When the coronavirus pandemic escalated to obscene levels, it threw a ginormous wrench into everyone’s normalcy. If things were “normal” right now, we would have gotten to see and hear from the Chargers first three-day period of organized team activities. Alas, the time for OTAs came and went and now we’re stuck thinking about what those practices could have looked liked.
But lucky you! I’m going to take some time and discuss some of the things - big or small - that we would have gotten to see should OTAs have been able to happen like usual.
Rookies wearing the powder blue for the first time
This one isn’t the most-interesting thing in the world, but it’s something I personally look forward to following the year’s NFL draft.
The team has got their new players. The fans have done their research and grown accustomed to these guys being labeled as “Chargers” and the rookie minicamp this past month would have been the first time to see each of the new players donning the new lightning bolt and wearing the team’s “new” color scheme. After the team did away with navy being a primary color, that would also likely mean the practice uniforms would have had to change from navy and white to something utilizing the powder blue.
One fact that wasn’t talked about much during pre-draft process was @Chargers No. 6 pick QB Justin Herbert lifted the @oregonfootball program from 4 wins in ‘16 to 12 wins last year. Chargers fans, here’s an up-close look at 20202 rookie class from @seniorbowl scouts last fall. pic.twitter.com/3O0FAKHvCy— Jim Nagy (@JimNagy_SB) May 7, 2020
Justin Herbert in the white offensive uniform while Murray is on the other side of the ball wearing a new fresh powder blue defensive jersey? Yes please. Again, I know it’s not much, but the little things like this help get through an increasingly boring offseason.
Austin Ekeler as the official RB1 and a different offense
One could argue we saw this last season when Melvin Gordon held out through the first handful of weeks of the regular season. But this time, it’s FOR REAL.
Without the threat of Gordon taking away his valuable snaps and reps with the first team, Ekeler is going to be numero uno in the backfield in 2020 while executing in an offense that is changing to better maximize his talents alongside those of the two quarterbacks who will both potentially see time this year.
There have been murmurings about the Chargers going under center more now that the team has moved on from Rivers, which could make the offense look a little bit more like what Kyle Shanahan is doing in San Francisco but I’m not so sure this is the case. In a press conference following this year’s draft, head coach Anthony Lynn was asked about the challenges Herbert will face learning to play from under center after taking snaps from the shotgun through both his high school and college years. Lynn made a point to say they weren’t going to force him to do anything that would make him uncomfortable, which tells us the under center additions may not be that drastic.
The new offensive variations you are most-likely to see are going to be the usage of pistol formations and aspects of the zone read get added into the playbook. In his limited snaps from 2019, Tyrod Taylor made those concepts look pretty good so it will be very intriguing to see the entire offense devoted to those new wrinkles.
One last thing I would have been super interested to see is how many two-running backs sets Shane Steichen has added to the offense, if at all. He mentioned in a post-draft interview that the additions of those looks would be a possibility, especially with Ekeler’s versatility to play out wide and in the backfield. Coming out in shotgun with a back flanking either side of the quarterback would easily go from 21 personnel to five-wide with the likes of Hunter Henry being the high-level receiver that he is. That’s a matchup nightmare waiting to happen.
Where are all these defensive backs going to fit into the defense?
One of the biggest question marks heading into the 2020 season is where the heck are the Chargers going to play all of these talented defensive backs where they’re all able to get enough snaps to make the impacts we all know they can make?
Like, this is such a good problem to have, but it’s still frustrating in its’ own way. The team and fans are ecstatic to have Chris Harris Jr. on the team, but that makes us wonder where Desmond King is going to get his snaps. Rayshawn Jenkins played well enough to keep a starting job, so where is 2019 second-rounder Nasir Adderley going to see time? These are all very valid questions.
Chris Harris Jr. with the PBU on Courtland Sutton. Straps Harris on full display. pic.twitter.com/1QtzfP05Dz— Zac Stevens (@ZacStevensDNVR) July 21, 2019
If we got the chance to have OTAs, we would’ve gotten the first set of looks at the defense and how they may try and organize this packed position group. As far as we know, Gus Bradley has mentioned playing Jenkins more at strong safety and dime linebacker while we know Harris Jr. might still see snaps on the outside, according to him in the latest Zoom conference by the Chargers. I think this helps us see where Adderley and King might find their time, but is that enough for those two? I realize Nas is still an unknown, but man that’s a lot of talent and draft capital to be riding the pine for much longer.
The position battle at left tackle
Of course we can’t leave off anything that has to do with the offensive line. Fans and media members will both be keeping their eyes on how the left tackle spot shakes out following an offseason that hasn’t seen the Chargers sign a veteran presence to protect the blindside of their quarterback up to this point.
Right now, I think this thing ends with either Trey Pipkins breaking through and winning the job or Sam Tevi getting the nod due to a lack of progression from last year’s third-round pick.
Personally, I think the best option is going to be Pipkins if signing a veteran is not going to be in the cards. He has better upside over Tevi and while things didn’t start out sparkly for the former Division II prospect, at least he’s still got potential. Tevi, while not that old himself, has shown to be a factor in the run game when used correctly but has always struggled as a pass protector. I think it’s Pipkins’ job to lose.
But by golly, Jason Peters or Kelvin Beachum would be outstanding signings.