Kirwan: Notes from Chargers camp

SAN DIEGO — Some observations from a day at training camp with the San Diego Chargers:

  • QB Philip Rivers told me he put all incomplete passes from last season (all 167 of them) on a DVD and studied what went wrong. He said there were far too many easy completions to checkdown backs that fell to the ground because he wasn’t focused on putting the ball in the right place. He is determined to make those “touch” throws this season.
  • Rivers also made it clear that he has a contract right now and he is not going to let Eli Manning‘s deal creep into his mind as he prepares to get his team to the Super Bowl. I would not be surprised if he has a new deal before the season starts, but it will not be because he’s pushing for one.
  • The veteran players are impressed with rookie DE Vaughn Martin. He has already demonstrated first-step quickness and exceptional strength. “He doesn’t operate like a guy from a small Canadian college. He will help us this season,” one player said.
  • Look for a battle between Tim Dobbins and Kevin Burnett for the weak inside linebacker spot next to Stephen Cooper. Dobbins is not about to surrender to the former Dallas Cowboy. If nothing else, there is solid depth at the linebacker position.
  • Look for the Chargers to blitz the inside linebackers more this year in Ron Rivera‘s more aggressive scheme. As one ‘backer said, “When we play stationary quarterbacks there will be times when we bring the inside guys and either sack the QB or flush him out.” That sounds like a plan for JaMarcus Russell and Kyle Orton.
  • Don’t be surprised to see some defensive looks, especially on third downs, when rookie outside LB Larry English is on the field with Shawne Merriman and Shaun Phillips as the Chargers work on their own version of the fire-zone blitz scheme.
  • The Chargers are doing a nice job of mixing up their offensive line protection schemes — not so much to help OTs Marcus McNeil or Jeromey Clary, but more to confuse the pass rushers about where they might get a free rusher.
  • Undrafted rookie WR Charly Martin has been catching the attention of teammates with his ability to get open and catch the ball. He’s a long shot to make the team, but you can make a case he’s outplaying former first-round pick Buster Davis.
  • Every player I spoke with emphasized how important it is to get off to a fast start this season and the fact that RB LaDainian Tomlinson is participating in preseason games for the first time since 2005 has really driven home the point of what it takes to get some early wins.

— Pat Kirwan

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