Thursday night lights

The Chargers capped off their sixth day of training camp with a practice under the lights on Thursday night, and the players seemed to feed of the largest crowd of the week. There were violent collisions, acrobatic catches and precision passes, as the team looked more ready than ever for their preseason debut on August 12th against the Packers.

"We all revert back to high school and ‘Friday Night Lights'," head coach Marty Schottenheimer said. "All the fans that were here tonight – the players respond to that."

One player who had a great practice was Philip Rivers, who made some outstanding plays with not only his arm, but his legs as well. On one play he was forced to tuck and run when there was nothing open downfield, and he gained nearly 20 yards before he was touched up. On another play he was forced to scramble out of the pocket while being pursued by Shaun Phillips, and he still managed to get off an impressive completion.

"I just go and am trying to close fast to the quarterback," said Phillips. "My thing is just that I want to win more battles than I lose."

Rivers' mobility could be crucial, as his offensive line could be in flux. During the team's final scrimmage session it was rookie Marcus McNeill and not Leander Jordan who was lining up with the first team at left tackle. Maybe the team was just preparing McNeill incase he is forced into action, or maybe it was an indication that he has a legitimate chance to win the starting post prior to the season opener.

It remains unclear who will be protecting Rivers' blindside on opening day, but it is becoming apparent who will round out his group of receivers. Malcom Floyd continues to make spectacular catches – including one where he stumbled out of his break and made an incredible off-balance grab on his way to the ground – and appears a lock to be the team's fifth receiver this season.

"I feel a lot more comfortable this year," Floyd said. "We are running the same plays we did last year, but we are better at them now because we've gotten the extra repetitions."

On the defensive side of the ball the team looks downright intimidating. The Chargers starting defensive line receives tons of accolades, but their reserves are stepping up as well. Ryon Bingham's strong play at the nose has allowed Jacques Cesaire to focus exclusively on playing end, and the continued development of second-year end Derreck Robinson has the entire unit looking fierce.

In the defense's back eight, Shawne Merriman and Donnie Edwards were again held out with injuries. It was hardly noticeable, as Phillips and Matt Wilhelm could start on most other teams. The secondary was not as outstanding, although Clinton Hart did come away with a nifty red-zone interception which he took back the other way.

The focus on special teams was punting both into and out of the red zone. Mike Scifres showed why he's the game's highest-paid punter, sending one punt 68 yards while kicking from his own back line. His constant self-betterment could very well land him in Hawaii at season's end.

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