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Backs still catching passes

Posted Aug 22, 2011

Five different backs have combined to account for more than one-third of San Diego’s pass completions through two preseason games, including a touchdown catch by Mike Tolbert against Seattle.

SAN DIEGO – Rookie Jordan Todman snagged a screen pass and patiently worked his way up the left side of the field for a 36-yard catch-and-run, falling forward into the end zone for what would’ve been a touchdown.

An illegal man downfield penalty erased the score from the stat sheet, but it illustrated what Todman may bring to the Chargers’ roster 10 days after Mike Tolbert scored on an eight-yard reception against the Seahawks.

“In our practices our backs caught a lot of balls against (Dallas),” Head Coach Norv Turner said. “All our backs are outstanding receivers and they do a good job of not only catching it but getting the ball turned up when they catch it.”

Drafting Todman and watching free agent Darren Sproles sign with New Orleans brought attention to the Chargers’ running backs as pass-catchers this preseason, as Sproles led San Diego with 59 receptions last season.

The number of passes to backs remains an open spigot, though, as the Chargers have produced 13 such receptions in two preseason games, or 36.1 percent of San Diego’s completions (the rate was 35.7 percent last year).

“The running backs are a big part of our passing game,” Philip Rivers said. “Obviously Darren specialized in catching the ball, but all our guys have really good hands.

“The more and more we keep them involved, the tougher it is. You have all those guys running up the field and then when they have to account for (the backs), you really have to defend the whole field.”

Through two preseason games, Rivers’ teammates have lauded him for taking what the defense allows and not trying to force anything downfield. Rivers and Vincent Jackson combined for 48 and 29-yard receptions in the first two preseason games. Malcom Floyd snatched an 18-yard catch in traffic from Billy Volek. But Rivers has completed 76.4 percent of his passes in part because of taking high-percentage throws underneath to backs and tight ends.

“We had one ball to Vincent. Other than that it was a lot of quick stuff, dinking and dunking in the flats, throwing some quick things,” Rivers said of Sunday’s game against the Cowboys. “They were playing a big, soft shell, kind of an umbrella, and not letting us run by them. It’s going to be nice the more we can mix our intermediate passing game and the run (with completions downfield). We’ll be better off.”

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