Chargers prepared for season opener against Lions

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Photo above: Quarterback Philip Rivers spoke to the media after Wednesday’s practice.

Wide receiver Malcolm Floyd said this would be his last season as a player.
Wide receiver Malcolm Floyd said this would be his last season as a player.

With the start of their NFL season just days away, the San Diego Chargers feel they are ready to make a run for the Super Bowl. They held a press conference after practice on Wednesday and talked about their preparation for Sunday’s season opener against the Detroit Lions.

The big news for the Chargers is they have to start the season without their All Pro tight end Antonio Gates, who will miss the first four games, but they feel that with Ladarius Green they have a very good back up to Gates. Quarterback Philip Rivers said, “The thing I noticed most was not having him in the locker room. It was weird. This is the first Wednesday, since I’ve been a Charger that he hadn’t been in there.”

Rivers feels confident the passing game won’t suffer from the absence of Gates. “He’s certainly missed, but I think the guys are gonna step up and go. The guys are gonna pick up for his absence and like I said, we get him back in week five it will be like we traded for a Hall-of-Famer and added to the mix.”

The season starts Sunday with the Detroit Lions at Qualcomm Stadium, a team that finished the 2014 season with an 11-5 record. This will not just be the home opener for the Chargers, it will be a test of their offense, with its three outstanding running backs. Their star rookie, Melvin Gordon said, “It’s very exciting. The start of my career … I know I’m going to be anxious, nervous, the day of, especially, but after that first carry you just go on from there.”

Running back Melvin Gordon
Running back Melvin Gordon

Gordon said he’s real comfortable and I asked if he was ready, did he feel like his role with the team was still developing. “Oh yeah, definitely. You have to come out here and get better every day and you have to develop in some area every day. I don’t think that’s just for me either. I think every player, even the vets, are still out here trying to develop something.”

Philip Rivers talked about the rookie running back, saying, “Obviously the expectations are going to be high anytime you draft a back that high. I would advise the fans not to base their expectations on carries and yards.”

Besides Gordon, the Chargers also have Danny Woodhead, Brandon Oliver, Donald Brown and fullback Chris Gronkowski for the backfield. Rivers said, “That’s the luxury we have with the backs we have. They complement each other well. They all do good things, both as runners and catching the ball.”

Philip Rivers will be the starting quarterback Sunday and with Malcolm Floyd returning for his final season, Rivers will have another good receiving corps: Keenan Allen, Stevie Johnson and Jacoby Jones fill out the receivers.

They are counting on an improved offensive line as well. Head coach Mike McCoy said he has a “ton of confidence” in his offensive line, especially because the Lions have a great defense. “They’ve done an outstanding job and they get better every day. The more they play together, like any team or group of players, the more they play together the better they’re going to be.”

Chargers head coach Mike McCoy
Chargers head coach Mike McCoy

On defense, they will have some familiar names in the lineup, but it too has improved for the Chargers. Inside linebacker Manti Te’o expressed great confidence in the defense, even with the higher than normal heat and humidity Southern California is experiencing right now. “It kind of feels like home, in Hawaii — the humidity. You can’t control the weather, you can only control the way you play.”

Could this be their Super Bowl season? Coach McCoy said they are only focused on this one game, that they want to be 1-0 after Sunday. We will have to wait and watch the next 17 weeks to find out where the Chargers stand in the Super Bowl race.

(All photos by Claudia Gestro)

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