Mini Camp is over for another year and now the Chargers’ coaches and players have all headed for a few weeks off before getting back to work when training camp begins. I took a look back at the main story-lines that came out of mini camp.
Reaching out to Antonio Gates
Ever since losing Hunter Henry to a season ending ACL injury, the Chargers front office have been searching for a potential replacement. The team have been evaluating who could be available in the trade and free agency markets, and also having a look at who could help out that’s already in the building.
That search could be coming to an end relatively shortly given that Tom Telesco has reached out to Antonio Gates about a possible reunion tour.
Obviously, this is the most natural fit available as the Chargers legend only left a matter of weeks ago and would clearly know the system and playbook immediately. In addition to this, he will still be in good shape physically and he will still have that all important chemistry with Philip Rivers.
It remains to be seen if this move happens and if Gates works out to be an adequate replacement for Henry if he does sign.
Jason Verrett: Back on the Field & Feeling Good
After missing the best part of the past two seasons with knee injuries, Jason Verrett is back on the practice field and all the reports out of Costa Mesa are that he looks great.
Verrett will be looking to make up for lost time and find a place in what already looks like a strong defense, particularly the secondary group. Defensive Coordinator Gus Bradley certainly sounded happy when he was praising Verrett’s “elite” movement skills and the way he has conducted himself whilst being out injured last year.
It’s a nice headache to have but a problem Bradley may face is how to fit; Casey Hayward, Trevor Williams, Desmond King, Derwin James, Jahleel Addae and Verrett into the line up and give them all adequate playing time. This also doesn’t account for giving promising youngsters, Michael Davis and Rayshawn Jenkins playing time, too! This defensive back unit is deep.
Personally, I’m backing Verrett for a run at Comeback Player of the Year. You can read my thoughts on that here.
First Round Pick Derwin James is Looking Good
Sticking in the secondary, Derwin James was turning some heads during mini camp. Drawing praise from both Anthony Lynn and Gus Bradley, as well as some of his team mates.
Bradley in particular praised James’s ability to pick up what the coaches were teaching him whilst being able to maintain his play speed. Head Coach Lynn’s evaluation on James is that he’s had, “an outstanding spring”. Melvin Ingram spoke enthusiastically about his fellow first round pick commenting on James’s “playmaking ability”.
James, however, remained grounded, admitting he made mental errors and maintained that it hasn’t all gone smoothly. All of which is expected of a rookie who is still adjusting to the speed at the NFL level.
There was a crowning moment for James when he managed to snag an end zone interception off a Philip Rivers pass at the end of a 2 minute drill.
Artavis Scott Impressing with Special Teams Game
Special Teams is definitely an area where the Chargers can improve in 2018, especially in the kick returns game. One man who is making coaches sit up and take notice in this area is former Clemson Tiger, Artavis Scott.
When you’re battling for a roster spot at the bottom of the depth chart, it’s really important to improve your value by making plays on special teams. It may be the only way you make the final 53 man roster and then on game day it may be the only way you see the field.
Scott has been making plays in the return game during mini camp as he looks to finally crack the 53 man roster. He’ll be pushing Travis Benjamin for the job alongside 7th round rookie, Justin Jackson.
Personally I think it’s great to see Scott have the self awareness to realize that despite holding a lot of records at a huge program like Clemson, playing Special Teams isn’t below him. I personally think he’ll make the roster and have a breakout season of sorts.
Isaac Rochell Looking Like a New Man
Isaac Rochell wants to be “MAD”. This isn’t to say the last year’s 7th rounder is upset, he just wants to make a difference.
One noticeable difference that was plain for all to see was how much Rochell’s body had changed since the end of last season. Rochell has dropped his weight from around 278lbs to 265 via a training regimen which included yoga and more stretching whilst switching to a plant based diet.
It’s been noted by almost everyone around the Chargers camp that Rochell is leaner, faster and stronger. Fellow defensive lineman, Joey Bosa saying, “…the way he’s moving, it’s pretty unbelievable”. Melvin Ingram also noted that the second year player was, “definitely making plays”.
The Chargers are in need of some other pass rushers to come to the fore behind Bosa and Ingram, especially given that Chris McCain was allowed to leave the team earlier in the off season. Maybe Rochell can be that guy?
– Lee Wakefield is a Staff Writer for Full Press Coverage Sports Media. He covers the Los Angeles Chargers. Follow him on Twitter @Wakefield90