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Kick coverage improving
SAN DIEGO – Special teams coach Rich Bisaccia began coaching nearly three decades ago, so it’s unlikely he changed his mindset in the span of 44 days.
That’s how long it’s been since San Diego’s Aug. 11 preseason opener. Bryan Walters returned a kickoff for a touchdown, but Bisaccia gave the special teams a ‘D’ grade for the game, emphasizing how much better they still needed to get.
So it’s an assumption, albeit a safe one, Bisaccia isn’t straining his rear deltoid patting himself on the back for a few positive plays in the kicking game. He’s been there before, having helped Tampa Bay win Super Bowl XXXVII, and won’t ignore the 22-yard Davone Bess punt return and subsequent 15-yard penalty on the Chargers that gift-wrapped a field goal for Miami near the end of the second quarter.
But after allowing Percy Harvin to return the season’s opening kickoff for a touchdown, the Chargers have gone the right direction, continuing a process Head Coach Norv Turner started this offseason by hiring Bisaccia and General Manager A.J. Smith added to by drafting and signing players capable of playing well in the kicking game.
“I do believe you see a great improvement. (Miami) had one where the punt returner got away a little bit, but our kickoff coverage is getting better and better,” Turner said. “Our kicker (Nick Novak) is outstanding. He kicks the ball off at an extremely high level and I’m very confident when he goes on the field to kick field goals.”
Novak had a dream game against the Dolphins, nailing all four field goal attempts and forcing four touchbacks on seven kickoffs. When Clyde Gates decided Novak didn’t get enough of the ball in the first quarter to dictate Miami’s starting field position, Mike Tolbert and Dante Hughes dropped him at the 10-yard line.
Richard Goodman swarmed Bess on Mike Scifres’ other two punts, both fair catches. Scifres finished with a 43.0 net average, his best in exactly one year. (He boomed his only punt 67 yards against Arizona on Oct. 3, 2010, which Andre Roberts returned 19 yards.)
“Comparing where we started Week 1 to now, it’s night and day,” Scifres said. “Every day, guys are just getting better. There’s a sense of urgency about our work (during the week). I think as long as we stay on that track, we’re going to progressively get better.
“We may get 10 snaps total on special teams a game and we’ve got to make all 10 of them count. I think we’re getting to that point where we’re making every snap count.”
GILCHRIST NOMINATED: Cornerback Marcus Gilchrist made an interception, seven tackles and one pass defensed Sunday against Miami in his first career start.
The second-round pick out of Clemson is one of five rookies nominated for the Pepsi NFL Rookie of the Week.
Fans can vote for Gilchrist on NFL.com/rookies from now until 9 a.m. Friday. His competition includes Cincinnati receiver A.J. Green (four catches, 118 yards), Atlanta receiver Julio Jones (11 catches, 127 yards), Washington linebacker Ryan Kerrigan (six tackles, sack, forced fumble) and Carolina quarterback Cam Newton (374 passing yards, three total touchdowns).
SUNSHINE: Randy McMichael had a bit of an out of body experience Sunday against Miami.
Standing in the huddle during a TV timeout, taking in the atmosphere at Qualcomm Stadium and enjoying a typical Southern California afternoon, McMichael took a few seconds to put the stress of trying to win another game in perspective.
“I was like, ‘This is so cool, man. You get to actually play football in front of all these people and get paid a lot of money to do it,’” McMichael said. “It’s just so random. I don’t know where it came from. I had everybody laughing.
“I try and have fun in the huddle. I’m the new guy, so I like to throw my little two cents in there every now and then.”