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Chargers DT Ryan Carrethers stating his case for more playing time

SAN DIEGO – An emerging talent in his rookie campaign before suffering a season-ending dislocated elbow, defensive tackle Ryan Carrethers is working to earn an expanded role on the San Diego Chargers’ defense.

And Carrethers has a player in mind he will try to emulate in the pursuit of his goal: Kansas City Chiefs nose tackle Dontari Poe.

“We’re both from Tennessee, so he’s a guy I watch a lot,” Carrethers said. “I definitely try and mimic him as much as I can.”

At 6-foot-3 and 346 pounds, Poe is one of a handful of every-down, 3-4 nose tackles in the NFL. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Poe played 911 of the Chiefs’ 1,024 defensive snaps, or about 89 percent, last year. Poe played on 935 of their 1,067 defensive snaps in 2013, or almost 88 percent.

Poe recently had surgery to remove a herniated disk in his back and will miss all of the exhibition season. He has 10.5 sacks the past two seasons.

The Chargers selected Carrethers in the fifth round of the 2014 draft out of Arkansas State. At 6-foot-1 and 333 pounds, Carrethers worked his way into the lineup as a rotational player at defensive tackle his rookie season, playing 69 snaps.

Carrethers made his first career start against the Oakland Raiders on Nov. 16, totaling four tackles before the elbow injury ended his season with six games to play. Carrethers finished with 12 combined tackles.

Carrethers, 24, is competing for playing time with projected starting defensive tackle Sean Lissemore. Drafted as an early-down run stuffer, like Poe, Carrethers is trying to develop some interior pass-rush moves so he doesn’t have to leave the field on passing situations.

“My preparation and technique is better,” Carrethers said. “Just my approach to the game is much more mature. I think I was much more raw last year and I’m trying to take a much more professional approach.”

That means showing up early before practice starts and putting in work with fellow defensive lineman Corey Liuget, who’s teaching Carrethers a few new tricks of the trade.

“Ryan has made a big jump,” Liuget said. “I’ve seen a lot of growth in him from when he was a rookie. He’s making better hand placement. His pads are lower. His footwork has gotten better.

“And he gets out here 15 or 20 minutes before practice starts with me now. He’s trying to take his game to the next level.”

Closing time: Chargers head coach Mike McCoy ended training camp a day early with a non-padded practice on Thursday. San Diego will hold a short walk-through practice closed to reporters Friday before flying to Phoenix for Saturday’s exhibition game against the Arizona Cardinals. “I’m really happy where the team’s at right now,” McCoy said. “And we’ve got a couple weeks to get ready for the opener.”

Roll call: Running back Melvin Gordon returned to practice on Thursday, along with safety Gordon Hill. Cornerback Jason Verrett participated in individual drills, but watched during the team portion of practice. Cornerback Chris Davis, guard Johnnie Troutman, defensive tackle Liuget, outside linebacker Tourek Williams, cornerback Steve Williams, inside linebacker Denzel Perryman and cornerback Greg Ducre did not practice Thursday. ... The Chargers claimed tight end Logan Stokes off of waivers this week. Stokes was released by the New England Patriots. To make room for Stokes on the 90-man roster, the Chargers released tight end Eric Frohnapfel.