Chargers Camp: Oklahoma Drill

After a grueling morning session, the San Diego Chargers donned the pads for the first time on Saturday afternoon. It was a precursor to the Oklahoma Drill, a one-on-one combatant between one offensive player and one defensive player with a running back to tackle thrown in as sport. One notable omission – no Toniu Fonoti.

About fifteen minutes before the horn blew to signal the end of practice, Marty Schottenheimer huddled the team together for a quick lesson on the ‘Oklahoma Drill' and to explain to them that there was no room for personal grudges afterwards and tempers must be held in check.

Oklahoma Drill: Two mats are placed about three yards apart and a running back must run through the tiny space already occupied by one offensive player and one defensive player, who are pitted in a one-on-one drill and smacking pads with ferocity. The defensive player must try to shed the block and tackle the oncoming running back who is looking for the elusive open lane.

While the smaller skilled position players squared off on one side of the field, the behemoths met on the battlefield to play ‘do not cross this line.'

Here is the play-by-play in order of appearance (the action was hot and quick so certain details may be omitted):

Usually on the inactive list, Matt Wilhelm got the first nod against David Brandt, the incumbent starting center. Wilhelm got the go and physically out muscled Brandt, pushing him back between the mats and getting his hands on the ball carrier as he tried to scamper through. It was a win for the defense, and a signal that things may be changing.

Outside speed rusher Steve Foley faced off against Phil Bogle – "the utility man" as he so proclaimed. Bogle held his ground as Foley committed to the right and Bogle simply turned him and used his momentum against him to spin Foley out of the way – the running back finding the hole.

Second year man Jacques Cesaire locked heads with newcomer Mike Goff and it was evident why the Chargers made him a signing priority this offseason. Goff simply manhandled Cesaire, locking pads with him and pushing him five yards down the field.

Defensive end Otis Leverette found himself contested by rookie tackle Carlos Joseph and with the word go, Leverette quickly disengaged himself from the rookie and got his hands on running back Michael Turner. He was not, however, able to bring Turner down.

Crowd favorite Zeke Moreno met his challenger, Chad Ward, to a chorus of "Zeke" from the crowd of approximately 250 in attendance. Moreno made quick work of Ward, pushing him aside as he rode the ball carrier – five yards downfield.

Sack leader DeQuincy Scott encountered newcomer Troy Andrew in the ring and Scott made a little move to his right with a hand pushing hard to the left to propel himself with a lower center of gravity towards the ball carrier. Scott went down to the ground as he made his move but got an ankle hold on big boy Andrew Pinnock, holding him up.

Third year linebacker Ben Leber clashed with "big expectations" tight end Antonio Gates. Leber banged pads and spun off Gates between the mats to meet Turner and haul him to the ground. It was the first official tackle of the day from the defense.

Cesaire got a second go round after being humbled by the veteran guard. This time Cesaire horned up with Kris Dielman and got penetration. As he attempted a spin Dielman took over. With little leverage left, Dielman spun him out of the play – a second thrashing.

Fan hopeful sack specialist Shaun Phillips feuded with "blocking is his specialty" tight end Justin Peelle. Phillips was quick off the line but Peelle was quicker to the defining move. Peelle made one push that sent Phillips a little wide and then proceeded to turn him around as Phillips tried to get back inside – an open lane for the runner.

Rookies Ryon Bingham and Shane Olivea scrapped on center stage –Bingham, the wrestler, versus Olivea, the journalist. While most of the defenders were bum rushing the offensive player, Bingham was purposeful and measured. Bingham did not go right at Olivea but made Olivea meet him half way. When they met it was Bingham who had the advantage, using the usually immobile guard's momentum and turning him aside. He was then free to wrap up the ball carrier.

While most of the battles had some sort of give and take, Omari Hand made the most of his time in the spotlight. Josh Norman tried to thwart the converted defensive end but had not a chance. Hand threw away Norman like a pair of soiled draws. Hand then tackled one of the lone running backs, Turner.

Another set of rookies paired off when another converted end, Howard Hodges, was pitted against wide receiver turned tight end Ryan Krause. Hodges grappled with Krause and threw Krause down to his knees and met the ball carrier. He was unable to wrap up effectively but got the "W".

Normally it is the veteran teaching the rookie a lesson. Not this time around. Roman Oben, the starting left tackle, was schooled by undrafted rookie Robert Pollard. Pollard came at Oben and drove him into the backfield with ease, meeting the ball carrier before he ever had a chance to react.

Special teams marvel Carlos Polk, one of the more physical linebackers in camp, quarreled with tight end Ryan Prince, also a newcomer. Polk made easy work of Prince, giving him a strong pop that pushed Prince out wide. Polk took a step back and drove into the ball carrier with his pads but failed to wrap as the runner was able to scoot past with a sore chest.

Former UCLA Bruin Dave Ball met free agent signee Leaner Jordan. For a few moments it seemed, Jordan was slated to start at left tackle. He showed why during this drill. Jordan didn't wait for a battle, he won the war. He pushed Ball out of the way like a bulldozer against a pile of dirt.

The last battle of the day saw second year player, and currently sitting atop the depth chart with Donnie Edwards out, Stephen Cooper against NFL Europe veteran Reese Hicks. Cooper smashed into Hicks with a thud and bounced off him with Hicks taking the brunt of the blow. Cooper then picked up the pieces by meeting Pinnock in an open field tussle and threw him to the ground with a roar.

A battle for the ages:

Although it did not happen, we can only hope that next year will bring together the colossal meeting of twin cities, Toniu Fonoti versus Igor Olshansky. Of course that would mean Marty Schottenheimer is still coach, the Chargers actually won some games, both players are with the other words too much to speculate about.

Denis Savage can be reached at

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