Minicamp has just begun and it is the perfect time to breakdown potential training camp battles as the Los Angeles Chargers get to work over the summer.
Los Angeles boasts a talented roster including a deep receiving corps and a talented secondary. The Chargers will have tough decisions ahead of them. A key injury to tight end Hunter Henry has also brought another battle to the forefront.
The coaching staff will have to decide which players are going to get the majority of the snaps and the conclusion may not come until late August.
For now, let’s take a look at potential battles, that will have fans watching very closely throughout the preseason.
This is the most obvious battle. With Henry done for the year, the Chargers don’t have a legitimate answer at the position. There are a handful of UDFAs including Ben Johnson, but veteran Virgil Green has a chance to see his role grow as a receiver.
Los Angeles has contacted Antonio Gates about a potential return, but the soon to be 38-year-old won’t cover up the loss of Henry. If Gates does come back for one more season, he will garner a good chunk of the snaps, but that still opens the door for players like Johnson or Sean Culkin to contribute.
This is one of the biggest areas of concern for the Bolts. If one of the UDFAs or unknown tight ends are unable to produce, there may be next to no production at the tight end position. Something that the Chargers haven’t faced in what seems like forever.
This one is pretty simple. The Chargers need a decent kicker. That’s it. Even with a below average kicking game, Los Angeles would have made the playoffs in 2017. Sadly, the putrid special teams play saw the Bolts hitting the golf course early.
Former second-round pick Roberto Aguayo and Caleb Sturgis will be headlining a closely watched special teams battle. Sturgis was slated to be the kicker for the Super Bowl champions, but suffered an injury after the season opener.
It will be paramount for the Chargers to make the right decision this year. Cutting Josh Lambo was the biggest mistake of last season, it’s time to right that wrong.
It’s safe to say that Casey Hayward, Jason Verrett, Trevor Williams and Desmond King are going to get 99 percent of the snaps at corner. However, it’s unclear which players are going to get the starting nod.
Hayward seems to be a lock, but the return of Verrett throws a wrench into the depth chart. Williams was phenomenal last season, and King showed flashes of brilliance in his rookie season.
If all of the corners can stay healthy, Los Angeles can feature some interesting dime and nickel packages with all of the talent they have at the position.
At the back end of the depth chart, Craig Mager, Michael Davis and a handful of rookies have a chance to make the team. Likely, the final spot will go to a strong special teams player with versatility in case of injuries at the front end of the unit.
This is a battle for the interior of the defensive line. It’s clear that Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram have locked down the spots at end. However, with veterans Corey Liuget and Brandon Mebane underperforming in 2017, it has opened the door for players like Damion Square, Darius Philon and third-round pick Justin Jones.
While Mebane will likely be given the starting role based on his veteran presence, Liuget’s four-game suspension has given the rest of the unit a chance to see some serious time to kickoff the season.
The real key will be Philon. He is probably the favorite on paper to take over Liuget’s role, but Jones has the tools to become a run stuffer for a Chargers team that ranked 31st in run defense a season ago.
The glaring weakness in a budding defense last season was the linebackers. Injuries and struggles in the running and passing game allowed for teams to attack the middle of the field with success.
Denzel Perryman is the key for this linebacking corps. He is the heart of the unit and probably Los Angeles’ best linebacker. Aside from Perryman, the rest of the linebackers are question marks.
Kyle Emanuel is decent on early downs, but is a liability in coverage, Jatavis Brown appeared to be ready for big things after his rookie season, but suffered a brutal sophomore slump. Rookie Uchenna Nwosu is a mystery and many aren’t sure where he is going to fit in to the Chargers defense.
The rest of the players are special teams caliber players and should only hit the fit field occasionally.
It’s unclear with linebackers defensive coordinator Gus Bradley is going to deploy next season, but with how often he deployed nickel and dime packages, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Bradley stick with the strengths of the defense.
Others battles to note
The backend of the receiving corps will be an interesting fight. Dylan Cantrell, Geremy Davis and Nelson Spruce highlight a group which will be battling for likely one, maybe two spots on the outside.
The starting five for the offensive line is solidified if Forrest Lamp returns to full health. However, the backup spots should be fair game. Sam Tevi, Scott Quessenberry, Michael Schofield and Spencer Pulley are projected to be the primary depth. Although, Donavon Clark, Brett Boyko and Zach Golditch will get their shot in camp.
Backup quarterback is intriguing if the Bolts only decide to carry two, same goes for the running back department. Justin Jackson and Russell Hansborough may be competing for one roster spot.
– Ryan Doyle is a Staff Writer for Full Press Coverage Sports Media. He covers the Los Angeles Chargers. Follow him on Twitter @RDoyle27