Chargers Thursday morning camp: Getting it done

Thursday's action-packed first practice of San Diego Chargers' training camp started and ended with an eleven-on-eleven session. Before the final scrimmage, head coach Marty Schottenheimer, who was a bit disappointed with some bouts of lethargic play, called the whole team together for an old school butt-chewing that was audible to the fans in the stands. The howling ended with: "Let's get the damn thing done!"

On Wednesday the San Diego Chargers inserted left-guard Toniu Fonoti and rookie center Nick Hardwick with the first team offensive line. The move was the focal point of curiosity going into Thursday's first session. Would Fonoti and Hardwick run with the first team again?

The answer is yes. Fonoti and Hardwick joined rookie Carlos Joseph, who again played left tackle, veteran Roman Oben and ex-Bengal Mike Goff to round out the starting line.

On the first play in eleven-on-elevens, the offense tried to run LaDainian Tomlinson to the right, but he was quickly met by linebacker Ben Leber, who stopped Tomlinson for a short gain. The next play, Tomlinson took a pitch to the left where Fonoti was able to make a nice block and spring Tomlinson for a good gain. The series ended when an out-of-bounds Tim Dwight catching a pass from quarterback Drew Brees off of play action.

Dwight and Eric Parker continue to trot out as the starting receivers, but Kevin Dyson and Reche Caldwell have also seen time with the first team. Caldwell dropped a few catchable passes this morning, but he did make a few, including a diving catch on a bomb from Cleo Lemon.

The first session of eleven-on-elevens was clearly won by the defense. The line and linebackers attacked the line of scrimmage, often penetrating into the backfield as the cohesiveness of the offensive line was simply not there.

During nine-on-nines, linebacker Carlos Polk, who has been active of late, poked the ball away from tight end Antonio Gates and into to the hands of a fellow defender. The defense hooted and hollered but they didn't see No. 80 swooping in. Veteran receiver Kevin Dyson snatched the ball away from the unsuspecting defender.

Between scrimmages the offensive /defensive lineman and linebackers squared off in one-on-one pass drills.

Carlos Joseph went against Ben Leber. Joseph prevented the sack on both plays, but Leber applied heavy pressure on one.

‘The Giant' (Fonoti) and ‘the Specimen' (Igor Olshansky) went at it next. The two have met often in these situations, with Fonoti holding the edge, sometimes even pummeling the lighter Olshansky. This time there was no pummeling. Just solid blocking as ‘the Giant' kept ‘the Specimen' from applying pressure on both plays.

The next battle pitted 348 pound nose tackle Jamal Williams against the 295 pound Hardwick. This would be a good test to see how the rookie center would hold up against one of the leagues more powerful defensive tackles. The results were surprising.

Hardwick, using quickness, technique and a veterans hand-punch, did a great job keeping the bigger man out of the backfield. He won both battles and claimed he is ready to pick up blitzes.

"I know what is going on," Hardwick said. "In college I was responsible for picking everything up. It is a little different ballgame at the (the NFL) level, but I am a quick learner."

Guard Mike Goff, showing impressive strength, dominated Otis Leverette on both plays.

Tackle Roman Oben beat Carlos Polk on his first play, but Polk came back to embarrass him on the next.

Guard Kris Dielman beat Dequincy Scott both plays. On the second one, Dielman fo-no-teed Scott into the ground.

Center David Brandt went against nose-tackle Jason Fisk. Fisk had the edge.

Rookie Shane Olivea matched up with Jacques Cesaire. Cesaire used a nice swim move to escape Olivea on the first play, but Olivea rebounded on the second.

Rookie linebacker Howard Hodges beat Phil Bogle on their first battle, but Bogle bounced back with a dominating performance. Hodges did not always have it so easy.

"When I first came to Iowa, I was 190," Hodges admitted. "A little 190 guy going against 300 pounders, they were like, ‘What's going on?' I was doing pretty well. I ended up getting scout player of the year for playing end."

Now Hodges is back at outside linebacker, and it is why he chose to play end in college believe it or not.

"I realized it would be better for me in the 3-4 where I would still be rushing in 80 percent of the time and I will drop back (the rest)," said the undrafted free agent.

Dave Ball and Carlos Joseph split on their battles.

The last battle pitted a pair of big-ole-Nebraska boys. Fonoti against Ryon Bingham. Fonoti easily kept him at bay on the first play, then literally squashed him on the next.

Highlights from second set of eleven-on-elevens

-Jerry Wilson dropped LaDainian Tomlinson after a pass play. Tomlinson didn't get up immediately, and for a split-second the earth stood still. He was OK.

-Brees hit Parker on a quick pass, but Quentin Jammer was there to prevent yards after the catch.

-Brees would've been sandwiched by two defenders, but he threw the ball to Kevin Dyson anyway.

-Cleo Lemon hit Dyson on a nice 15 yard pass over the middle. Carlos Polk and Drayton Florence defended on the play.

-Wide receiver Micah Ross torched Sammy Davis on a deep sideline route. Davis must've thought he had safety help from Kwamie Lassiter, but it was Davis who landed the force of secondary coach Brian Stewart's screaming. Ross was wide-open, but had to wait for the ball as it was underthrown by Brees.

-Steve Foley had a sack of Brees.

-Drew Brees threw a perfect pass to free-safety Hanik Milligan, who returned the interception for a touchdown.

-Quentin Jammer had a nice pick on a pass from Lemon. He stepped in front of Grant Mattos to make the play.

Practice ended with field goals. Kaeding and Hoambrecker each hit their first three, and then it was time to make one under simulated pressure. Kaeding split the uprights, while Hoambrecker's kick sailed wide right.

Will Mortensen can be reached at will@sandiegosports.net
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