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San Diego's defensive front seven, a weakness for most of last season, dominated the action during Friday's practice.
The outside linebackers brought the heat early and often, forcing Philip Rivers to take off running on one play -- a rare sight given his patience in the pocket.
Rookie Jonathan Crompton was more hindered by the pressure. The fifth-round pick from Tennessee threw away several passes and endured sacks from CB Donald Strickland and LB Brandon Lang. He also had a pass batted down by LB Mike Nixon and another intercepted by CB Traye Simmons, who has been a ballhawk throughout the first couple weeks of camp.
The offense looked out of sync as a whole. LT Brandyn Dombrowski was among those having an off day, as he was called for several false starts in succession.
The offensive line not only struggled with its timing; it also struggled to open any running lanes against a very active defensive front seven. Ryan Mathews and Darren Sproles struggled to find daylight and had no luck bouncing their runs to the outside.
When Sproles tried to get involved through the air, he saw a would-be reception get knocked away by Larry English, who celebrated by hip-bumping Shaun Phillips.
The running back who did the best job was Jacob Hester, whose one-cut style proved effective. He and fellow fullback Mike Tolbert are sure to see increased roles.
With the offense looking overmatched, Norv Turner turned to his cornerstone players to move the football. Rivers locked onto his favorite target, Antonio Gates, and found the agile tight end for a pair of deep touchdown passes.
One of Gates' victims was Steve Gregory. However, Gregory bounced back a few plays later to knock away a seemingly certain touchdown pass intended for Ernest Smith.
It was just another indication that the day belonged to the defense.
--A fight broke out between two of San Diego's more aggressive players, Nick Hardwick and Jyles Tucker. Punches were thrown and each man locked onto the other's jersey. Teammates got involved to break up the skirmish; the dueling duo was all smiles later on.
--FB Mike Tolbert (hamstring) and WR Legedu Naanee (foot) threw passes to each other off field as they recover from injuries.
--CB Antoine Cason worked as Fox 5 News' correspondent for the day, interviewing his teammates with microphone in hand.
Will the front seven open some eyes this season? Discuss inside the message boards.
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