Chargers Training Camp: Prognosis

With the San Diego Chargers camp in full swing, several players have been pleasant surprises while others have not had their coffee and need another wake up call. For many, this and preseason is crunch time. It marks the time to make an impression and ultimately make the team.

The great news is that the practice squad has been expanded to hold eight players instead of five. The bad news is that only brings the amount of players up to 61 (53 on the active roster and eight added to the practice squad a day later). With more than 80 players in camp, the cuts will run deep.

Admittedly, this reporter did not see one of the Chargers seventh round picks even making the team. Oh, how the unfaithful heretic does not believe in Hudson Houck. From the early returns from camp, and it is still morning in camp, Carlos Joseph has performed admirably. This is not to proclaim him as the next coming, but he has looked better than veteran Roman Oben in pass protection. It was no surprise when the team tried him out at left tackle because of his progress. It is something else altogether to begin penciling him into the starting lineup. Joseph has talent, but the question was whether he had the heart and will to take knowledge given and apply it to the field. So far he has. Let's wait until we see him against a plethora of defenders on either the right or left side and see how he does against varying moves that will be displayed against him. He has been helped from the absence of Courtney VanBuren but when the second year tackle returns he is expected to settle into a starting role. What he has displayed is solid footwork and good hand positioning. He has not put himself in a bad position when the rush comes.

With Donnie Edwards out of the lineup, Stephen Cooper has benefited. His strength at the point of attack has been evident and he has solidified a spot on the team with his play on the inside. When Edwards returns, Cooper will be demoted to second team, and justly so. But Cooper has a shot to see more time on the field this year. The undrafted rookie has surprised with his diagnosis of run versus pass and his biggest demerit is his backpedal. He is not yet adept at dropping back into coverage and needs to work on his depth. He is regularly on top of backs slipping out of the backfield, a time when he is moving forward. Thus far his play has been a pleasant sight. Not necessarily a surprise, but he has been a positive.

Toniu Fonoti was expected to be rusty after missing a year of football and reporting late after going to a weight loss clinic in Houston. Considering he has not had any true football lessons for quite some time, the expectations were not nearly as high. Fonoti has crushed (sat on?) any qualms about his play. Perhaps his personal problems have given him an authentic mean streak as he is tossing around defenders. His pulling has been solid and he is finishing plays. On one pull in camp he threw Kevin House to the ground with a mighty paw. It has not mattered who he has faced, he has largely (no pun intended) been able to hold his own.

DeQuincy Scott has slowed to a purr. The leading sack leader is not at his best when the results cannot be truly quantified. He is not getting into the backfield, his specialty. With the lack of a pass rush and a change in the defensive scheme, Scott has had a tougher time making the transition – and his presence is needed. This bears watching in the preseason, especially where he lines up to get his sacks.

Quentin Jammer was a beast in mini-camp. Performing as a rock band, he was jamming. Thus far in camp he has not been as steady. Granted the pads have been at half staff – not in full pads all the time – but he is getting beat. His biggest progression has come from not getting beat deep. Perhaps it is a cognizant fact that is allowing him to get beat on comeback routes. Last year the up and out route from Tim Dwight was his bane. A perfect example of his progression came on Wednesday when he snatched a ball away from the outstretched arms of Dwight on a deep route that spanned the length of the field. Last year he would have been toast. Dwight has more or less changed tactics this year after realizing that play is being covered. The receiver has instead toasted Jammer on curls, hooks and ten yard hitch routes. Perhaps it is just the quicker receivers he is having problems with as it is rare that he gets beat by some of the bigger, and slower, receivers. If he gets his trademark jam at the line, the rest is history for would be route runners.

Carlos Polk has been more hype than actual play on the field. One of the more vocal players on the entire defense – and always the first to chase a rookie downfield to get a takeaway – Polk has yet to be the force many envisioned. With more bark than bite, Linebackers Coach Greg Manusky and can only offer up "Aahs" when Polk missteps. Polk, entering his fourth year, has a tough time ahead with so many linebackers on the squad. His forte remains special teams but his presence on the defense is anything but special.

Mighty mite Wes Welker has not been mighty. He is getting pushed around at the line of scrimmage and it is making separation impossible. A lot of his routes have been across the middle but the defender has been on his hip. It starts at the line where he is not making the adjustment in his release from the line. He is allowing defenders to dictate his pace. Welker has also not been seen lately on the kickoff return team. Luke Powell has been getting a lot of action there in his stead. It could be an ominous sign or a reporter reading into things a bit too much.

En-lightning news:

Other players have also impressed but they are getting print. Guys like Drayton Florence, Eric Parker, Mike Goff, and Antonio Gates have all performed the way fans would have hoped. Florence has been steadier this year and brings an exciting dynamic to the secondary. Parker has caught everything targeted his way. Goff has been better than any lineman this team has seen in years. Gates is still trickling deep into the secondary.

High expectations were also on several other players coming in and they have underperformed to date. Ryan Krause, Dave Ball, Shaun Phillips and Kwamie Lassiter have all underperformed. Krause has been yelled at by Tight Ends Coach Tim Brewster more than any other player on the roster. Dave Ball has not created a stir from his end position. Shaun Phillips has looked a little lost in trying to make the conversion to outside linebacker. His quickness is evident but his knowledge of the position is not. Lassiter, and even his battery mate Jerry Wilson, are the weak links in the secondary. Strange to say that about veterans who should be the glue for the youngsters.

Jamal Fletcher has not been the first rounder many expected to see on the field. He holds a little too much in the secondary and it could be a problem come the season. Fletcher, however, did pick off a Lemon pass on Wednesday.

Denis Savage can be reached at

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