Fri, Sep 18, 2015

Training Camp Practice Report: Changing of the Guard

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QB Philip Rivers. Photo by Shana Siler,

Workhorse Wednesday

I'm starting to wonder if anyone in San Diego works during the week, because well over 2,500 fans turned out again to watch the boys in blue and gold. It was well worth it on Wednesday, though, because pads were popp'n! Those familiar stare-downs after a play have begun and the coaches are starting to get a lot louder. What's also making its presence felt: injuries.

Tenny Palepoi, who was placed on injured-reserve a few days ago with a fractured foot, was at practice wearing a cast. Greg Ducre was also sidelined with a right lower leg injury and was walking around with the help of an air cast and crutches. Fellow cornerback Brandon Flowers was also out on Wednesday, although that was merely for rest purposes.

Changing of the Guard

Chris Watt was back at work on Wednesday, but not in his normal slot. Although he took some reps at center, he spent the majority of his time on the line at left guard. As I reported on Sunday, Watt was on the sideline resting his knee, which put Trevor Robinson in at center. Robinson excelled at the hub position last week and did so again today. In fact, I have to say I liked how this looked.

For starters, Robinson is much more vocal on the line and makes his presence known before the snap. He also moves well laterally, which gives him the ability to take the first charging defender and slide to pick up a blitzing linebacker without losing his ability to stay square. He also looks like he could stay in a squat position until the Pro Bowl. We all know quad muscles are everything to a center.

Team Spirit

In the weeks leading up to camp there was a lot of chatter about Eric Weddle not attending early workouts and holding out for a new contract. Rumors were swirling that his choice to stay out would not be taken well by his teammates. Let me be the first to confirm that is all nonsense.

There is a lot to be said about the dynamics between teammates and how that plays out on the field. Historically you can tell a lot about the dynamic between teammates during practice where you're hot, worn out and over it.

I have witnessed quite a few times at training camp where Weddle would finish a play and stand off by himself on the sidelines. Yet, every single time another veteran player would head over and stand with Weddle. In fact, Weddle seems to be like the proverbial flame that the moths are attracted to. That's leadership and that's brotherhood.

There is only one player that doesn't seem excited to be with Weddle ... and that's Weddle himself. In seasons past, you would often see Weddle kicking butt on plays and then yelling out, slapp'n a teammate on the helmet, or bouncing around in between plays. I have not seen any of that this camp. Weddle is missing his playfulness. In seasons past, he oozed passion. But now it's a work day. He is still respectful, he still makes plays, goes out of his way for fans. He does his job and he does it well, but so far he is present not passionate.

The Chargers need that Weddle back because that Weddle is fun to watch. Honestly, it's expected given what transpired. It's like finding out you're the only one happy in a happy marriage and now you're staying together for the sake of the kids. But we need that fun-loving Weddle back because that kind of enthusiasm is infectious. When you have those moments during games where everything seems wrong, you need a teammate who reminds you the reasons you started playing football to begin with. Heart wins games and the one thing I am concerned about with Weddle is this is clearly a guy with a broken heart.


The 11-on-11 torqued up another notch today which started out with Philip Rivers throwing a pass to Keenan Allen, who outran Weddle to the end zone. Melvin Gordon was also back in the mix today. He stutter-stepped, juked and then bolted to the end zone from about 40 yards out.

Danny Woodhead scored twice after being shut down a couple of times trying to run up the middle. One thing Woodhead did very well on Wednesday was pick up a blitzing Manti Te'o twice.

Branden Oliver, meanwhile, should just be called water, because if your defense has any crack in it, he is going to seep in and drown you. This kid doesn't just find gaps ... he finds pin holes and exploits the heck out of them.

Best offensive play of the day goes to Dontrelle Inman, who spun around mid-air to grab a deep pass, which got the fans screaming.

The player who stood out most on defense was Melvin Ingram, who looks like he has been bench pressing Mini Coopers in the off season. I am willing to bet he is the strongest linebacker in the group this year and close to, if not the fastest. The only way he was stopped was to double-team him. If he carries that into the season and can tie up two linemen, that is going to give Te'o a carpool lane to the quarterback all day.


Johnnie Troutman looked better today; he's still not back where he can be, but he was better. I met with Johnnie briefly after practice and asked him how he feels things are going.

"I'm a little dinged up, just dinged up trying to battle through. Sometimes your body says no and your mind tries to push through. Just the way it is sometimes".

Noticing Troutman was picking up the inside block much better today, I asked him what he feels he is doing different or if he feels he has just healed a little more this week.

"Um, I'm feeling better," he said. "Not all the way there ... just gotta keep grinding to try to get back to 100 percent so I can get out there and do what I gotta do."

What are your thoughts on Wednesday's training camp practice? Discuss in our message boards!

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

Branden Oliver, Chris Watt, Danny Woodhead, Dontrelle Inman, Johnnie Troutman, Keenan Allen, Melvin Gordon, Melvin Ingram, Philip Rivers, Trevor Robinson
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