Fan Appreciation Day
The second day of training camp started with a noticeable difference in fan attendance, as 1,917 Bolts backers made the trek to Chargers Park. Although it was still a work day and temperatures dipped into the mid-eighties, the bleachers were packed and more fans lined the fences donning their favorite Chargers gear.
Fans yelling out to their favorite players is a normal occurrence at camp, but there seems to almost be a bitter-sweet excitement this year. One fan named Stevie told me he has been a Chargers fan since the 90's but his work schedule makes it tough for him to come to camp. When I asked him what got him to skip out of work early he said, "This could very well be the last time the Chargers hold camp in San Diego. I didn't want to miss it."
Then he added: "I want the guys to know how much I appreciate them."
That made me wonder if "the guys" really do know how much they are appreciated by the fans. Maybe that is what camp is going to be about this year, San Diego and its fans showing appreciation in what could very well be the prelude to a farewell tour.
Philip Rivers had a flawless day in the driver's seat. When the team conducted an 11-on-11 scrimmage, Rivers' first pass went to old reliable Antonio Gates. But Rivers spread the ball around after that, connecting on mostly short and intermediate routes.
The quarterback-center exchanges were sharp as Rivers seems to be getting in complete sync with his new full time center, Chris Watt. Rivers' starting security detail today included King Dunlap at left tackle, Orlando Franklin at left guard, Watt at center, D.J. Fluker at right guard and Joe Barksdale at right tackle.
Third-string quarterback Brad Sorensen was put in a few hurry-up situations that seemed to fluster him. But one of the best offensive plays of the day began with Sorensen, who handed off to Branden Oliver and watched No. 43 explode through the line and take it the distance. Sorensen was involved in another nice play later on when he and Austin Pettis hooked up for a diving completion.
Kellen Clemens seemed to struggle a bit early on but later seemed to get in a groove. He is working with a mostly new set of receivers, so once they got their timing down things began to click. Clemens did have a couple passes broken up by Richard Crawford, who is off to a strong start in his pursuit of a role in the nickel or dime defensive packages.
Someone forgot to tell the defense that today was a light workout, because they came to play. The defensive line regularly broke through and forced quick passes. The linebackers showed good discipline, not falling for Danny Woodhead's delays up the middle. The defensive backs kept everything in front of them, shutting down the deep passing game.
The defense was called for just one penalty during practice, as Lowell Rose for flagged for pass interference against Demetrius Wilson. That's quite an accomplishment for the secondary, which is charged with slowing down a physical group of receivers that includes Gates, Keenan Allen, Malcom Floyd and Jacoby Jones.
The big standouts on defensive were the defensive ends and outside linebackers, who were dropping swim moves like Michael Phelps and treating the right side of the offensive line like the blockers were pylons. The speed and level Cordarro Law can drop his shoulder to bank inside is incredible.
Just for Kicks
It's always fun to watch Mike Scifres kick a ball 60 yards downfield with exact precision. It's like watching Tom Cruise in The Color of Money calling what pocket he's knocking in the 8-ball. But this is not a movie and this is really happening when Scifries does it, which after 13 years is still incredible.
San Diego's coverage teams looks noticably faster than a season ago, which should make Scifres' job all the easier. One of the drills done today was beating Scifries' punt downfield. This is 60 percent based on hang time, but for the other 40 percent they got it done.
One of the most entertaining drills today for fans was the cover drill where one player who was simulating catching a punt had to out juke two defenders and run it back. Allen got on the field and turned into the Matrix, leaving both defenders stunned and fans cheering as he took it to the house. Jones tried to repeat the moves but was quickly caught. Once Jones and Allen both retuned to the line, you could hear Allen playfully jabbing Jones saying, "Man, what are you doing?"
The day wrapped with players signing autographs and meeting with the fans. While this was taking place, I caught up with Melvin Gordon's mother, Carmelita "Carmen" Gordon. Since we all know an NFL mom is the toughest critic in the house, I asked her how she thought Melvin did today.
"I think he struggled a little bit today," she said. "A couple mix-ups, but he'll be alright. He'll have his mind together tomorrow."
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Jody Taylor is a retired women's pro football player and former media relations director for the Women's Professional Football League. She has been published in Sports Illustrated, CNN, Time and several sports media outlets covering the WPFL, Arena Football League and NFL. She is the founder of Sixty5 Media in San Diego and coaches for the NFL's Flag/Play 60 program in San Diego. Follow her @RealJodyTaylor