Mini Camp: Second-Year Studs Break Out

The Chargers gave fans their first two-a-day treat of the new season and the players brought the energy to make it worthwhile. Everyone turned out to get a good look at the new rookie class, but the second-year players stole the show. Elsewhere, a forgotten face on offense began to reassert himself. has the details.

Second Thoughts in the Secondary

A.J. Smith felt the Chargers' need at cornerback was great enough to merit two draft picks, Antoine Cason and DeJuan Tribble. However, that second selection may have been overkill judging by how the holdover defensive backs performed in today's second mini camp practice.

Cletis Gordon broke up four passes, including ripping the ball away from rookie receiver Greg Bracey to force a turnover in the end zone. Steve Gregory also looked strong at free safety, breaking up one pass and nearly intercepting another, so the Chargers may have been alright keeping Paul Oliver at cornerback.

The rookie corners had a rough outing in the afternoon practice. Cason had a tough time keeping his hands off receivers past the 5-yard buffer, bumping Kassim Osgood downfield and holding rookie WR Gary Banks on a quick out. Tribble was beaten badly twice, the second time when Vincent Jackson caught a ball along the left sideline and spun back to the middle of the open field.

The good news is that the new-look secondary has many new ways to attack offenses. Ted Cottrell has a lot of options with Paul Oliver and Eric Weddle at safety, because both have the ability blitz off the edge or stick slot receivers in man coverage.

WR Malcom Floyd
Stephen Dunn/Getty

Floyd Not Forgotten

Many people assumed Malcom Floyd would be the odd man out in the receiver rotation, but he's working hard to prove those people wrong. After catching a 50-yard touchdown in the morning practice, Floyd made several more spectacular catches in the afternoon.

Once known as a deep-ball and red-zone specialist, Floyd has added a new trick to his arsenal by working the sidelines with quick out routes. Because of his height (6'5") and leaping ability, his quarterback can throw the ball high and know that either Floyd will catch it or no one will.

Breakout Times Two

Antonio Cromartie and Chris Chambers both had fantastic seasons for the Chargers in 2007. What made that even more impressive is Chambers didn't debut until Week 8 and Cromartie didn't move into the starting lineup until Week 10. Given the numbers the posted in truncated seasons, imagine what the can do over a full 16-game docket.

Both players were on their games in Saturday's practice. Cromartie broke up three passes, including one that would have been an easy interception had he not tried to one-hand it. He has stated that his goal for the upcoming season is 15 interceptions and no one is taking that lightly.

Chambers made a number of spectacular all over the field, splitting defenders up the seam and make plays on underneath routes. He got the better of both Cromartie and Quentin Jammer during the one-on-one drills.

Tough Day for Hester

Although the Chargers' mini camp practices are not full-pad sessions, Jacob Hester still found a way to take some hard hits. He was stood up at the line by Ryon Bingham in the morning practice and canned by Tim Dobbins in the afternoon session. Hester was almost always tougher than the competition when he played for LSU; he's quickly learning that won't be the case in the NFL.

Just for Kicks

The Chargers worked on their punt units during the afternoon practice. Cromartie, Cason, Buster Davis and Darren Sproles took turns returning kicks. The team also worked on punts and punt fakes, including one play where Clinton Hart lines up as the personal protector, takes the snap and lobs the ball to the tight end.

Michael Lombardo is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America and a long-time contributor to the network. His analysis has been published by the NFL Network, Fox Sports and MySpace Sports. He has followed the Chargers for more than 15 years and covered the team since 2003.

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