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Chargers Heavy in Battle

Team looking for top nose tackle to emerge

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Getty Images
    Defensive lineman Travis Johnson #96 of the San Diego Chargers on the field against the Cincinnati Bengals on December 20, 2009.

    There are several position battles underway at Chargers training camp. Only one of them weighs more than 3000 pounds.

    Head coach Norv Turner is waiting for someone to emerge on his 10-deep defensive line, which is expected to be cut to seven by the team's Sept. 13 season opener against the Kansas City Chiefs.

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    Luis Castillo and Jacques Cesaire project as the favorites to start at defensive end, but with veteran Jamal Williams lost to free agency, an opening exists at the heart of the Chargers' 3-4 defense.

    “I think they know that I'm not looking to have six guys rotate all the time,” Turner said at Tuesday's press conference, referring to the team's injury-induced approach last season. “I'm looking to have some guys step up and get a job where they're the lead guy and the other guys are helping him.”

    Ryon Bingham, Alfonso Boone, Antonio Garay, Travis Johnson, Derrick Jones, Vaughn Martin, Ogemdi Nwagbuo and Cam Thomas are all locked in competition.

    The fight for a job creates an interesting environment for what is arguably the locker room's most close-knit unit. Cesaire told the North County Times “it's like you're competing against your brother.”

    “We generally like each other and we generally want to see everyone get better day by day,” Cesaire said. “There's an understanding that everybody can't stay, but we're all rooting for each other to do well.”

    The favorite to start at nose tackle is expected to emerge sometime after the preseason games get underway, beginning Aug. 14 against the Chicago Bears.

    For now, one 6-foot-4, 335-pound rookie has caught the eye of Pro Bowl center Nick Hardwick.

    “Personally, I go against Cam Thomas all the time, and he's a big boy – a lot of talent,” Hardwick said of the fifth-round draft pick out of North Carolina. “He's a really talented kid. He's going to be special.”

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