6 position battles to watch at Chargers training camp

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After an offseason of retooling the roster, the Chargers are ready to hit the field for training camp which is slated to begin this week, Wednesday, July 27.

There are a few key spots yet to be filled, and the same goes for a few at the bottom of the depth chart at various positions.

With that being said, here are six positional battles for Chargers fans to keep an eye on this summer:

Second running back

AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez

Since Melvin Gordon’s departure, the Chargers have struggled to establish the RB2 role behind Austin Ekeler.

Justin Jackson seemed prime for the job, but he couldn’t stay on the field due to injuries. Meanwhile, Larry Rountree III and Joshua Kelley produced substandard results, averaging 2.4 and 3.1 yards per carry, respectively, in 2021.

In an effort to get it right this time, Los Angeles selected Isaiah Spiller in the fourth round of this year’s draft. Spiller is big, physical and elusive as a runner and also has value in the passing game, catching 74 passes at Texas A&M.

Spiller must show he can translate his game to the pro level, while Rountree and Kelley will have to show improvement and more consistency to vie for the role.

Starting right tackle

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

From left to right, four of the starting spots are filled. Rashawn Slater starts at left tackle. Matt Feiler starts at left guard. Corey Linsley is at center. And Zion Johnson, the rookie first-round pick, is at right guard.

The right tackle spot will be a battle between Trey Pipkins and Storm Norton.

Pipkins played well in his two starts in 2021, including a game against the Chiefs, and has spent this offseason working with highly touted offensive line developer Duke Manyweather. Norton was the starter last season and had his fair share of struggles, allowing 60 pressures and nine sacks.

Whichever player loses this battle will serve as the swing tackle.

Starting fullback

AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez

The Chargers have been looking for a reliable fullback since Derek Watt, who signed with the Steelers after the 2020 season.

They thought they had that with Gabe Nabers, an undrafted free agent that same year. But the team may want to go a different direction after drafting Zander Horvath in the seventh round.

Horvath’s athleticism and strength show up on the football field in different areas, as he can make an impact as a runner, receiver, and blocker. His skill set could make him the ideal replacement for Stephen Anderson as the team’s hybrid H-back.

Third wide receiver

AP Photo/Alex Gallardo

The Chargers return one of the league’s best-receiving duos in Keenan Allen and Mike Williams. But who will get the next most share of the load is still up for grabs between second-year Josh Palmer and Jalen Guyton.

Last season, Palmer was overshadowed by Jalen Guyton. However, he became more involved midway through the season. Palmer ended up catching 33 passes for 353 yards with four touchdowns.

Guyton remains as the group’s best deep-field speed option. Last season, he turned 48 targets into 31 catches for 448 yards (14.5 yards per reception) and three touchdowns.

Defensive tackle depth

Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

After finishing with one of the worst run defenses in 2021, the Chargers made the point to address the interior part of the defensive line, signing Sebastian Joseph-Day, Austin Johnson, Morgan Fox and drafting Otito Ogbonnia.

In my opinion, these four players are locks to make the roster. Now, there will be a fierce competition for the last one or two spots between Jerry Tillery, Christian Covington, Breiden Fehoko, Joe Gaziano and Forrest Merrill.

Tillery showed promise as a pass rusher but struggled against the run. Covington played more snaps than anticipated last season, but he is a fine rotational piece. Fehoko’s snaps were limited, but he was one of the best run defenders. Gaziano offers inside-out versatility. Merrill also flashed against the run.

Backend of secondary

AP Photo/Ashley Landis

Good defensive back play is integral in Brandon Staley’s defense, which is why he went out and signed the interception leader of the past two seasons in J.C. Jackson and Bryce Callahan to join the star-studded secondary that includes Derwin James and Asante Samuel Jr.

James and Nasir Adderley are the starters at safety. Jackson and Samuel will enter training camp as the starters at outside corner, with Callahan playing in the slot. Michael Davis will play on the outside and allow Samuel to move inside in certain packages.

While the position alignments among the starters take place, there will be an intense battle with a handful to fill out the depth chart.

Rookie JT Woods will play as a deep-field safety when James moves around to the slot or closer to the line of scrimmage. But Woods will need to earn that role in competition with Alohi Gilman. In addition, Mark Webb, who was hurt last season, offers slot and dime backer,

At cornerback, rookies Ja’Sir Taylor and Deane Leonard will be vying for spots with returners Kemon Hall and Tevaughn Campbell, who played a good amount in Staley’s defense when injuries hit the position last season.

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