Chargers training camp: Night practice

As training camp wears on, the players need to find emotion. On Wednesday night, with the San Diego Chargers sponsoring Carson Family Night, the emotion was at its highest point ever. With the only night practice of Camp Carson, the tempo and play was better than it has been at any point in camp. Along with it came the emergence of a few players.

Igor Olshansky made his presence known more than ever on Wednesday. Playing right end, Olshansky knocked Courtney VanBuren down with a mighty blow on one of the first plays of the day during 9-on-7 drills. Two plays later, Olshansky found himself in the backfield again but the play went away from him. Minutes later he was overpowering Van Buren along the line to make a play. When he got into 11-on-11 drills, Olshansky took a step right before stunting back underneath to his left and was given a clear path to quarterback Joe Germaine. He was credited with the sack. He even met up with LaDainian Tomlinson in the backfield and would have had a stuff as he touched up on Tomlinson two yards behind the line.

"I was just rusty," Olshansky said with a wink, referring to his play taking a while to develop. "When you don't play for a while you lose your timing and everything."

Matt Wilhelm had another active day. He welcomed newcomer Phillip Crosby to the team with a smash to his mouth the first time Crosby touched the ball. Looking back, Crosby may not have touched the ball again the rest of practice. Wilhelm also laid a pop on Michael Turner during goalline drills that stopped the running back short of the end zone. Wilhelm, though, was rewarded for his play and ran first team on the goalline. He was joined by the big boys as the defense ran a 4-3 with, Olshansky, Williams, Cesaire, Leverette, Cooper and Moreno.

The linebackers in general had a good day. Steve Foley broke through the line on the second play of 9-on-7 to stop Jesse Chatman dead in his tracks. Foley later read a reverse and pinned the offense ten yards back, but Coach Marty Schottenheimer gave the offense a two yard gain.

Foley has a tempered view on the progression of the defense in its 3-4 alignment.

"That is one thing about the 3-4," Foley began. "It takes time. You have more linebackers and with that guys have different responsibilities and different adjustments, a lot of different adjustments you have to worry about. It is not something that is going to happen overnight."

Veteran Randall Godfrey was pleased with how the defense is responding to the challenges:

"We just have to keep trying to improve everyday and that is what we are doing now," Godfrey said.

Ryan Krause has been lighting it up after a slow start to his Charger career. Krause caught a pass from Cleo Lemon at a dead run on a go route and went 35 yards before a trailing Stephen Cooper could push him out of bounds. Krause then tried to make an acrobatic catch but came down empty on an overthrown pass from Lemon. He continued to catch a few more until he dropped an easy touchdown catch during goal line drills.

Drew Brees got the bulk of the action during red zone drills where the ball was spotted at the 20 yard line and the team had to drive to score. The first two touchdowns went to running backs. LT scored the first time he touched the ball on a pump fake handoff from Brees. The line busted open a lane and no one was close to touching the back. Michael Turner also scored, gaining the right corner to scamper in from inside the ten with Lemon at QB. The first passing touchdown came from Brees when he hit a streaking Antonio Gates on a quick slant between Jerry Wilson and Terrence Kiel who could not converge in time. He also hit a fade to Micah Ross which earned "catch of the day" honors.

Brees had the only fourth down opportunity of the day and Schottenheimer quickly snatched it from him and gave the offense a first down during ‘move the chains'. Cleo Lemon was the only quarterback to get his team in the end zone during ‘move the chains' where the ball was spotted at the 20 with 80 yards to go. He connected with Kassim Osgood on a 45 yard touchdown. Osgood found himself matched up in single coverage against Hanik Milligan on the play and Lemon found him.

During goalline drills, Wilhelm's stuff was the only time the defense stopped a Drew Brees led offense in four attempts. Cleo Lemon was not so lucky. Jacques Cesaire busted through the line to stuff Chatman in the backfield on the first attempt and Stephen Cooper met in mid-air as Chatman tried to jump the pile – another stuff. Lemon ran that same play again and instead of handing the ball off he kept it for a naked bootleg and easy touchdown.

Lightning quicks:

Micah Ross made the catch of the day on a fade route. With the ball at the 15 yard line, Brees hit Ross in the back of the end zone and Ross jumped up over Sammy Davis and made a one-handed grab, tucking the ball in for a touchdown. It got all of the offense pumped and even LT had to give Ross a high-five for the reception.

Robb Butler and Jerrell Pippens are the undrafted rookies making the most noise. Pippens, a converted safety, knocked away two balls, including one 45 yards downfield that was targeting Kassim Osgood. Butler smacked a ball away from the waiting hands of Justin Peelle.

Cesaire was credited with two sacks and a major stuff during goalline drills. He had an active day.

Kris Dielman started the day at left guard but Toniu Fonoti reclaimed the spot before practice let out.

Olshansky was running first team for most of practice.

Will Mortensen can be reached at will@sandiegosports.net

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