With the Chargers training camp coming up, let’s review what we should be looking for from July 30th until the second preseason game on August 19th.
For the first time since 2012, the Chargers will be holding a joint practice with another team before clashing in a preseason game in San Diego. The team coming to town is the Arizona Cardinals, who are coming off of an NFC Championship loss to the Carolina Panthers. The Cardinals boast a fierce offense featuring a dynamic wide receiver corps and a young breakout running back, not to mention quarterback Carson Palmer.
Training camp will be crucial this year. Many positions will begin to solidify and battles will intensify. A young secondary will need to begin to gel so they can make the leap to be as good as they need to be to compete for an AFC West title .
Against the Titans we will likely only see the Chargers’ starters for one drive. Seeing defensive end Joey Bosa play at the NFL level for the first time will be huge this game, as we will see how he holds up against the power and speed of NFL offensive linemen. Seeing whether the coaches want Casey Hayward or Brandon Flowers be on the outside with Verrett is huge. With the deeply talented pool of wide receivers the Chargers are facing in 2016, it is important to see who will be covering every team’s No. 1 on game day. If the incumbent No. 2 corner doesn’t perform, we could very well see some moving around before the big week against the Cardinals.
On August 19th, the Chargers and Cardinals will face off, but before that they will practice against each other leading up to it. These practices are going to be a huge test for the Chargers.
On the offense it will be crucial to see how Keenan Allen, Travis Benjamin and the other receivers match up against Patrick Peterson, Tyrann Mathieu and the rest of the Cardinals’ secondary. This is a chance for the Chargers to test their might against a very good secondary that constantly reels in interceptions. Melvin Gordon and the O-line will meet Robert Nkemdiche, Chandler Jones and Calais Campbell and test a new running game under OC Ken Whisenhunt. These will be good reps for the young running back to test different defenders than his own.
The defense has its plate full during this week, going against a veteran QB in Palmer with weapons Larry Fitzgerald, John Brown, Michael Floyd and David Johnson. Last preseason, Melvin Ingram brought the heat against the Cardinals and made his presence felt. It will be huge to see how far the front seven has come with the additions of Brandon Mebane and Bosa. They will have to be able to put enough pressure on Palmer to stop him from making big plays in the passing game.
Linebackers Denzel Perryman and Manti Te’o will have to be vigil of Johnson in both the passing and running game, as the second-year running back has established himself as a true threat in the Cardinals’ offense. Stopping him will be a sign that the Chargers have addressed their run defense problem, which will be a good sign for a tough-looking 2016 schedule that features an array of talented running backs. In terms of their wide receivers: Brown has incredible speed, Floyd is a big target and Fitzgerald is possibly a future Hall of Famer. These three will test the secondary more than any team in the preseason.
It will test the safeties’ ability to play the deep ball and cover the inside. Jahleel Addae and Dwight Lowery will have a chance to set the tone for the season with a strong performance tackling and covering against this receiving corps. These are receivers that can make you pay for your mistakes with a big play, and the slot corner will be given a stiff challenge whether it is Flowers or Hayward manning that position. The corners will be tested this game and Verrett will need help containing everything. These are invaluable reps for the entire defense going into a season where the Chargers are looking to bounce back from a 4-12 season.
The Chargers made a big choice to host a joint practice, and it is a very useful experience after spending months with only your own players. That week will answer many questions about the Chargers’ starters and set the foundation for the next game against the Vikings, where the starters will see the most playing time. These are just a handful of things to look out for in the first few weeks of training camp.