Los Angeles Chargers Training Camp Notes
It’s a busy time right now for us in the football space. I have been swamped by all the preseason games, training camp storylines, and wrapping up summer scouting ahead of the start of the college and NFL seasons. It’s times like this where I’m so thankful that we have football and no longer must worry about the prospects of not having a season (see ya never, 2020). I’ve also been very fortunate enough to have the opportunity to travel to training camps, check out practices, and see some teams in person. A few weeks ago, I traveled to Las Vegas and watched two days of their camp and came away impressed. The next team on my itinerary was the Los Angeles Chargers, and they were equally if not more impressive.
Every offseason, the Chargers receive a ton of “sleeper team” and “under-the-radar Super Bowl contender” praise, and every year injuries or bad luck ruins their plans. This year, however, seems different. With a brand-new coach who seems to have inspired and reenergized this franchise, a young superstar quarterback, and a defense that is finally healthy, this team could be ready to compete for a playoff spot.
Here are four key takeaways I was able to gather from attending Chargers camp.
Rookie O-Linemen Look To Pay Dividends
The Chargers knew they needed to upgrade the offensive line this offseason. By all accounts, they did so in a major way. First, they attacked free agency with a purpose and were extremely aggressive in adding talent. The team signed center Cory Linsely and guards Matthew Feiler and Oday Aboshi to shore up the interior of the offensive line. While those veteran players have been steady all of camp, it was the two rookies the Chargers drafted who stole the show in their preseason game and most of camp.
While first-round pick Rashawn Slater didn’t practice while I was there due to a minor lower-back injury, he was outstanding in his preseason debut and has been rock solid all of training camp. His feet, balance, and power were all on display and he plays with a nasty mean streak. Fellow rookie offensive lineman Brenden Jaimes, who the team drafted in the fifth round out of Nebraska, had an excellent debut in the preseason as well. A 40-game starter at tackle during his college days, Jaimes has made the transition to guard and so far looks like a natural inside. If Jaimes can continue to develop, he will be outstanding depth this season with inside and outside versatility.
Young Receivers Poised For Big Role
One of the biggest storylines heading into Chargers’ camp was who was going to win the No. 3 receiver job. So far, the battle hasn’t disappointed and there are a number of receivers who have shown really well. One such receiver is Tyron Johnson, who has been one of the stars of Chargers camp.
Johnson finally returned to practice when I was there after being out with an injury, and it’s easy to see his skill set translating with the Chargers. A true burner who has the speed to win vertically, he is a perfect fit for a Chargers offense that looks to stretch the field often with Justin Herbert. What’s impressive about Johnson is that, for a deep threat, he does have more to offer. He shows an ability to win in numerous areas of the field and is a very natural hands-catcher.
Outside of Johnson, rookie third-round pick Josh Palmer also really impressed. First off, his size and build are impressive. He is a dense, rocked-up receiver who has excellent movement skills and route-running ability. He was the recipient of a couple of Herbert passes over the middle of the field and he can play both inside and outside.
A thing I noticed after both practices, Palmer and Herbert stayed late getting in routes and practicing their timing. I believe Palmer could have a very productive rookie year.
Linebacker Youth And Depth Look Impressive
The linebacker position has long been an Achilles heel for the Chargers' defense. The team has always seemed to have pass rushers aplenty and a loaded secondary but was thin at the second level of their defense. Time and time again the Chargers had slow, unathletic linebackers in their line up and oftentimes those players were forced to be in coverage with the likes of Tyreek Hill and Tyler Lockett—it wasn’t a pretty sight. Now, I’m not saying any of the Chargers' new linebackers would have been able to cover those players man-to-man either, but they would have a hell of a lot better shot.
Between Kenneth Murray, Drue Tranquil, and Kyzir White, the Chargers have youth and athleticism at the linebacker position. All three players are excellent in coverage and can fly sideline to sideline to make plays in the run game. White especially looked impressive at camp and in the first preseason game.
Herbert In Line For Huge Year
Last but certainly not least, based on what I saw in camp, Herbert is going to have a HUGE season. He looks absolutely dialed in, folks. He’s a lot more vocal with his teammates, a lot more assertive and in control in the huddle and at the line of scrimmage, and is just playing loose and free. He’s confident in himself, his teammates, and the coaching staff, and I believe he will have every opportunity to carry this football team.
Watching Herbert throw the football is like watching a rocket ship launch into orbit—you just sit in amazement. He makes throws into tight windows look so easy and routine and his chemistry with Keenan Allen and Jared Cook was evident. If the Chargers can keep him upright, which by all accounts they should be able to, I see no reason why Herbert can’t improve on a historic rookie season.