Chargers' receivers justify dropping Woods

The Chargers looked crisp on their fifth day of camp, electing not to wear pads in an effort to prevent injuries and to keep players fresh. Despite the light-contact nature of the day, several notable Chargers were held out of practice, including Roman Oben, Shawne Merriman, Antonio Cromartie and Donnie Edwards.

Those practicing looked sharp. The secondary had a particularly productive day despite the absence of Cromartie, who said he hopes to return to practice on Thursday. Steve Gregory, a rookie who went undrafted out of Syracuse, had an especially nice outing. He ended the day with a couple of pass break-ups and a nifty end-zone interception.

"We have to get more interceptions as a defensive football team," head coach Marty Schottenheimer admitted. "That is one of the big factors of winning football games. You have a chance to make positive field position. It has been a point of emphasis for us."

Other members of the secondary shined as well. Terrence Kiel jumped an outlet pass during one scrimmage session and took it back the other way. Cletis Gordon also got his hands on a few passes, although he did drop one that should have been an easy pick.

The running backs provided the highlight plays on the offensive side of the ball. Darren Sproles put on a show working as a receiver out of the backfield, but he always seems to shine when the big boys on defense aren't allowed to lay him out. Second-year back Ray Perkins proved to be an impressive receiving outlet as well.

The play at receiver helped justify the early release of Rashaun Woods. Malcom Floyd continued to make spectacular catches, although he was stripped of the ball after one of them. After his next reception, Schottenheimer himself tried to strip the ball from him. Greg Camarillo was also impressive, making several difficult grabs.

"Both are good hard workers," Schottenheimer said of Floyd and Camarillo. "They are both in the mix and it is good competition at the wide receiver spot.

"Malcom is a good young prospect. He has got to continue to work. He has performed extremely well. He can run fast and jump."

The tight ends, however, were less impressive. Brandon Manumaleuna struggled mightily after thriving earlier in camp. He suffered from a bad case of the dropsies, which prompted Schottenheimer to scream, "Catch the damn ball, Brandon!"

While Manumaleuna was drawing Coach's ire, another player was bent on winning him over. In a linebacker corps loaded with talent, no player stood out more than Akbar Gbaja-Biamila. He worked harder and showed more intensity than any of his peers, which is sure to win over his old-school coach.

Camp is still less than a week old and it has already become clear that the final round of cuts will involve several difficult decisions. Cory Lekkerkerker, Ben Johnson and Jeromey Clary are all battling for the last spot in the tackle rotation. Also, if the team fails to trade Hanik Milligan, he and Andre Lott could be in an intense fight for a roster spot.

If competition really does bring out the best in everybody, then expect nothing less than the best from the 2006 Chargers.


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