SAN DIEGO – No, they’re not trying to conceal a receding hairline or scratch his head.
Officials that place both palms on top of their hat are signaling 12 men on the field, which is against the rules in the NFL.
There is, however, a legal way to gain a one-man advantage: force a double-team. Offenses and defenses each try to leverage them because they can give a unit a distinct benefit, leaving teammates to play 10-on-9.
That’s a primary objective of any 3-4 defense, which counts on one player to control the interior of the offensive line. The nose tackle is the fulcrum for the entire machine.
San Diego mostly counted on one man to shoulder that burden since it employed the formation in 2004. Several players could seize that role this season, but the Chargers hope fifth-round draft pick
Fans would have no trouble getting used to a No. 76 going to work in the most physical space of America’s most savage team sport.
“People will mention it, but I feel like there’s no pressure,” Thomas said of wearing the same jersey as former Charger Jamal Williams. “If (he) didn’t have No. 76, I’d just be Cam Thomas.
“I give the man the utmost respect because he’s basically a legend out here. (But) I don’t feel like there’s pressure. I’m just going out there doing what they want me to do.”
Several other veterans also would relish a chance to occupy that position.
Former first-round pick
Whoever emerges to play nose tackle will need to handle one of the most exhausting jobs, one that rarely gets reflected on the stat sheet.
At 6-foot-4, 335 pounds, Thomas is the biggest of the group. He already can tell a difference between his North Carolina team and San Diego where, in his words, grown men are fighting for a chance to feed their families. He knows he needs to match that intensity now that he’s a professional.
“I’m just here to do a job and win games,” Thomas said. “My job is to clog up gaps, let everybody else roll, and help make plays when it’s my time. I mean, it’s fun.”
|DEFENSIVE TACKLES AT A GLANCE|
Played nearly 300 snaps during his first season in San Diego ... Finished the season with 16 tackles after he spent the first four years of his career with the Houston Texans … Claims 122 tackles, two sacks and nine passes defensed during his NFL career.
Week 1 starting defensive tackles, 2000-09:
2000: LDT Jamal Williams, RDT John Parrella.
2001: LDT Jamal Williams, RDT John Parrella.
2002: LDT Jamal Williams, RDT Jason Fisk.
2003: LDT Jamal Williams, RDT Jason Fisk.
2004: NT Jamal Williams
2005: NT Jamal Williams.
2006: NT Jamal Williams.
2007: NT Jamal Williams.
2008: NT Jamal Williams.
2009: NT Jamal Williams.
Week 1 defensive tackles on roster, 2000-09:
2000: Jamal Williams, John Parrella, Leonardo Carson, Albert Fontenot.
2001: Jamal Williams, John Parrella, Leonardo Carson, Albert Fontenot.
2002: Jamal Williams, Jason Fisk, Leonardo Carson, DeQuincy Scott.
2003: Jamal Williams, Jason Fisk, Leonardo Carson, DeQuincy Scott.
2004: Jamal Williams,
2005: Jamal Williams,
2006: Jamal Williams, Ryon Bingham.
2007: Jamal Williams, Ryon Bingham.
2008: Jamal Williams, Ryon Bingham, Brandon McKinney.
2009: Jamal Williams, Ogemdi Nwagbuo.