Herbert, new coaching staff lead Chargers into camp
LOS ANGELES CHARGERS (7-9)
CAMP SITE: Costa Mesa, California
LAST YEAR: The Chargers found their franchise quarterback with Justin Herbert, who was the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year after setting rookie records for touchdowns and 300-yard games. Injuries on the offensive line and in the secondary played major roles in their squandering double-digit leads in four losses, and seven defeats came by eight points or less. Los Angeles won four straight to end 2020, but it wasn’t enough to save coach Anthony Lynn’s job. Rams defensive coordinator Brandon Staley was hired on Jan. 17.
IMPORTANT ADDITIONS: C Corey Linsley, Gs Matt Feiler and Oday Aboushi, TE Jared Cook, QB Chase Daniel, OT Rashawn Slater, CB Asante Samuel Jr.
IMPORTANT LOSSES: TE Hunter Henry, DE Melvin Ingram, C Dan Feeney, OT Sam Tevi, G Forrest Lamp, S Rayshawn Jenkins, LB Denzel Perryman, CB Casey Hayward, G Trai Turner.
CAMP NEEDS: Staley and his coaching staff accomplished a lot of the early installation of the new offense and defense during offseason workouts, but there still is plenty of work ahead. The offensive line will have four new starters with only RT Bryan Bulaga being the holdover. First-round pick Rashawn Slater will need to get up to speed quickly at left tackle. The defense is switching to a 3-4 scheme with plenty of questions about depth at linebacker and the secondary. S Derwin James has played in only five games the past two seasons due to injuries suffered during training camp. He sustained a season-ending knee injury during a team scrimmage last year.
KEY CAMP COMPETITIONS: The second running back spot will be the most interesting with Justin Jackson, Joshua Kelley and sixth-round pick Larry Rountree vying for the position. Jackson has had durability issues while Kelley struggled holding on to the ball last year. The punter and kicker spots are also up for grabs after the Chargers had the worst special teams unit in the league last season. Ty Long will have competition from Lachlan Edwards at punter. Michael Badgley will need to prove he can make a field goal beyond 45 yards. Undrafted rookie Alex Kessman has a strong leg and should provide a battle.
EXPECTATIONS: A second straight losing season prompted GM Tom Telesco to hire his third coach. The Chargers have plenty of talent at the skill positions, but depth issues the past couple seasons prompted 5-11 and 7-9 records after they made the playoffs in 2018. After Herbert’s record-setting season last year, the Chargers have high expectations, but will need to stay healthy as well as show that this new coaching staff can adapt to challenges.
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