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Four things to keep an eye on during Training Camp

Kyle Posey takes a look at the biggest questions hanging over the Chargers heading into training camp.

Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY

Congratulations, you guys. It's finally here. We made it. We can finally watch and talk about real football things. The goal of training camp is to help smooth all your kinks out as a team over the course of six weeks in order to prepare yourself for the start of regular season. San Diego got better as a team for the second consecutive off season by adding talent and depth at key positions. Make no mistake, there are plenty of kinks that still need to be ironed out. There are four things that I believe we should keep an eye on throughout training camp:

  • Figure out your right guard
  • Touchdowns, not field goals
  • Getting off the field on 3rd down
  • Creating takeaways
Who Starts at Right Guard?

Last years starting right guard will begin training camp on the PUP list. There's no telling for how long, which means it'll come down to Johnnie Troutman, who started 10 games a year ago, and rookie 3rd round pick Chris WattIf the battle for the safety spot next to Eric Weddle is the most intriguing, then the battle who starts at right guard might be the most important. You can make a valid argument for either player, but we really won't know until we see each live.

I took a long look at Troutman's play in 2013. You won't find many lineman around who are stronger than he is. At the same time, he continually made the same mistakes, had a tendency to drop his head, and had the balance of a sorority girl doing a sobriety test after 20+ shots of tequila. So the questions will remain to see if Troutman can fix his issues from a year ago, or at least show progress as camp goes on that he can be a reliable starter.

Watt is a wildcard. Even as a rookie, you have to imagine that he'll be given every opportunity to win the starting spot. Watt has a similar mindset of last years DJ Fluker, where he places through the whistle and is very strong at the point of attack. As far as working to the 2nd level, having the awareness/football IQ, and staying on your feet, Watt already has the edge as a rookie. There are still questions that Watt will need to answer. San Diego asks their guards to pull a lot in their running scheme. Watt wasn't asked to do this very much at Notre Dame so it'll be interesting to see how he handles moving horizontally. Watt also had an abnormally wide stance in college. If you notice in preseason games that quicker defensive lineman are able to beat him, it's because Watt wasn't able to get square quick enough. Jerome went in-depth about that here.

It would be tough for the Chargers to get worse at the position. San Diego was able to run the ball well a year ago in spite of struggling to run the ball over the right guard. Looking at Football Outsiders "Adjusted Line Yards", the team was 1st and 4th in yards when they ran the ball outside of the left tackle, and in between the left tackle and the left guard. Conversely, they were 27th and 18th when running over the right guard and tackle, and over the right end. Expect this battle to be much, much better than last years between King Dunlap and Max Starks.

Not Settling for 3 in the Red Zone

Being able to run the ball up the middle will certainly help the Chargers offense in the red zone. Hell, running the ball period should help the offense convert more touchdowns in the red zone. They have a bruising running back to falls forward, use him. For as efficient, and effortlessly as the team moved the ball between the 20's, the team only scored a touchdown 51.52%. That was good for 22nd in the league. This training camp let's see if they have a better plan on how to attack when they're down there. I wrote about it last year mid-season, and nothing really changed. Let's see if this year they use their big targets to their advantage. Simple throws like back shoulder fades, jump balls, or even isolation routes to Keenan Allen. Just please, no shovel passes, and no shotgun inside zone runs to Danny Woodhead.


Getting off the field on 3rd Down

Later today we'll be talking about how did the secondary really improve and if the pass rush is ready to take the next step, so I'm not going to touch on that too much. There will be a few things that will contribute to getting off the field on 3rd downs. The Chargers were 21st a year ago in 3rd down conversions. Offensive teams converted 40% of the time. Pagano can start by improving as a play-caller. The defense can stop playing flag football and actually wrap up and make a tackle. The pass rush can actually win a 1-on-1 battle more than once a game. There are several different ways that they can improve, but I'm just interested in 1 of these 3, and you'll see that 40% come down.

Speaking of 3rd downs, you know the one player that I'll be watching the most this training camp? Kendall Reyes. The time is now if he wants to show he can be a competent starter and not a sub package player. Yes, there's a portion of the game where he's not put in his best position to succeed, and that could very well affect his confidence as a player. The other 65% of the game Reyes will be facing 1-on-1 blocking, especially now with a healthy Corey Liuget, so there aren't many excuses for Reyes this camp. If he's able to be disruptive up the middle that could help this defense take the necessary strides it so desperately needs.

Get a turnover, help your offense!

It feels like turnovers are fickle in the NFL. One year a team can be 2nd, the very next they can be 22nd. Well, unless you're San Diego. In 2013, the Chargers were 24th in interceptions, 19th in '12, 15th in '11, and 14th in '10. Trending the wrong way. They were 27th in takeaways a year ago. This makes sense when you're missing as many tackles, or not in a position to even make a play on the ball in the secondary. I'll be looking to see if there's an added effort to knock the ball loose from defensive lineman and linebackers. If the secondary is getting their hands on passes, or better yet, intercepting them.

There are several things to look out for, but these are four areas that I'll be keeping a close eye on. I believe solving these four will be key if this team wants to be playing in the playoffs again.