Ladies and gentlemen, football is finally here! As I'm sure you're well aware, the Chargers held their first of many open practices in San Diego this morning in front of a healthy gathering of fans and, of course, without their first-round pick, Joey Bosa. For those of you who were unable to attend, the following is a list of the noteworthy developments and items I saw during this morning's practice. So, without further adieu...
The Chargers offense operated almost exclusively from under center and featured 12 personnel groupings (2 WR, 2 TE) through out the 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 team sessions. This is important for two reasons - first, it suggests we will see Antonio Gates and Hunter Henry on the field together a lot; it also means we should see more traditional run schemes with those monstrous offensive linemen finally coming forward.
As far as Hunter Henry goes, he looked good as a run blocker and did a nice job of sealing the edge against Kyle Emanuel on a couple occasions. This is worth keeping an eye on as his run blocking figures to determine how much playing time he receives during the season.
Derek Watt received virtually all of the first-team snaps at full back and showed some good hands during the team sessions. I still think the Chargers carry Watt and Swain out of camp, but for now, Swain seems to have some ground to make up on the depth chart.
With the abundance of 12 personnel today, the Chargers featured Keenan Allen and Travis Benjamin at wide receiver. We saw very little of Stevie Johnson with the first team offense as the Chargers ran virtually no shotgun or three wide sets.
Let us all pray that Philip Rivers continues to be the iron man he is and we never, ever have to see Mike Bercovici, Kellen Clemens or Zack Mettenberger take a regular season snap for the Chargers. Lots of telegraphed throws and balls hitting the ground today, unfortunately most of the balls that didn't hit the ground wound up in the hands of the defense. It. Was. Painful.
Dontrelle Inman and Tyrell Williams primarily worked with the second-team offense today. While it was hard to evaluate any receivers not named Allen or Benjamin due to the, uh, shoddy QB play behind Rivers, Williams did make a couple nice plays against Craig Mager during the team sessions...not that beating Mager is necessarily a good measuring stick.
The second team offensive line featured Chris Hairston and newcomer Brett Boyko playing right and left tackle, respectively. This may not seem like news, but it suggests Boyko has leap-frogged Tyreek Burwell on the depth chart, which is somewhat surprising so early in camp.
While he dressed for practice, third round pick Max Tuerk did not spend much time on the field during the team sessions. This opened the door for Spencer Pulley to get some meaningful snaps with the second team offense.
Dom Williams made a couple of nice plays during the team sessions. On one occasion he beat Terrell Chestnut on a deep out and left the undrafted free agent holding his jock with a nice inside cut which ended with Chestnut hobbling off the field.
The most noteworthy development on the defensive side of the ball was at outside linebacker, where second year player Kyle Emanuel received ALL of the first team snaps in place of a healthy Jerry Attaochu. This wasn't a situational change and there was no rotation, it seemed pretty clear Emanuel was the man - no if's, and's or buts about it.
As for Attaochu, he and Ben Gardner were the second team outside linebackers all morning. This is, of course, is worth noting because it means fourth year pro Tourek Williams is working with the third team defense, and indication that his spot on this roster is somewhat tenuous. It wouldn't be terribly surprising to see someone like Shaq Petteway grab that last OLB spot with a good camp.
With Joey Bosa holding out, second-year defensive lineman Darius Philon was elevated to first team defense throughout practice. He played left defensive end in John Pagano's scheme and worked alongside Brandon Mebane all morning. This is huge for Philon and the team as he will need to contribute meaningful snaps if they hope to win this season.
When practice began, the safety rotations looked like this: Lowry/Addae, Phillips/Stuckey, McCoil/McDonald. By the end of the morning, McCoil was working exclusively with the second team in place of an apparently healthy Stuckey. McCoil was featured in a box safety role where he shadowed tight ends, attacked the line of scrimmage, was allowed to roam a little and he looked GOOD. Both McDonald and Phillips showed well as single-high safeties.
The second team defense did NOT feature Josh Perry and Jatavis Brown at inside linebacker. Don't get me wrong, Brown was there, but Nick Dzubnar received all of the second team snaps alongside him. This was more than a little surprising given the expectation that Perry will eventually replace Manti Te'o, and would seem to suggest Perry has some work to do this summer.
Speaking of Jatavis Brown, he looked surprisingly good in coverage. He frequently ran with receivers and tight ends and locked up Dontrelle Inman on several occasions. Brown worked exclusively as an inside linebacker, and will have to add some bulk if that's the longterm plan for him. At least based on what I saw today, there is no indication the coaching staff plans to work him at safety or outside linebacker.
Josh Perry worked exclusively with the third team defense today. He did make a nice play in coverage where he jumped a bad pass from Zack Mettenberger, tipped the ball and redirected it to Adrian Phillips for a pick six. More importantly, he was calling the defensive plays all morning, which speaks to his leadership and learning curve. Of course, it's also worth pointing out that Manti Te'o calls the plays for the first team defense.
Probably the most disappointing development on defense was the fact that Ryan Carrethers worked with the third team defense all morning. Yes, I said third team - behind Mebane and Damian freaking Square. Don't ask me to explain it, because I can't; for whatever reason the coaches just don't seem to believe in Ryan very much and that is disheartening.
As mentioned above, Craig Mager did not have a very encouraging day. He struggled in coverage and had a hard time keeping up with Tyrell Williams and Dom Williams, even found himself getting an earful from the coaches after one particularly bad play. He may have a hard time leap-frogging Stevie Williams on the depth chart if this continues.
Greg Ducre spent a lot of time working with the second team today and acquitted himself fairly well. I'm not suggesting he's anything special, but he could surprise everyone by forcing himself onto this roster depending on what happens with Mager and Stevie Williams.
That pretty much sums up the first day of training camp; I hope you enjoyed it. I'll be attending more practices in the coming weeks and look forward to sharing more observations with you. Please feel free to share your thoughts or ask any questions in the comments section below...