Several Chargers shine bright

SAN DIEGO- Philip Rivers played all but the final snap of first half and showed terrific accuracy, but looked very uncomfortable when scrambling outside the pocket. The offense will have to adapt to this, as the team called lots of rollouts last year with Brees at the helm. Rivers also showed an unusual reliance on his tight ends.

That is likely a result of spending every practice working with the game's best, Antonio Gates.

"I think we all thought that he would be pretty good, and he was tonight," head coach Marty Schottenheimer said. "We got good production out of the tight end position."

-One player who benefited from that tendency was Ryan Krause, who proved capable of making the tough catch and provided a security blanket for Rivers. Perhaps the time the two spent together on the scout team is now providing dividends.

-As for the receivers, the standout player there was Vincent Jackson. After having a slow start to camp, he has cemented his spot as no worse than the third receiver.

-Leander Jordan has made noticeable progress, he lacks to talent to hang with elite ends such as Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila. Marcus McNeill looks powerful and incredibly agile for a man of his size and should be in the starting lineup by week one.

-Ray Perkins had a strong second half and could push for a roster spot. He is a do-it-all back with stellar vision and determination. With fringe players such as Perkins, Krause and Cletis Gordon all looking good, it is hard to imagine the team will be able to justify burning a roster spot on kickoff specialist Kurt Smith.

-Defensive ends Luis Castillo and Igor Olshansky should both set career highs in sacks this season. Castillo has slimmed down and is much quicker, while Olshansky has greatly expanded his pass-rushing repertoire.

-The linebackers are ferocious and will intimidate opponents. Stephen Cooper and Matt Wilhelm had consecutive sacks on the Packers' second drive; the Chargers' top priority should be reaching contract extensions with those two. Tim Dobbins and Marques Harris each had sacks as well.

-Antonio Cromartie is a tantalizing prospect. He is easily fooled by double moves, but it too fast and athletic to take off the field. He was picked on often, but responded with a game-clinching interception early in the fourth quarter.

-The coverage units are greatly improved with the return of Carlos Polk. Kassim Osgood, Hanik Milligan and Polk may constitute the best trio of coverage men in the league. The Packers did recover an onsides kick, with the Chargers' return team being the only group in the building not expecting the try.

-Not playing were LaDainian Tomlinson, Donnie Edwards, Randall Godfrey, Roman Oben, Eric Parker, Lorenzo Neal, Aaron Shea, Malcom Floyd, Chase Page, Sean Coffey, Patrick Massey and the recently signed Cory Withrow.


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