Top 10 Takeaways/Updates From Chargers Training Camp

Training camp is over for the Chargers.
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The athletic equipment has been picked up, the tents have been taken down, and the doors will now be shut at Jack Hammett Sports Complex with Chargers training camp being over. The Bolts will now go back to their facility and prepare for the season.

Friday morning wrapped up the second joint practice with the San Francisco 49ers. There was trash talking and good plays by both sides.

Here are ten things that were learned at camp.

  1. Derwin James is back

The Chargers safety is coming back from two injuries the last two seasons. He has only played five games, so he was ready to hit the field. James was all over the field during camp. He is the signal-caller on defense and should be voted a captain pretty soon.

He was asked early in camp if he would slow down, and he said, "no, all I know is how to be Derwin James."

He has been at full speed all training camp going up against tight end Jared Cook, receiver Keenan Allen or Mike Williams. He wants a challenge.

During the joint practice with the 49ers, he wanted tight end George Kittle, and they battled. During the seven-on-seven portion of Friday's practice, Kittle caught a Jimmy Garoppolo touchdown. Towards the end of practice, James was matched up with Kittle, and he intercepted the pass and ran it back for a touchdown. It even got the attention of Lakers superstar LeBron James on Twitter.

"Derwin is a fantastic football player he has been since he got to the league, I got to play against in his rookie season," said Kittle. "My second year, we played in LA. He was fantastic then, and I know he had an injury, but he's just kind of a freak of nature. He's like 6'2 or 6'3 physical, runs really fast, and super quick."

2. Justin Herbert is very very very very good at football.

There have been questions on whether Justin Herbert could adapt to the new offense of Joe Lombardi. During training camp, it has been pretty evident that he feels good in the offense and is passing the ball around.

During the scrimmage against the 49ers, Herbert was a machine moving the ball up and down the field while scoring touchdowns. He has not made many mistakes during training camp.

There is not much more to say, but that number 10 is solid.

3. Keenan Allen is always open

It seems like every year, wide receiver Keenan Allen gets better at route running. His release off the line is very strong, especially when cornerbacks try to jam him at the line; he is strong enough to shake them off.

Allen seems to be open at all times. It doesn't matter if it is one-on-one, seven-on-seven, or 11-on-11. He is open.

He also can trick opposing defenders with his hip movement and change direction.

The veteran receiver was able to put in work against the 49ers and was open at most times.

4. The offensive line is still shaky

During the offseason, it seemed like the Chargers had one goal in mind: to improve the offensive line. They drafted Rashawn Slater while signing Matt Feiler, Corey Linsley, and Oday Aboushi.

So far, Linsley has been the center that he has been billed to be, while Feiler has also been a solid addition. Aboushi has had good moments and some shaky moments.

The cause for concern is the injuries to left tackle Rashawn Slater (lower back) and right tackle Bryan Bulaga (hip flexor). Everything with this offensive line begins and ends with them being on the field.

Staley said Bulaga was dealing with typical soreness and said that if this was a regular-season game, "I truly believe that he would go."

Next week will be very telling when the team comes back to practice after their second preseason game if both practice. Their replacements are Storm Norton and Trey Pipkins, which is a drop-off from the starters.

On Thursday's joint practice, Herbert seemed to be pressured often from both sides, and that could be a problem.

5. Battle for cornerback two

Since the start of camp, there was a question of whether Asante Samuel was going to take that spot right away. He has competition with Brandon Facyson.

The veteran cornerback had to take a leave of absence for family reasons, so Samuel moved in and practiced at cornerback two. According to Staley, he has had good and bad moments, but he is still a rookie. It is rookie mistakes.

"It's still open," said Staley. "I think that Asante is really coming on strong. He's gaining more confidence every time that he goes out there. He's playing in two spots still for us. Brandon has had a good camp. I think that we're just going to let that thing play out until the end. Asante is really coming on strong, for sure. Brandon is competing hard, too — he had a couple of nice plays out here today."

It will be interesting to see how the battle continues throughout the next two preseason games. Expect both to play.

6. Donald Parham had a strong camp

Parham was a player that grew during the end of last season and continued it during training camp. He has made big-time plays and has developed his connection with Herbert.

"He's become right the route-runner," explained Herbert. "He's done such a great job of stepping up and being able to run so many different routes. He's not limited to tight end routes, sometimes we put him on the outside. He's about to break contained leverage. He's done a great job. As gifted as he is, we need to take advantage of that."

He had a 25-yard catch and run last weekend against the LA Rams and even caught a pass and took five defenders for a ride. Parham and Jared Cook will be the top two tight ends for the offense that could be lethal in the red zone in a two-tight end formation.

7. Middle linebacker trio looking strong

Coming into training camp, Kenneth Murray, Drue Tranquill, and Kyzir White had coaches excited about the middle of their defense. They haven't disappointed. All three players have a role on this defense and have had strong camps.

Murray will be the downfield linebacker that will allow his instincts to take over, especially to make plays, whether on a running back or quarterback.

Tranquill can blitz the quarterback, cover a tight end, or a running back. He is a former safety and has the skills to bring a lot to the linebacking core.

White has had a strong camp. He has been knocking down passes, blitzing the quarterback, and even sniffing out screen passes.

8. Kicking situation

The kicking battle seemed to be turning towards Tristan Vizcaino, but he went 3/7 on Thursday morning while Michael Badgley went 5/6. It seems like this kicking situation will come down to the last two preseason games.

This is only the beginning of the kicking battle, so this weekend's game against the 49ers can be another stepping stone for the team to find their kicker.

9. Opposite Bosa

A big battle taking place is Uchenna Nwosu against Kyler Fackrell for that edge rusher spot opposite Joey Bosa. Both players have received a lot of reps at the position.

Each day one player has a better day than the other. Nwosu has athleticism that helps him get past certain tackles. Fackrell is a veteran pass rusher, who has had a 10.5 sack season before, so each of them does something unique.

Expect both to suit up on Sunday and continue the battle.

10. Receiver competition

It seems like there will be a healthy rotation at receiver behind Allen and Williams. As of right now, Josh Palmer appears to be the third receiver with Tyron Johnson on his heels.

"Josh is doing a very good job, with as young as he is and how he's able to run routes," said Allen about Palmer. "He's aggressive, he's friendly with the quarterbacks, and he's precise. That's a good thing from a rookie."

Staley and Lombardi seem to be rotating players to take advantage of mismatches, but it looks like Palmer and Johnson have separated themselves from the rest of the receivers with Jalen Guyton behind them.

Herbert has a solid relationship with each receiver, so he feels comfortable throwing to each of them.