The key to any top offense begins up front. The strength of this offensive line is in the ground game. The San Diego Chargers didn’t protect Philip Rivers too well, but they created holes for a trio of talented backs. The tandem of Ryan Mathews and Danny Woodhead was very successful last season. Former Indianapolis Colts running back, Donald Brown is a definite upgrade over the aging Ronnie Brown. He saved Philip Rivers by picking up a blitz on two occasions. They have to find a way to keep him involved throughout the year. Brown has good vision and is comfortable catching the ball.
Rivers was throwing lasers when he wasn’t pressured to check down. Bouncing back to Pro Bowl form, his chemistry with Antonio Gates is still there over the middle. Antonio Gates gutted out a tough day on the job after losing a family member. Condolences to his family.
As for his teammates, Keenan Allen just doesn’t look like a young player. He is by far the most popular player among the fans at camp. The kid looks like a star. Allen ran polished routes and caught everything. He became the go-to guy last season and reclaimed that role immediately with Rivers. Fans can expect another good year from the duo, but I just don’t want to see him returning punts, that’s what Woodhead and Eddie Royal are for. More on Royal later.
Malcom Floyd looked fantastic today, faster too. He made tough catch after tough catch, both intermediate and deep. He went up against Brandon Flowers and Jason Verrett and made plays for Rivers. Vincent Brown made some tough grabs down, over the middle and along the sidelines. He’s got some of his speed back too, but struggled a bit to gain separation from the cornerbacks. He has to pick it up to fend off Seyi Ajirotutu for playing time. Ajirotutu is a receiver I like more than Brown and Royal. For a guy that averaged over 20 yards a catch last season, he needs to be inserted into the rotation. His 6-foot-3 frame is perfect for going up and fighting for balls that Rivers lobs up.
David Johnson came over from the Pittsburgh Steelers. He has the versatility to be used as a primary fullback, which he will be, and backup tight end. He enjoyed putting his head down and taking on a linebacker, also adding a catch down the middle for a first down. His presence just might save the team from using a roster spot on a third tight end. Ladarius Green has to work on his blocking to force more two-tight end sets. You’ll see a lot of Green: spelling Gates, on the field with Gates, and in the slot from time to time.
There were some young receivers that turned heads at camp: Tevin Reese, Micah Hatfield, and Dontrelle Inman. Reese was a seventh round pick out of Baylor and he is fast. Reese caught some deep balls in scrimmage and shook some defenders after the catch, he looks ready for snaps in the slot. Hatfield is an undrafted rookie with smooth hips and he looks comfortable out there standing 6-foot-1. The 6-foot-3 Inman signed on from the CFL. Talk about a big target that goes over the middle to make catches in traffic. The tough part will come when some of these talented wideouts don’t make the cut, I believe they are competing for the sixth receiver spot.
I really would move on from Royal, the injury-prone veteran. They could replace his value on special teams with a younger player like Reese, who looks like a top five wideout on the roster. Moving on from Royal would also enable coach Mike McCoy to give his quarterback another target over six foot to develop, say Inman or Hatfield, while also using Reese as the speed threat. This position battle will be fun to watch, with Reese likely making the cut.