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Observations from Chargers camp

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Updated Oct. 06, 2010 @ 7:27 p.m.
By Eric Edholm

SAN DIEGO — God must have created this part of the country as a cruel joke to the rest of us ... this time of the year, or pretty much any.

The weather is near-perfect, high 60s and low 70s with abundant sun, though the locals tend to say something like "another nice day" when asked about it.

I rolled into town last night and took in training-camp practice this morning at the team's facility, although I am unable to make the afternoon session,

The team started with special teams and then did 7-on-7, 9-on-7 and full team drills.

Here are a few things that stood out to me:

  • QB Philip Rivers did not have a great start to the morning throwing the ball. Not bad, but not his best. He fluttered a couple of passes before making some gorgeous throws later. On one, he hit Malcolm Floyd on a pretty deep out. On another fine toss, Rivers hit TE Kris Wilson in stride, beating nickel DB Donald Strickland.
  • It's clearly Rivers' team and they rally around him. When asked about rookie RB Ryan Mathews (more on him later), FB Jacob Hester kept talking about Rivers and his leadership and how Rivers commanded the huddle and kept everyone in line offensively.
  • I'll be writing a short Mathews feature for the site later, but I can say he looks impressive. He runs with purpose and is quick through the hole for a big man. The local and national media who have come through here have hovered around him quite a bit, so he's learning to take everything in. Naturally, the LT questions are the first or second thing everyone asks him, and though Mathews is polite and well-spoken, he did admit he's a bit tired of them coming his way daily. "It's a lot (of attention)," Mathews said. "But I understand why. He's a great back. He was my (idol) growing up."
  • The Chargers' fifth WR spot could be held by a relative no-name. Undrafted rookie Jeremy Williams had a bad drop, but he also made a few nice catches and looked decent with the second team. He's also returning punts. Right now, he's hoping to make it through this next week physically. "I have hit the wall a bit," Williams told me. "But I am just trying to fight through." Other receivers in this race to watch include Gary Banks (who Rivers looked to more than once in passing drills) and Seyi Ajirotutu, a teammate of Mathews' at Fresno State who had a few drops today but also made a great double move late in practice to catch the ball along the sidelines.
  • Hester told me that the media has used the word "distraction" a lot in regard to the holdouts of Shawne Merriman, Marcus McNeill and Vincent Jackson, but he feels that the tempo of practice and the focus around the team has been excellent. Hester credits the backups who have stepped up for helping make it that way. "Those guys have done an excellent job," Hester said. "(Rivers) keeps us all close and doesn't let those 'distractions' — there's that word again — bother this team."
  • Head coach Norv Turner appeared to be very enthused with the work of Brandyn Dombrowski, who is replacing McNeill with the first team at left tackle. Dombrowski played some right tackle and did a decent job last season, but Turner thinks he might actually be at home on the left side. "It's funny because you say 'switching over (from right tackle)' because he feels like he's at his most natural position. I just think he has had some great training-camp battles with (OLBs) Larry English and Shaun Phillips, who gets over there at times. He's improved. He's a very big, physical player. And that helps more in pass protection than you think. If it's a finesse situation, when we're out there in shells, sometimes he doesn't look as good as some of the other guys. But when it's full pads and full speed and he can use his best skills — and he knows how to use them. He has had an outstanding training camp."

OK, that's all for now. Check back on my Mathews feature later.

For now, I am going to go hike out at Torrey Pines and grab some lunch. Just another day in paradise.

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