The Chargers veterans are set to report on today and join the rookies who have been with the coaches and staff for the past week. Both sides will come together with the rest of the summer, and the entire 2022 season, out in front of them.
It’s a time for massive amounts of excitement and expectations. It’s time to rejoice that football is inching ever closer while there’s still a healthy amount of time between now and the regular season for plenty of new events to take place.
Let’s get started with a nice little primer.
Below, I wrote about the three most interesting position battles within the Chargers roster, as well as a player whom I believe could push for being training camp’s MVP.
Training Camp Battles to Watch
Gabe Nabers hasn’t faced any competition at the fullback position since he was a rookie. Former tight end Stephen Anderson saw some time in the backfield this past season but he’s now with the Cardinals so the door for snaps as the team’s lead blocker is open wide.
His competition is now rookie Zander Horvath whom the team took with their final pick in this year’s draft. Both Nabers and Horvath stand at roughly 6’3 and 235 pounds. The biggest difference between the two is their production from college and how they were utilized prior to joining the Chargers.
Nabers was essentially a traditional tight end/H-back who saw some time in the backfield. Horvath was mainly used as a big, bruising running back. When it comes to collegiate production, Horvath has the edge by a mile. He finished his college career with over 1,000 yards rushing and over 500 yards receiving. On the other side, Nabers had just 269 yards receiving and -3 yards rushing at Florida State.
At the same time, Nabers is the player with multiple years of NFL experience under his belt. But will that be enough to keep his spot on the roster safe this season?
The Chargers went out and put their money where their mouth is by signing defensive tackles Sebastian Joseph-Day and Austin Johnson in order to reinforce a league-bottom run defense. Both are slated to start but there’s still a third spot on open for grabs in the team’s base front.
The assumption here is that Jerry Tillery will lose his starting job. The team did not pick up his fifth-year option and it’s obvious over the past three seasons that he hasn’t done nearly enough to have a starting position waiting for him in training camp. The Bolts also brought Morgan Fox in who played his best football under Brandon Staley with the Rams back in 2020. With Joseph-Day, Johnson, and Fox all there, it’s tough to see how Tillery fits in all that much, especially with someone like Breiden Fehoko also pushing for snaps after a year where he was a bright spot on last year’s run defense. Oh, and I can’t forget about Christian Covington. It’s crazy there’s a real chance Tillery is
this team’s sixth-best defensive lineman.
After Keenan Allen and Mike Williams, who will end up being next in the receiver pecking order?
Jalen Guyton has only gotten better and is currently the team’s main speedster at the position. Josh Palmer looked like a stud when given the opportunity as a rookie, especially when he had to step in for either Allen or Williams due to injuries. Now of course both players will see significant time on the field throughout the year, but which one will end up being the most productive behind the top two?
Guyton recorded a career-high 31 receptions a year ago to go with 448 yards and three touchdowns. Palmer hauled in 33 receptions but managed to turn that into just 353 yards and four touchdowns.
Both have shown they can handle a larger workload in spot duty, but it’ll be interesting to see which one gets the edge in time with the first unit. As of now, my money is on Palmer.
HERBERT LASER TO JOSH PALMER pic.twitter.com/ZrGutISyjn— PFF Fantasy Football (@PFF_Fantasy) January 10, 2022
Training Camp MVP Prediction
This can quickly become a very boring section so for the sake of this post, I will not be choosing one of the obvious star players on this team. We know Derwin James is going to make plays. We know Justin Herbert is going to constantly make fans say “Whoa...” throughout the next month and a half. That’s why I’m going to try to pick someone who won’t necessarily set training camp on fire, but he’ll make enough plays to get the fan base incredibly hyped to see them on the field.
Right now, I’m calling Zion Johnson as a potential camp MVP.
Yeah, yeah, I know. It’s sort’ve a cop-out to pick the team’s first-round rookie. But with Johnson we’ll have a decent amount of clarity in seeing jut how well, or not well, he’s doing in each practice.
Do a lot of “sacks” come from the A or B gap on his side? How many big runs come through those same gaps? We’ll also be able to see just how good the right looks overall, regardless of whether it’s Trey Pipkins or Storm Norton is playing next to him. If that side looks dominant, then that’s still a very big positive!
Zion Johnson shoulder shrugging the blitzing safety straight to hell pic.twitter.com/AziF5ZdLFg— Jon Ledyard (@LedyardNFLDraft) March 7, 2022
If you love all things offensive line like I do — and I’d like to think it’s grown on many of you if you’ve stayed around here long enough with me — then you may actually agree with this pick.
But that’s it! In the comments below, let me know what other camp battles are drawing your attention and if there’s another player you think could push for the biggest camp standout, let me know who and why!