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Chargers training camp primer: Run game needs rescuing, for Rivers's sake

Ken Whisenhunt is back in charge of the San Diego offense. His first training camp task: turning around Melvin Gordon and the run game.

In hiring back Ken Whisenhunt as offensive coordinator after his midseason dismissal by the Titans, the Chargers reassembled the 2013 coach-coordinator triumvirate that steered them to the only playoff berth of Mike McCoy’s three seasons at the helm in San Diego. It will be on Whisenhunt to restore a running game that has finished 30th and 31st in the past two seasons and take some of the pressure off Philip Rivers, who seemed like the last man standing on the injury-ravaged 2015 team.

That all starts with lead back Melvin Gordon, who enters camp under a microscope after his nightmare rookie year. The arrivals of big-play wideout Travis Benjamin and rookie tight end Hunter Henry will change the complexion of the offense right away, but the Chargers are at their best when Rivers doesn’t have to lead the league in passing attempts, as he did last season.

Projected Chargers 2016 depth chart, from Fansided's Bolt Beat

The Rookie: No. 3 pick Joey Bosa is still unsigned as training camps open around the country, but he should squeeze out Sean Lissemore and Darius Philon for the defensive line spot next to Brandon Mebane and Corey Liuget as he settles into his first training camp. That third down lineman in John Pagano’s 3–4 defensive front is one of the team’s few unsettled spots, and Bosa was drafted to contribute from Day One.

Position Battle Spoiler: NFL Preseason Lifehack: Punter battles can actually be pretty entertaining to follow. San Diego parted ways with Mike Scifres, who had become a franchise institution over his 13-year career, and plan to test out Kasey Redfern and 2016 sixth-round pick Drew Kaser. Since the Chargers were high enough on the Texas A&M product to use a draft pick on him, it seems like the job is Kaser’s to lose.

The Stat:134, the number of receptions receiver Keenan Allen was on pace for before a lacerated kidney ended his season after eight games. That full-season total would have placed him just two catches behind league leaders Julio Jones and Antonio Brown.

Preseason Watchability: After Whisenhunt’s made-for-TV return to Tennessee in Week 1 of the preseason, the Chargers’ preseason home opener against Arizona on Aug. 19 should serve as a minor celebration for a fan base that nearly lost its franchise to Los Angeles this winter.