Chargers show off depth

On the twelfth day of training camp (Christmas is coming soon enough), the Chargers put on a nighttime show for their fans under the lights at Chargers Park. The players sent a message to all those in attendance that they will be contenders this season, able to handle opponents with one hand tied behind their backs.

In fact, the team put on quite a one-handed show. It started with Darren Sproles and the rest of the kick returners catching punts with just one arm, which was good to see, because Sproles struggled fielding punts with both last season.

The next one-handed feat came during a scrimmage session, when LaDainian Tomlinson reached back and snagged a shuffle pass from Philip Rivers using only his left hand. The pass was well behind Tomlinson, making the catch all the more impressive, but he would soon be outdone.

While doing red zone work, Rivers threw an incredible touchdown pass to Marcus McNeill on a tackle-eligible play. The pass was well in front of McNeill, who lunged forward and brought it in using just one massive paw.

McNeill, however, was brought in to block, not catch, and he showed he could do that as well. During a one-on-one session against the defensive line, McNeill twice stoned Steve Foley, and then did the same to Derreck Robinson. It appears he could be ready to start by opening day if needed, although that may no longer be necessary.

"He goes against all of them – Steve Foley, Shaun Phillips – and he is showing improvement," said head coach Marty Schottenheimer. "He is light on his feet for a man his size."

Roman Oben has seen his workload steadily increase, and is now doing all the warm-up drills with his fellow offensive linemen, as opposed to going through his usually limited agility routine. His limp is less noticeable now than it was just a week ago and there is still a chance he could contribute this season.

"I am encouraged by Roman's progress," added Schottenheimer.

Another pleasant practice sighting was some strong play by the receivers. The team has been getting plenty of production from their three 6-foot-5 pass catchers, but on this evening the shorter guys stole the show. Mark Simmons, Robert Ortiz and newcomer Gerran Walker all looked impressive, using decisive cuts and strong hands to embarrass the likes of Hanik Milligan and Antonio Cromartie.

Although the defense didn't look good during passing drills, it did look different. There were a few non-injury-related changes to the first-team defense, as Stephen Cooper supplanted Randall Godfrey and Bhawoh Jue and Terrence Kiel lined up at safety, with Marlon McCree moving down to the second string. Neither move is likely to be permanent, as the team is just exploring different personnel packages.

"I have a lot of confidence in my abilities," Cooper said. "You never know what is going to happen. I think everybody wants to get in there and play to show their ability."

The new defense did look good during the full-squad scrimmage, with no player looking better than Igor Olshansky. He has come a long way as a pass rusher, and is a strong bet to finish this season with five or more sacks.

Lightning Quicks:

Rivers will play into the second quarter on Saturday against the Green Bay Packers. It will mark the first time in his NFL career that he notches a start.

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