AFC West: Malcom Floyd

SAN DIEGO -- Sunny skies greeted the San Diego Chargers as the entire team took the field for the first time in preparation for the 2014 season.

Coach Mike McCoy also had to deal with a couple veteran no-shows in the first organized team activity. The practices are voluntary, so McCoy said he had no problem with running back Ryan Mathews, offensive guard Jeromey Clary, outside linebacker Dwight Freeney, inside linebacker Jonas Mouton and tight end Antonio Gates being no-shows on the first day of practice.

Rookie running back Marion Grice and cornerback Greg Ducre also were not in attendance.

McCoy said the absences were expected, and he had no issues with any of the players not being there.

“Not at all,” McCoy said. “We know why they are not here. And we’re going to get better with the guys we have here right now. It’s voluntary, and we know why people are not here.”

Mathews, 26, is in the final year of his rookie contract. The Chargers signed running back Donald Brown to a three-year, $10.4 million contract this offseason, and the University of Connecticut product will actually make more in total compensation in 2014 ($4 million) than Mathews ($2 million) for the upcoming season.

But Chargers general manager Tom Telesco said before the draft that Mathews had no concerns with the signing.

“Ryan is a starting back, so his role will essentially be the same,” Telesco said. “Ryan’s a smart guy. He knows why guys are here, and he knows what his role is. It wasn’t an issue at all.”

Clary is due to make $4.55 million in total compensation for the upcoming season. And with San Diego drafting Notre Dame product Chris Watt in the third round, there’s some thought Clary could be asked to take a pay cut.

But as of right now, Clary is set to make his current salary. San Diego’s first-unit offensive line included King Dunlap at left tackle, Chad Rinehart at left guard, Nick Hardwick at center, Johnnie Troutman at right guard and D.J. Fluker at right tackle.

Floyd’s back: Malcom Floyd, 32, said he’s been cleared for full contact after suffering a serious neck injury in Week 2 of the 2013 regular season against Philadelphia. The veteran receiver worked with the first unit opposite Keenan Allen, and even took a good blow when middle linebacker Donald Butler got caught in the air while going after the ball. Butler braced his impact by grabbing Floyd, and both players fell to the ground.

“I think I’m ready for regular contact now after today,” Floyd said, smiling. “But it felt good. This is something I’ve been looking forward to. There’s no more looking back.”

Hardwick was not pleased with the play, giving Butler an earful afterwards. Butler apologized to Floyd after the play.

Te’o out: Second-year pro Manti Te’o was one of a couple players who did not practice due to injury. Te’o still is rehabbing from foot surgery during the offseason. Tight end John Phillips (knee) and offensive lineman Michael Harris (ankle) also did not practice.

McCoy did not seem too concerned with Te’o being limited on Tuesday.

“We’re just taking it one day at a time with him, like everybody else who has some kind of injury,” McCoy said.

Some tidbits: Players who stood out during team drills includes tight end Ryan Otten, running back Branden Oliver and cornerback Brandon Ghee. … Shareece Wright and Richard Marshall were the starting corners with the first unit. … Javontee Herndon did a nice job catching punts on the side field during practice.

D.J. Fluker misses practice again

September, 20, 2013
San Diego Chargers rookie right tackle D.J. Fluker did not practice Friday, missing a second straight day because of a concussion he suffered late in practice Wednesday. He is listed as questionable to play Sunday against Tennessee.

Fluker, the Chargers' top draft pick this year, must pass an NFL test before being cleared to play. If he cannot play, second-year player Mike Harris would start in his place.

Inside linebacker Donald Butler practiced fully Friday for the first time this week after a groin injury. He is listed as questionable. Rookie linebacker Manti Te’o is listed as doubtful. He was limited all week with his foot injury, and odds are Te’o will make his debut in Week 4.

As expected, receiver Malcom Floyd was ruled out of the game with a neck injury he suffered last week at Philadelphia. He didn’t practice all week. He reportedly may miss a month.

Chargers odds and ends

September, 8, 2013
San Diego Chargers' notes as they prepare to open the season Monday night with a home date against the Houston Texans:

As expected, rookie linebacker Manti Te'o was ruled out for the game because of a foot injury he suffered in the preseason opener Aug. 8. He might be a couple of weeks away from returning, because he needs practice time. Bront Bird will make his first start at inside linebacker.

Receivers Malcom Floyd (knee) and Eddie Royal (chest, head) are listed a probable and will play Monday.

The local television blackout was lifted, so the game will be shown locally.
There appears to be positive news for injured San Diego Chargers wide receiver Malcom Floyd.

Floyd is now practicing at a full speed, and coach Mike McCoy told reporters Monday that Floyd, the team’s No. 1 receiver, should be ready for the Chargers' season opener. San Diego will host Houston on ESPN’s “Monday Night Football” on Sept. 9.

The team initially thought Floyd tore his ACL when he got injured 14 days ago. However, it was a knee strain. Still, his availability for Week 1 was uncertain. Now, Floyd looks like he should be ready to go and the Chargers will need him with a thin core of receivers.

Meanwhile, pass-rusher Melvin Ingram was put on the physically unable to perform list. He suffered a torn ACL in May. The team has some hope he will be able to play late in the season. Still, it may be a long shot.
It seems the San Diego Chargers’ left tackle job is still open and a familiar face may be getting back in the mix.

U-T San Diego reported second-year player Mike Harris was working with the first unit Saturday. The San Diego offensive line, the team’s biggest question mark, was beaten badly at Chicago on Thursday.

King Dunlap, who had been the starter this summer, was working as a backup right tackle and his competition, Max Starks, was working behind Harris. Harris was the starter at left tackle as an undrafted rookie last season.

The team was trying to upgrade. I still think Dunlap has the inside shot at the job, but this development shows the team still has big concerns at the vital spot.

In other San Diego notes:

Receiver Eddie Royal was taken off the field in an ambulance. Coach Mike McCoy told reporters Royal landed on back and then had shortness of breath. He will be further evaluated at the hospital.

UPDATE: The Chargers announced Royal is being treated for a bruised long and possible concussion, all other tests are negative. Thus, Royal should be fine. Still, it is another blow to an already thin group of receivers.

Defensive end Corey Liuget, who was banged up at Chicago on Thursday, didn’t practice Saturday. The team said Thursday he was taken out of the game as a precaution. Rookie inside linebacker Manti Te’o continues to be in a walking boot. He was hurt in the preseason opener nine days ago. Last Saturday, San Diego coach Mike McCoy said Te’o, a starter, would be out a week. Nickel cornerback Johnny Patrick is out. He injured his jaw at Chicago. U-T San Diego reports cornerback Steve Williams, a fifth-round draft pick, tore his pectoral muscle at Chicago and he will miss the season.

Malcom Floyd was working on the side Saturday. He suffered a knee strain Monday. The team is hopeful he can play in Week 1 against Houston.
ESPN’s Ashley Fox thinks the Kansas City Chiefs have the right mix to go from worst to first in the AFC West.

My thoughts: Well, I just got back from visiting their camp and I do think the Chiefs have a nice thing going. But going from 2-14 to beating out a serious contender like Denver may be tough duty. Still, I think the Chiefs will make some noise this season.

In other AFC West notes:
  • Add another veteran receiver available to the Chargers. New England cut veteran Michael Jenkins on Thursday, and while he is not a top player, he could add depth for a team that needs it.
  • San Diego receiver Malcom Floyd’s second opinion has come back with positive results, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter. Floyd suffered a knee strain on Monday. Initially, the team thought Floyd could have suffered a torn ACL. He will likely be ready to play in Week 1 or Week 2.
  • Here is an ESPN fantasy look at whether Chargers running back Ryan Mathews is actually being undervalued. While he is injury prone, he has had success when healthy.
  • In an Insider piece, the Football Outsiders look at where Insider the Raiders will fit in for the race for South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney.
A look at keys for the San Diego Chargers on Thursday night when they head to Chicago for their second game of the preseason. The game will be shown live on ESPN at 8 p.m. ET:

Stay healthy: There have been numerous injuries in the NFL this summer and arguably no team has been hit as hard as the Chargers. They have had several key players go down. San Diego did not have much depth to begin with, it cannot afford to absorb many more serious injuries. This team has been ravaged by injures the past few years, and, sadly, it seems like the Tom Telesco-Mike McCoy era is starting with the same adversity.

The receivers: With Danario Alexander and Malcom Floyd out with injuries, receivers like Vincent Brown, rookie Keenan Allen and backups Eddie Royal and Robert Meachem must step up now and show they can have a strong bond with quarterback Philip Rivers.

The running backs: Starter Ryan Mathews was solid in a cameo role last week. Versatile backup Danny Woodhead should make his debut in this game. With the receiving crew thin, the Chargers will have to show they can run the ball.

The offensive line: The first unit played well against Seattle last week and many members of the organization is confident in the group. Another strong outing against a good defense will further instill confidence in a unit that's one of the biggest concerns for the team.

Dwight Freeney: He played well last week in a limited role. Freeney put pressure on the quarterback and showed a good burst. He needs to do it again. The Chargers are depending on Freeney as the team’s best pass-rusher. Star safety Eric Weddle said opposing teams will have to game plan for the 33-year-old Freeney.
" Alex Barron practiced Tuesday at left tackle for the Oakland Raiders in place of Jared Veldheer, who has an arm injury. Barron entered camp as a long shot to make the team, but he has had a good camp and could even start at right tackle. Veldheer is getting an MRI on his triceps. He is one of the Raiders’ better players. They need him to be healthy.

Raiders defensive end Lamarr Houston and guard Lucas Nix returned to practice Tuesday afternoon after missing time due to injuries. Cornerback Tracy Porter is not practicing after leaving Monday’s practice early.

" San Diego Chargers rookie receiver Keenan Allen didn’t finish practice as a precaution due to a lingering knee injury. With starting receiver Danario Alexander out for the season and fellow starter Malcom Floyd out until at least Week 1, the Chargers have to do what it takes to keep Allen fresh and healthy.

" Former Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Andy Studebaker signed with Jacksonville.

Last week, when starting San Diego receiver Danario Alexander was lost for the season with a torn ACL in his knee, both general manager Tom Telesco and coach Mike McCoy said the Chargers had enough depth at the position not to worry about finding a veteran receiver.

They have to re-evaluate that plan even after it appears the team dodged a huge problem. Initially, the Chargers thought the team’s other starting receiver, Malcom Floyd, suffered a torn ACL on Monday. However, the team says initial results showed he has a knee strain. Floyd will be further examined.

ESPN’s Ed Werder reported that Floyd will send the MRI results to other specialists, including Dr. James Andrews, to confirm the initial diagnosis of a strained knee. Even if the initial diagnosis is accurate, it is expected that Floyd will not return until the regular-season opener and possibly not until Week 2.

This scare should be a lesson to the Chargers’ brass. They must go find a veteran.

Going into training camp, the Chargers’ receiving crew was considered fairly deep. But the potential problem was nearly every player in the group had big injury histories, including Alexander and Floyd. The other four receivers in the rotation, Vincent Brown (who missed all of last season with an ankle injury), rookie Keenan Allen, Eddie Royal and Robert Meachem have all been considered fragile in the past.

Thus with these issues already popping, San Diego needs to go find some insurance.

One of the reasons the Chargers didn’t sign a receiver when Alexander was hurt was the team wasn’t thrilled with the available class of veterans. Now, with the need growing, the Chargers may not have the luxury of being choosy. Two veterans initially come to mind -- Brandon Lloyd and Laurent Robinson. Lloyd played for McCoy in Denver and Robinson was in the Chargers’ camp two years ago and has worked with quarterback Philip Rivers.

Neither one of these players would come in as top-of-the-rotation players, but they would add depth to a position that is becoming increasingly vulnerable in San Diego.
The San Diego Chargers may have received a much-needed break Monday night when test results on Malcom Floyd's injured knee showed better results than the team originally feared.

U-T San Diego reports initial tests show Floyd has a knee strain, instead of a torn ACL as the team originally feared. He is set to have more exams. If Floyd, who is the Chargers' top receiver, only has a strain, he could be back for the start of the season.

Last week, the Chargers saw fellow starter Danario Alexander tear his ACL and be lost for the year.

Meanwhile, San Diego running back Danny Woodhead, who had a strong start to camp, returned to practice Monday for the first time since Aug. 2. He was out with an undisclosed injury.
SAN DIEGO -- There is no doubt the San Diego Chargers were delivered a rough blow Tuesday when starting receiver Danario Alexander suffered a torn right ACL injury, putting him out for the season.

However, the injury is not forcing the team to do anything rash at the position. San Diego general manager Tom Telesco said Wednesday that he likes the group of receivers the Chargers have.

“It hurts a lot because Danario worked so hard, he’s a good player and a good kid. We thought he had a chance to be a bona-fide playmaker this season,” Telesco said. “But we feel pretty good about the position. Fortunately, that is one of the positions where we have some depth.”

The projected starters will likely be Malcom Floyd and Vincent Brown. Other key players will be rookie Keenan Allen, Eddie Royal and Robert Meachem. If the group can stay healthy, the Chargers should be fine there, although they will miss Alexander’s size and big-play ability. However, all five of these players have injury history, so there is some concern.

Still, Telesco is confident the group will be fine. Plus, Telesco said the open market at any position at this time of year is not great. He’s right. Players are unemployed in August for a reason.

When pass-rusher Melvin Ingram went down with the same injury as Alexander in May, the team rushed to sign Dwight Freeney. It appears no such deal will happen as a result of Alexander’s injury.

Meanwhile, the team was shocked to hear Alexander was hurt so severely. He showed no immediate signs of suffering a significant injury after it occurred.
The San Diego Chargers are two days away from their first preseason and they have already lost two key players for the season due to a torn ACL in their knees.

In a non-contact drill in May, pass-rusher Melvin Ingram, a 2012 first-round pick, was lost for the season. Tuesday, after a freak contact play with cornerback Shareece Wright, Danario Alexander suffered a torn ACL in his right knee. Initially, the team did not think it was serious.

But Alexander is now out for the year.

A serious injury was the Chargers’ greatest worry about Alexander. He turns 25 Wednesday, but this is his sixth major knee injury dating back to his college days. Injury concerns were the reason why the Chargers didn’t give Alexander a long-term deal in the offseason. He was a restricted free agent.

Now, sadly, we all have to wonder if Alexander will ever enjoy the health to go along with his immense ability. Last year, Alexander showed how he can make an impact if healthy.

Alexander signed off the street and made an instant impact in San Diego. He had 37 catches, 7 touchdown catches and averaged 17.8 yards per catch last season. Alexander had a strong camp and was expected to be a key part of San Diego’s offense. Quarterback Philip Rivers raved about Alexander to me today before the extent of his injury was known.

Alexander earned the respect of the San Diego locker room for coming back from injuries and making such a quick impact last year. I spoke to one prominent San Diego player who said he was almost in tears because he feels so bad for Alexander.

However, the Chargers won’t have much time to dwell on the injury. They will have to march on without Alexander.

When Ingram was hurt, the Chargers had little depth at pass-rusher and had to go out and pay for Dwight Freeney. I don’t think that will be this case at receiver.

I am sure the Chargers will consider adding a player, and the best available receiver is Brandon Lloyd. He played for new San Diego head coach Mike McCoy in Denver.

But the Chargers have a deep group that includes Malcom Floyd, Vincent Brown, rookie Keenan Allen, Eddie Royal and Robert Meachem. Like Alexander, most of these players have had some trouble staying healthy. If the group can stay healthy, they should be solid, although Alexander’s big-play ability will be missed.
NFC Eight in the Box: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

One key positional battle for each AFC West team as training camps get underway:

Denver: Running back, Montee Ball vs. Ronnie Hillman: Hillman is starting training camp as the No. 1 running back. But he will be hard-pressed to keep the job. The plan is for Ball, a second-round pick from Wisconsin, to quickly get ready to take over as the No. 1 back. Denver spent a lot of time grooming him in the offseason, but Ball will have to show he can handle the job in training camp. And he'll need to handle every aspect of being a starting tailback, including picking up blocking schemes. But that goes for Hillman, too. He played some last season and played well in the playoffs. But he is considered more of a change-of-pace guy. So while Hillman gets first crack, I think we will see Ball emerge and Hillman as a backup.Knowshon Moreno will be in the mix early as well, but Denver is going to focus on the youngsters.

Kansas City: Tight end, Tony Moeaki vs. Travis Kelce: The Chiefs’ top tight end this season might be free-agent pickup Anthony Fasano. But the second tight end will get a lot work. Moeaki has a lot of ability, but he has had trouble staying healthy. Kelce is a third-round pick. The new regime really likes him, and he has a chance to get a ton of playing time early. So this will be a solid camp battle. If Moeaki stays healthy, I can see him holding off Kelce, at least, for the short term.

Oakland: Receiver/returner Josh Cribbs vs. Jacoby Ford: I’m not sure this will be an either/or scenario. I think the Raiders would be fine with keeping both players if possible. But Oakland does have several young, intriguing receivers. If the Raiders feel there are some receivers (such as undrafted free agent Conner Vernon) they can’t keep off the 53-man roster, Oakland might only have room for Cribbs or Ford. Not both. Ford has had trouble staying healthy. When healthy, he is a dynamic return man and is better than Cribbs as a receiver. Cribbs is still strong as a returner but is also coming off an injury. It could come down to who is the healthier of the two.

San Diego: Top receivers. The Chargers’ receiving group looks promising, but it is currently difficult to project exactly what the rotation will be. It could shake out in training camp. The top four receivers will likely be Danario Alexander, Vincent Brown, Malcom Floyd and rookie Keenan Allen. I think we will see Brown and Alexander as the top receivers once the season starts. Floyd has been a starter, but he might be best as a No. 3 or No. 4 working as a deep threat. Allen will play, but only if he's ready. Alexander was terrific in the second half of last season after he was signed off the street. If he can show he wasn’t a flash in the pan, he could be dynamic. Brown is the key. He looks like he can be a top-notch possession receiver. He showed promise as a rookie but missed all of last season with an ankle injury. Now he's healthy and ready to go. He could be the most productive receiver on this unit.
NFC Eight in the Box: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

What are the three key camp issues facing each AFC West team?


Offense: The Wes Welker Factor
Peyton Manning has a new toy. But with the wealth of options in this offense, it seems unlikely Welker will match his production from his days with Tom Brady. Manning will love exploiting the mismatches Welker creates from the slot. Welker’s experience in New England's up-tempo offense should pay off as Denver transitions to a similar pace. It is difficult to find weaknesses in the Broncos’ offense right now.

Defense: Pass-rush issue
Elvis Dumervil is now playing for Baltimore. Von Miller is one of the league’s premier defensive players and pass-rushers, but more is needed. Where will it come from? Derek Wolfe showed some flashes as an inside pass-rusher during his rookie season and on passing downs. Robert Ayers should also be effective when moved inside. Will the edge player opposite Miller -- Ayers on early downs and Shaun Phillips, most likely, on passing downs -- be able to produce? The wild card here is rookie Quanterus Smith.

Wild card: Pass coverage in the middle
Denver had a lot of problems last season covering opposing tight ends in the middle of the field. On paper, it doesn’t look as though the problem has been addressed. Denver’s safety play is average at best, but the middle linebacker spot manned by Joe Mays is the real issue. Look for opposing offenses to keep Denver in base defensive personnel and attack the middle of the field.


Offense: The Alex Smith Factor
Smith needs plenty of resources to be successful. But if he just makes fewer mistakes at the position than Matt Cassel did a year ago -- something that seems highly likely -- then Kansas City will be much more competitive. Smith also has underrated running skills, and the Chiefs should orchestrate plenty of designed quarterback movement and runs.

Defense: Interior pass rush
The Chiefs were among the worst defenses in the NFL last season at creating pressure on the quarterback between the tackles. Although the team made drastic changes across the roster, this area was not addressed. Unless Dontari Poe steps up in his second season -- and pass rush isn’t really his game -- little should change for Kansas City.

Wild card: Secondary receivers
The Chiefs are very light at wide receiver outside of Dwayne Bowe. They have three strong tight ends and could employ plenty of multiple-tight end sets. Jamaal Charles should see plenty of passes thrown his way, but another outside threat needs to step up. Donnie Avery has the speed to open up room for others, but his hands are highly inconsistent. Jon Baldwin and Dexter McCluster have yet to find their place in this league. Keep an eye on Devon Wylie.


Offense: Man-blocking scheme
For some unknown reason, the Raiders switched in 2012 from a predominantly man-blocking scheme, in which Darren McFadden thrived, to a zone-blocking scheme. That was a failed experiment, especially for McFadden, who is entering the final year of his contract. Switching back could allow him to be the foundation of Oakland’s offense.

Defense: No pass rush
I fear the Raiders will be among the worst defenses in the NFL next season at rushing the passer. Lamarr Houston is a very talented player, capable of greatness, but he isn’t a typical edge pass-rushing defensive end. Andre Carter has had success in this area, but his best days are behind him. I like the additions of Pat Sims and Vance Walker at defensive tackle, but both are run-stuffers. Opposing quarterbacks are going to have a lot of unobstructed time in the pocket this season. Calling Jadeveon Clowney ...

Wild card: Building blocks
The Raiders are not going to win the Super Bowl. Instead, they must determine which players are their building blocks. I was impressed by the way the front office, despite many limitations, addressed the team's needs during the offseason. But many of their signings were only one-year deals. Which players do they want to bring back? Many players on Oakland’s roster are auditioning this season.


Offense: Pass protection
Philip Rivers needs to be protected, which San Diego hasn’t been able to do lately. Although the Chargers used a first-round pick on D.J. Fluker, who is a much better run-blocker than pass-blocker, I don’t see noticeable upgrades on the offensive line. I also don’t see much upside or potential star power in the group. Changing the scheme could help by getting the ball out of Rivers’ hands quicker, but he could be headed for another punishing season.

Defense: Time to step up
The Chargers have several promising young defensive players who could be ready to break out. Eric Weddle is among the league’s best safeties, and Corey Liuget has already established himself as a real force on San Diego’s defensive line. Kendall Reyes might not be far behind Liuget and should become more of a household name this season. Manti Te’o could have an instant impact in his rookie season and pair with Donald Butler to be one of the better inside linebacker tandems in the league.

Wild card: Receiver situation
Antonio Gates isn’t what he once was, but he still makes plays and Rivers trusts him. The Chargers have many other receiving options now: Danario Alexander, Malcom Floyd, Keenan Allen, Vincent Brown, Robert Meachem, Eddie Royal, John Phillips, Ladarius Green, Danny Woodhead and Ronnie Brown. How will that sort out? My favorites are Allen, Vincent Brown and Green. Getting these young weapons plenty of reps could pay off in the long term for San Diego.
Danario AlexanderJustin Edmonds/Getty ImagesDanario Alexander wasted little time last season in making an impact for the San Diego Chargers.
Forgive Philip Rivers for not paying much attention to Danario Alexander when he arrived in the San Diego Chargers’ locker room late last October.

It was nothing personal, but Rivers had become used to seeing nameless receivers join the team during the season. After all, Rivers had to work with 17 different receivers during the 2010 season. After a while, they just became faces.

But it didn’t take long for Alexander to graduate from bottom-of-the-roster fodder to one of Rivers’ favorite targets.

“Honestly, I didn’t give him much of a thought right away,” Rivers said. “But that changed quickly.”

Alexander, who is 6-foot-5 and weighs 217 pounds, started making plays and turning the heads of players and coaches almost instantly.

“It went from 'Who is this guy' to 'How did we even get a chance to get him?' I couldn’t believe he came off the street. He should have been on a roster already,” Rivers said. “I thought he was an emergency guy, then it was 'Holy smokes, we need this guy. We got to get him on the field.'"

Remarkably, Alexander -- a star at Missouri who was ravaged by injuries in college -- was starting for San Diego at Cleveland in just his second week with the team and after just four practices.

Alexander made an instant impact and he kept it up. He had 37 catches for 658 yards (for an impressive 17.8 yard-per-catch average) and seven touchdowns in 10 games.

It is rare for players to make that type of impact after signing during the season. Rivers was right: Alexander, 24, was signed as an emergency player. But he became an integral part of San Diego’s offense, and he is part of the plan for the new brass.

The Chargers were worried that Alexander would get a contract offer in restricted free agency and leave the team. Rivers said he was “scared to death” Alexander would leave during the offseason. There was a lot of talk that some unnamed teams seriously considered inking Alexander to an offer sheet, but it never developed.

With Alexander under contract, San Diego plans to use him extensively. He will probably be in the front of the rotation along with Vincent Brown (who is back after a broken ankle wiped out his entire second season), Malcom Floyd and third-round pick Keenan Allen.

There will be a place for Alexander because of his size and raw skill. New coach Mike McCoy was not with the team when the Chargers struck gold with Alexander. But that doesn’t mean he isn’t thrilled to coach him.

“He showed the same thing this spring that we saw on tape when we took over,” McCoy said. “He has big-play capability. He has worked hard, and he has taken advantage of his opportunity here.”

Rivers said he has seen Alexander make strides this spring and expects him to be even stronger this season after having a full offseason and training camp with Rivers and the rest of the offense. Rivers and Alexander developed chemistry quickly last season. And Rivers said the two are still getting in sync.

Alexander is thrilled to get this opportunity after struggling with injuries. He was a highly rated prospect coming out of college. In 2009, he had 113 catches for 1,781 yards and 14 touchdowns.

However, Alexander couldn’t stay healthy. He tore his ACL twice in college and was hurt during the Senior Bowl leading up to the draft. He spent some time with the St. Louis Rams, but he didn’t make an impact. He had several workouts before catching on with the Chargers.

“Last year was really satisfying because of everything I went through,” Alexander said. “Staying healthy and getting a chance was a key for me. I know what happened last year never happens in the NFL. Guys usually don’t go from the street to a starter. But I had confidence in myself.”

Alexander hopes his career continues to soar, but he takes pride in turning heads when he arrived.

“They saw what I was doing with the ball after the catch in practice and all the guys said, 'Where did you come from?'" Alexander said. “They all went home and looked me up on the Internet. Guys wanted to know my history.”

Now, in San Diego, all they care about is Alexander’s future.