by Marty Caswell
Some good news, albeit precautionary, for the San Diego Chargers as Ladarius Green returned to practice on Friday. Two days after suffering a concussion. Green was a full participant in practice and listed as questionable for the season opener versus the Detroit Lions.
Mike McCoy said Green would be ready to play on Sunday versus the Detroit Lions, “If he’s healthy and he’s ready to roll, he’ll be out there.” Green ran around during individual drills (in the portion open to the media) but has yet to be cleared for contact.
“He looked good,” McCoy said. “He looked like Ladarius. We’re going to play the the best 46 to help us win.”
McCoy was his normal evasive self when asked about how critical it would be to have Green active versus the Lions.
“We love our football team. Love our entire team, love the 53 man roster, 46 guys for game day, very pleased with how the players have worked for all positions, not just the tight ends.”
The Chargers depleted tight end group is already without Antonio Gates, who led the Chargers with 12 touchdowns in 2014. Tight end John Phillips, one of the Chargers final roster cuts, was re-signed to the roster on Wednesday afternoon. Phillips’ sole catch of the 2014 season was good for a one-yard touchdown, but Mike McCoy expressed confidence in the seven-year veteran as “a guy that we know we can count on, both in kicking game and on offense.”
Next man on the depth chart? David Johnson, whose strength to the offense is as a run-blocking tight end and fullback.
Johnson caught only one pass last season for the Chargers and his last touchdown came in 2011 as a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers, but he says he’ll be ready regardless of his role versus the Detroit Lions.
“You never know what happens in a game,” Johnson said. “People go down and you always have to have the next man up mentality. If I have to get up there and do whatever, I’m down for it. We’ve got to just hone in on the details. We’ve got to pay attention to all the small things. We know the game and we’ve been practicing very hard. I think we’ll do fine. I played a little bit more in the one tight end sets but I’m just focusing on whatever they ask me to do.”
Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford says that the 5’9 Brandon Flowers and 5’10 Jason Verrett play bigger than their size and on Thursday afternoon, they were part of the Chargers secondary that took on the “Megatron Machine” that was brought on the practice field in preparation for the 6’5 Calvin Johnson.
“It was actually smart getting that chance because we’re going against a big receiver out there so it gives us a chance view the ball and swipe the hands away,” Verrett said. “It was a cool little drill.”
Chargers rookies Melvin Gordon and Denzel Perryman were both featured in ESPN’s “Hey Rookie, Welcome to the NFL” but it very well could be outside linebacker Kyle Emanuel that has the biggest impact early on. Jerry Attaochu, projected to start alongside Melvin Ingram, was limited for the second consecutive day and it could spell more starting reps and experience for the 5th round pick out of North Dakota State University.
Defensive coordinator John Pagano has spoken of unteachable football instincts when it comes to players such as Jason Verrett and Manti Te’o and he was equally enthusiastic in his praise of Emanuel.
“Smart football player, great instincts, has an unbelievable knack for seeing the football, getting to the football. He’s still a rookie, he’s still going to make those type of mistakes but he’s doing good.”
Melvin Ingram says says his playing weight was around 265 last season. Today he weighs 240 pounds, one of several Chargers players along with Donald Butler and Brandon Flowers that made losing weight a focus during the off-season.
John Pagano says the transformation and opportunity was something that Ingram took upon himself.
“You always talk about it,” said Pagano. “You’re always concerned about a guys’ weight but Melvin took it upon himself. He decided it was time, he needed to make this change to be able to be out there for 16 games and on. You always talk to players about transforming their body but it’s about being healthier and he’s someone that realized the weight he was carrying was not good for his body and what he needed to do. ”
Ingram has played in 16 games only once, his rookie season in 2012.
Pagano feels the perception that bigger is better has been damaging to a lot of players.
“A lot of rookies come into this league thinking that they have to bulk up. The game is about speed out on the field. It’s about running in space and what guys don’t understand sometime is that they lose the weight but then they think they lose their strength. They don’t lose their strength. They gain their strength because the speed generates to power and then with power going that fast, it gives a guy an opportunity to be a play maker.”
That that the Chargers have a younger, faster, and slimmed-down defense cannot be disputed. But are they a smarter defense than they were a year ago? That remains to be seen.
“Play smart, do your job,,” said Pagano. “Play fast, get 11 guys around the football. That’s all you can ask for. You always look for veteran leadership out there but how do people always gain experience? The more they play and I think that’s the most important thing. Those guys learning to play together and making sure that each of them has everyone’s back out there on the field.”
Quotable “It’s kind of like a Thunder and Lightning kind of feel. Gordon’s a hard, downhill runner. He’s bigger. 43, he kind of just hides behind people and scats out of there. They’re both excellent runners and I enjoy blocking for both of them.”
David Johnson on blocking for Melvin Gordon and Branden Oliver.
“It’ll be nice to enjoy some San Diego weather, I’m sure it’s nice. It always is 365.”
Matthew Stafford on playing in San Diego.
Well perhaps not. Temperatures were in the high 90’s for the 2nd consecutive day with 40% humidity.
Tourek Williams (broken foot) and Johnnie Troutman (broken arm) were ruled out versus the Lions. Jerry Attaochu and Craig Mager, who were limited all week with hamstring, are listed as questionable.
Lions starting right guard Larry Warford and defensive tackle Caraun Reid have been ruled out versus the Chargers. Linebacker DeAndre Levy is listed as doubtful.