Chargers Take Training Camp to the Q
Fans got an appetizer served up by the Chargers on Saturday as the Bolts took training camp down to Qualcomm Stadium for the 2015 Chargers Fan Fest.
This was one of the largest preseason fan events I can remember. Players were on the field in their full game-day attire for a scrimmage-style workout complete with a full referee crew. Immediately following practice, the players stuck around for autographs and photos with the fans.
The Chargers Girls were also on-hand, revealing their full 2015 squad for the first time. There were also a few familiar Chargers alumni there, as well, including Nick Hardwick, Darren Carrington, Luis Castillo and Raylee Johnson.
The very first battle of the day took place in the stands where a group of fans showed up proudly waiving a huge banner that read, "Los Angeles Area Chargers Fans." They were quickly met with a sea of boos followed by thousands chanting, "Save our Bolts!" It was all in good fun, yet a ringing reminder of San Diego's potential football reality.
Eric Weddle was one of the first vets that took the field. With 17,000 fans chanting his name, he jogged out to the 20-yard line, picked up a ball and chucked it into the stands, which made the fans erupt. The lucky fan recipient was wearing a Weddle jersey, which made the moment perfect.
At the end of practice, while players were signing autographs, I asked Weddle to turn around so I could get a picture of him with the fans. He thanked me and said "you never know, this might be my last one." I hope he was talking about the beard and not him.
Philip Rivers was the next veteran out of the tunnel and he looked all business and also a little emotional. The fans loved it, but it still did not compare to the reception Weddle received.
During warm-ups Keenan Allen caught a pass near the end zone; as fans were screaming his name, he stopped, looked up at them and gestured for them to give him some more. This was a pure rock star move that sent the crowd into a frenzy.
Allen is a fan's player. For starters, he is organically loving every minute of being a Charger. He creates anticipation. Not just for what he does with the football, but for his on-field fashion. From his neon leggings to his lightning bolt designer socks, this guy has swag down to a science. If we left the uniforms up to Allen, Nike would get the boot and Dolce and Gabanna would get the gig.
But what truly matters is Allen is magical on the field. Rivers will sit in the pocket until the millisecond he is about to get sacked so he can air a pass out in the vicinity of Allen, who nine times out of ten will win the battle and wrangle in the pass. That's a confidence Rivers hasn't had with a wide receiver since the Vincent Jackson days.
Just for Kicks
Nick Novak looked good on Saturday. He missed one from 40 yards out but sent the following kick from 44 yards right down the middle.
Special teams honorable mention goes to long snapper Mike Windt. His snaps were like bullets and hit on the money every time. This job is so critical and probably one of the most overlooked. A long snapper is like a sharp shooter; required to come in and hit the mark from triple the distance in one try, every time. Thankfully the Bolts look like they have found their special teams sniper in Windt.
The Highlight Reel
The defense won the run battle today. For starters, they contained runs up the middle. As quick and shifty as Branden Oliver is, he had a tough day getting through because it was pretty much a wall. Even running with the second team, once he realized he had nowhere to go and tried to bounce to the outside, he was met by DT Mitch Unrein in the backfield.
Defensive play of the day goes to Darrell Stuckey, who intercepted a pass from Kellen Clemens in the end zone and ran it all the way back for six.
NT Ryan Carrethers also gets an honorable mention for serving more pancakes than IHOP. Even in the linemen drills, he was dominant. I am excited to see what he is going to do this year combined with an accelerated and bulked up linebacker unit.
On offense, the usual suspects like Allen, Danny Woodhead, Antonio Gates and Malcom Floyd did their thing. Other standouts included Oliver, who scored on a run with the starters by bringing three defenders with him into the end zone. Fellow running back Dreamius Smith also bullied his way into the end zone.
Rookie WR Tyrell Williams was all over the field making catches. And what in the heck did Javontee Herndon eat for breakfast? Laying out for catches, tip-toeing on the sidelines to make completions and beating out Stuckey for a deep pass? Today was definitely this kid's day.
Melvin Gordon looked sharp, strong and right at home. He is completely oblivious he is one of the new kids on the block and continues to prove why he was a first-round draft pick.
On the offensive line, the standouts were Trevor Robinson and Kenny Wiggins. They held their blocks very well. Also, King Dunlap sealed the pocket on his side like a Ziplock bag.
TE Eric Frohnapfel pulled in a completion from Brad Sorenson, but what was more impressive was the speed he turned on after the catch. I see a lot of third-down conversion opportunities in his future.
Sorensen was also impressive, hitting Titus Davis deep while scrambling out of the pocket and finding Herndon on the run.
What are your thoughts on Saturday'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