the same time we need to compete at a high level to win in this league."

Despite heavy competition, the Chargers wide receivers have not turned into a destructive bunch. As a matter of fact, they have helped push one another in an attempt to better the performance of the unit as a whole. The perfect example of this can be found in rookie wide receiver Malcom Floyd, a newcomer who had a terrific mini-camp and is seen as having a solid shot at making the final roster this fall.

When the Chargers veterans realized the raw talent possessed by Floyd, they rallied around him in an attempt to help elevate his game. Many individuals would not be so willing to help assist their own competition for employment, but this selfless mentality is what has given the team so much hope for their receivers this year.

"They all took me up," says Floyd of his fellow receivers. "They're not really a cutthroat bunch of receivers. I guess they just saw something in me, because they have all been helping me out a lot.

"Especially Eric Parker. He has been showing me a lot of things. They have been working with me on my footwork and technique for the most part. That and just getting my route running down, because I think that's the biggest thing for me. Yeah, because once I get my footwork down it's going to be ugly out there. Seriously, I mean it's going to turn ugly."

This bond developing between the receivers is most certainly encouraging. This is especially true in a season where so many youngsters will be expected to contribute. In addition to the rookie sensation Floyd, the Chargers will be relying heavily on contributions from second year player Kassim Osgood and third year veterans Eric Parker and Reche Caldwell.

This will be a defining season for each of those players. Osgood must prove that his success late last season was more an effect of his progress than of the failures of his competition. Parker must prove he can stay healthy and compete in a starting capacity over the course of a sixteen game schedule. And Caldwell must live up to his lofty draft status of two years ago, and show the dedication and focus necessary to compete at the highest level of the game.

The increasing amounts of pressure on each of these youngsters is one of the reasons the Chargers made a point to bring in veteran leaders like Dyson this off-season. With his years of experiences to draw from he has the ability to lead vocally as well as by example.

"I try to make sure I am working hard every play and everyday so they see that," said Dyson. "Not only myself but Tim and Eric and some of these older guys who have been around so they see that and know how we practice and how to prepare yourself for the NFL. If guys have a question, I definitely give them my two cents. I don't go out of my way too much. If I say something to a young guy, I will help him out when I see something that will help his game a little bit but other than that I try and do it on the field."

Floyd has recognized that with players such as Dyson and Dwight around, this group of receivers is in good shape as far as veteran leadership is concerned.

"I think we have enough vocal leaders," says Floyd. "But we also have a lot of guys who lead by example, who just go out and work hard and show younger guys the right way to get things done. But for the receivers, we have guys who will lead vocally. Like if someone runs the wrong route or does something wrong someone will let him know and pull him aside and show him how it's supposed to be done. The receivers have been great helping each other out like that, even though we are all fighting for the same job."

Also, the receivers are gaining valuable tutelage not only from one another, but from receivers coach and Pro Football Hall of Fame member James Lofton as well.

"All of his advice has worked for me," says Floyd of Lofton. "I mean he's a Hall of Fame guy there is no reason not to do what he says. If I knew back in college some of the things he has taught me already I could have been an All-American. What Coach Lofton has taught me for techniques and stuff like that has really helped me out so I can go out there and shine. He has helped me overcome a lot of obstacles. Like you mix up your techniques, and use different ones at different times. You have to keep them guessing. And after that you have to make them commit."

While the receivers have opposing cornerbacks committing on post patterns and out routes, Coach Lofton has his players committing themselves. The players are pushing one another, and in the process pushing themselves.

"It's about having a flawless playing style," says Floyd. "It's all about hard work. Coach Lofton and guys like Eric Parker are teaching me up every practice. Even though we play the same position, the guys have really helped me out. They must see something in me."

This year's story line at receiver is not about a bloated contract or a superstar ego. This season is all about competition. And with the way this year's receivers have lifted one another up these players will definitely be ready to compete come gametime.

Michael Lombardo can be reached at

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