At some point last week I set a goal for myself: to attend all 11 "open to the public" practice sessions that the Chargers will be putting on over the course of this week and next. Some of these I'll be attending as a fan, in the stands, and some will be as a bona-fide journalist on the sidelines with a digital recorder and everything.
After two practices in the stands, and more twittering than my thumbs can handle, I've got a few notes I'd like to share about what/who I like in camp so far and who I don't.
- Ryan Mathews seems to impress me every time he gets the ball. Is this because he's better and/or trying harder than an over-the-hill LaDainian Tomlinson? I have no idea, but the more you watch these practices the easier it becomes to spot the best player on each unit. As much as I love Darren Sproles as a change-of-pace RB and one of the league's best KR, Mathews has already shown himself to be leaps and bounds ahead of him and any other RB on the team (I haven't seen Tolbert at practice yet). We have ourselves a legitimate RB for the first time in a couple years, folks.
- I do a lot of watching of player groups when they're not running through drills or scrimmaging to gauge personalities. I feel like this gives me a fairly good idea of the atmosphere of the team. Last year's RB group seemed nervous to do or say anything, in fear that it would annoy LT. Last year's CB group seemingly wasn't able to do or say anything themselves because Antonio Cromartie was too busy showing off and making them watch (same thing on KRs and PRs). Last year's WR group seemed resigned to the fact that they weren't making the team. This year, just about every positional group seems focused, relaxed and eager to help each other gets better. It feels more like a team this year.