Fri, Sep 18, 2015

Training Camp Practice Report: Watt Lights It Up

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OL Chris Watt with coach Joe Alessandris. Photo by Kirby Lee, USA TODAY Sports.

One thing was evident on the first day of training camp: the offensive line is on-point. From lanes being opened like Moses parting the Red Sea to the palpable confidence of starting center Chris Watt, this unit looked solid.

Granted, this was just one workout in shorts and helmets, but all "first days" typically set the tone for camp just like a strong offensive line sets the tone for the entire offense.

Last season, when the Chargers lost starting center Nick Hardwick to a season-ending injury in Week 1, you could feel the collective gasps around San Diego. Those fears turned out to be completely founded, as the interior offensive line struggled in Hardwick's absence. Watt held his own when called upon, be it at right guard or center, but it was obvious he still had a long way to go.

Yet today, Watt looked as though he has toned up and gained considerable strength. He displayed the swagger of a five-year veteran.

After practice, I stopped Watt and asked him if he had changed his offseason workout this year compared to last season.

"Yes, last season my training was focused for the NFL Combine, which is more like a track athlete. This offseason my training was strictly geared for football," he said.

By the way Watt was pushing around the defensive line, it definitely showed. His chest looks like the grill of a truck, he exudes more confidence and he seems mentally "centered."

The offensive line's strong play trickled down to the running backs, who all ran the ball with confidence. While all of San Diego's running backs enjoyed wide running lanes that were absent much of last season, they were also happy to put in work as outlet receivers. Not one running back dropped a pass Thursday.

Danny Woodhead looked like he could have exploded with pure gratitude to be back in the mix and told me he has been "looking forward to this day for a year."

While Woodhead, Donald Brown and Branden Oliver all put in solid work, it was Melvin Gordon who got fans cheering the second he stepped on the turf.

After practice, I asked Oliver to sum up the first day in one word and his response was "improved," followed by a huge, almost mischievous smile as if to say he knew something we didn't.

The other notable standout on offense was Eric Frohnapfel. An undrafted rookie tight end from Marshall, Frohnapfel took reps behind Antonio Gates. He had nine catches, ran well after the catch and was quick getting off the line. With Gates suspended for the first four games of the season after testing positive for PEDs, it will be interesting to see if Frohnapfel can step in and help fill that void.

What are your thoughts on the first day of training camp? Share them 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, Eric Frohnapfel, Melvin Gordon
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