- John Clayton, NFL senior writer
SAN DIEGO -- Five observations from San Diego Chargers training camp, gleaned from the team's practices:
1. Catch this
Reigning MVP LaDainian Tomlinson might get a few more receptions than he did last season, but don't expect him to match his career high of 100 receptions. Tomlinson, who rushed for 1,815 yards on 348 carries and caught 56 passes for 508 yards last season, may get more catches as head coach Norv Turner tries to keep Tomlinson fresh. Knowing it's less taxing on Tomlinson's body to get him the ball in space on a pass play in which he's going against a linebacker or a defensive back, look for Turner to take advantage of Tomlinson's receiving skills. Plus, the Chargers have the luxury of using Michael Turner on inside runs this season. He averaged 6.3 yards a carry and is a big, powerful runner up the middle. And since Michael Turner will leave in free agency after the season, Norv Turner has this last chance to take full advantage of the one-two punch. Tomlinson figures to get around 2,300 combined yards this season. Last year, he had 2,323 yards and scored 31 touchdowns. Having Turner around to take some of the load off the inside runs will keep Tomlinson fresher for later in the season. With the Chargers, it's all about getting into the playoffs healthy and with strong legs.
2. Cornering the cornerback market
Cornerback Antonio Cromartie looks much more consistent in pass coverage than a year ago. Last summer, Cromartie, a first-round choice from FSU, was a raw rookie with great coverage skills. Now, he's more refined in his technique. Still, Cromartie isn't quite ready to unseat starter Drayton Florence, who is having his best camp and played well in the preseason opener against the Seahawks. Florence is a free agent after the season and it appears he will leave, giving Cromartie the starting job next season. Regardless, the competition between the two is making the secondary better and covers the team in case of injury. Supplemental choice Paul Oliver also looks like a player. He has good size and he showed some speed in a blitz situation in the Seattle game. The Chargers now are four deep at corner.
As San Diego looks for ways to keep LaDainian Tomlinson fresh, expect him to catch more passes this season, writes John Clayton.