Defense dominates Saturday afternoon session

The Chargers finished off their first day of training camp with a strong second practice on Saturday afternoon. The day was dominated by the defense, but LaDainian Tomlinson, Antonio Gates and Darren Sproles made enough big plays to keep things interesting.

"We were eager to start training camp off and I think we have a good mix of veterans and young guys," said Tomlinson. "We know how to practice and how to get it done."

Outside linebackers Steve Foley and Shawne Merriman looked unstoppable during 11-on-11 drills, leaving the quarterbacks flustered and Wade Phillips calling for intentional grounding on several throw-away passes. The offensive line appeared overmatched, and things boiled over when Scott Mruczkowski took out his frustrations on Jacques Cesaire, leading to a brief inter-squad skirmish.

"It was a real fast pace today," said Merriman. "We were getting after each other out there."

During the four-on-three passing drill, Philip Rivers took a liking to Brandon Manumaleuna, finding the big tight end several times for short gains. It seems that each season the Chargers come up with a new preferred play for short-yardage situations, and leaking Manumaleuna out into the flat could be this year's choice call.

Another developing trend could be the use of running backs on deep pass routes. Several of the backs were lining up as receivers and running deep patterns from there. Tomlinson caught a nifty 60-yard touchdown from Rivers despite a ferocious pass rush on one play, and Sproles and Michael Turner both caught a few passes downfield as well.

"We got some things accomplished," Rivers admitted.

The highly anticipated competition at strong safety has yet to get underway. Terrence Kiel ran with the first team; Clinton Hart ran with the second team while playing free safety; and Bhawoh Jue was held out as he recovers from offseason surgeries on his knee and shoulder. Andre Lott played strong safety with the second unit.

As for Roman Oben, he watched Leander Jordan take his snaps with the first unit. Jordan looked impressive throughout the afternoon and was the recipient of ample one-on-one attention from new line coach Jack Henry. It appears as if the team is preparing as though Jordan will be their starting left tackle on opening day.

Another hot spot to watch is the competition for the team's third receiver position. It was assumed Vincent Jackson would fill that role, but he has problems holding onto the ball. Rashaun Woods has yet to make a noteworthy impact. Kassim Osgood, meanwhile, has made some terrific catches, and may be set to assume a larger role in the offense.

"He is developing rapidly as a receiver," head coach Marty Schottenheimer said. "He has improved his route running and ability to get in and out of his breaks."

The crowd was much larger during the afternoon session than it was in the morning, due in part to the weather clearing up as the day progressed. Fans were getting into the action, and the players began to reciprocate in turn. Antonio Cromartie, Merriman and Tomlinson were all interacting with the fans, and the second practice ended just like the first, with the fans chanting for LT.


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