July 23, 2012; San Diego, CA, USA; San Diego Chargers wide receiver Mike Willie (center) catches a pass while defedned by linebacker Jonas Mouton (57) and cornerback Gregory Gatson (31) during training camp at Charger Park. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports
I was lucky enough to attend training camp yesterday (Sunday) and I thought I’d share just a few quick observations. Let me just post a disclaimer that these are only observations from Sunday’s practice; other days may have been different. Here we go:
1: The defense is dominating the offense
During the 7-on-7 and team drills it was frustrating me a little bit that the offense weren’t really moving the ball or creating big plays. Then it sort of struck me that the defense was just playing that good. The d-line was applying great pressure, the linebackers were coming up and making tackles and the DBs were all over the receivers, swatting balls and getting picks. Now, I’m exclusively talking about first team offense vs. first team defense—and Brown and Alexander were out—but it seemed to me like the defense was light years ahead. It’s still early, so the offense has plenty of time to catch up, and I think it’s great that the defense is playing so well, it’ll force the offense to grow and adapt. Defense wins championships.
2: Either Luke Tasker or Dan DePalma will be this year’s Bryan Walters.
Luke Tasker got the crowd on his side from the beginning of the day, hauling in pretty much every pass that came his way. Then, during one-on-ones, he continued to impress by smoking pretty much anyone who lined up against him. The crowd around me was buzzing and loving every second, scanning their roster printouts to see who the kid was. Later, in team drills, Dan DePalma started turning heads when he hauled in a couple of touchdowns. Given that these guys were going against the third team defense for most of the time, I’m going to temper expectations—and ultimately, given the depth at WR, they are going to have to do something extraordinary to make the team—but one of them is sure to make waves during preseason.
3: Mike Willie is better than Luke Tasker or Dan DePalma
Mike Willie didn’t make the crowd oooh or ahhh like Tasker and DePalma did but he quietly caught every ball thrown his way. He would box out DBs in the end zone or run a great route and give them no chance of catching up. Being an ASU alumni, I might be a little bias towards him, but the hardcore fans in the crowd noticed his talent and sung his praises all day long. Again, he might be a long shot to make the team, but if he can do something on special teams I think that he has a better chance than the other fringe guys, I could even see him beating out Goodman if Royal or Allen takes over return duties.
4: Meachem and Royal look more comfortable and played hard
Robert Meachem might have had the catch of the day during one-on-ones. He made a diving catch over the defender and came up limping on the play. During the crowd’s cheers I thought to myself that he might be done for the day—adding to the list of already injured receivers (Alexander and Brown). Meachem surprised me and was back in the huddle after a short break, running hard and fighting to get open. Royal still looked better than Meachem on the whole, catching pretty much every ball and using his speed to beat DBs. It remains to be seen if these guys can contribute after a disappointing showing last year, but after yesterday I already see an improvement. Royal especially may thrive in McCoy’s quick fire offense.
5: Coach D’Alessandris is the man
The guy’s been doing this for 36 years and he’s still out there hitting bags and sprinting to the next drill. He’s extremely vocal and makes sure guys do things right. He leads by example and I have no doubt that he’s going to whip this o-line into shape.
6: Le’Ron McClain and Chris Gronkowski hit hard
The running backs hit the sled right in front of the bleachers and man did it get the crowd pumped up, especially when one of the fullbacks stepped up. Those guys hit that thing hard, knocking it back at least five yards every time—for some perspective, later in the day it took two Chargers assistants to push the sled two yards, and they were struggling. This is going to be a great battle in preseason; can’t wait to see them blow some people up.
Overall, I was really happy to see the fire and the tempo out there. Guys weren’t just going through the motions; they were playing hard and competing. The whole team would hustle to the next drill and high five their teammates when they made a big play. This is what I think we’ve been missing for the last few years, that intensity and competitiveness; it was great to see it back. If anyone was at camp yesterday I’d love to hear your thoughts on the practice. Let me know if you agree or disagree or have any other observations.