Underdog receiver, Grant Mattos, continues to impress and took the field against the first team defense on Monday. After consistently beating the second and third team defensive backfield, the Chargers brass wanted to see more. And Mattos has held to the same vision that earned him a spot last year.
"Just work hard like I did last season and try and find a spot for this upcoming team," the receiver said.
It seemed that Mattos went deep on every play. He caught a long corner route from Joe Germaine, beating Kevin House on the play during one-on-one drills. Mattos was just beginning his work for the day.
In team drills, Mattos was officially placed with the first team, working in sync with Drew Brees. His first reception from Brees was a simple sideline route where Mattos showed his soft hands.
He ran a curl route and sliced through Jerry Wilson and Sammy Davis to make a reception and turn it upfield. Secondary Coach Brian Stewart was not pleased, yelling at his troops. "No," Stewart said with a groan. "You have to get there."
Mattos then ran a nice sideline route, taking it up the field with Davis on his hip during 9-9 on drills. Brees heaved the rock and with Davis in position to make a play and possibly a pick, Mattos glided away with the reception. Davis was focused on Mattos' back as the 6-foot-2 receiver caught the ball as it zipped past Davis' shoulder.
"Sammy all you have to do is look for the ball," head coach Marty Schottenheimer said.
The second year receiver then had the sweetest catch of the day, even if he did fall out of bounds. He ran an out and up against Quentin Jammer and got a step. The ball was delivered by Brees 45 yards downfield to the inside shoulder and Mattos turned and plucked the ball with Jammer in tight. Mattos fell on the catch and landed just out of bounds in the right front corner of the end zone, on top of Jammer. It drew a rousing cheer from teammates and even the fans in attendance were awoken from their slumber.
The star of Monday's morning session was clearly Grant Mattos.
"I was talking one-on-one with Marty and I just got a really good feeling from him and he seemed fired up to have me come and try and prove myself (this year)," Mattos said.
And like last year when he was the player of affection from fans – and family, the support has come out again for him this season.
"The good thing about being in Carson is I have a lot of family and friends who could come and watch," Mattos said. "It is always good to see a familiar face in camp."
In the afternoon session, his day was marred by one missed catch on a crossing route. The ball hit him in the hands but slipped through. Can't catch ‘em all.
Monday marked the first time in camp that Brees looked deep on more than a few occasions. After connecting with Mattos on the catch of the day, Brees went to the other sideline and found Eric Parker matched up with Davis. Brees threaded a 40 yarder over the outside shoulder and into Parker's outstretched hands for the reception.
"The most important thing is that we get the receivers working together with the quarterbacks, so that we can get the timing and the rhythm," Schottenheimer said of his receivers and moving the parts around to work with different quarterbacks. "What we will do is we probably won't have a single guy that's going to be the man, but rather more by committee."
The word has gotten out. There is to be no contact by defensive backs downfield as the NFL referees make their way through training camps across the country. The five yard rule is officially in effect.
Secondary coach Brian Stewart ran the secondary through drills and continued to emphasize to his squad the need to bump within the five yard zone and only in that zone.
"You can't touch them," Stewart yelled during one drill. "They are going to call it."
Denis Savage can be reached at email@example.com
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