We are entering the second week of LA Chargers training camp as Monday presented the first practice in pads for the Chargers. This first padded practice was highly anticipated as it would produce a better outlook on the new-look 2021 offensive line.
It was impossible to truly gauge the offensive line in the first week of Chargers training camp without pads. While there is still a lot of time until the season and a lot of work to do, Monday's practice was the first glimpse inside of what Charger fans can expect.
Charger fans should be extremely happy with what they saw on Monday as rookie tackle Rashawn Slater was the obvious standout of practice.
Daniel Popper of The Athletic claims that Slater went undefeated in 11-on-11s, which is massive considering who the Chargers can rush the passer with and the schemes that Brandon Staley is throwing at the offense.
Why Rashawn Slater thriving during LA Chargers training camp is such a big deal:
Some may look at all of the positive responses coming out of Monday's practice and not bat an eye. He was the 13th overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, who was expected to go much higher, after all, right?
Slater was presented as one of two franchise offensive linemen in the first round alongside Penei Sewell? He was supposed to be this good out of the gate and help give the Chargers a better offensive line, wasn't he?
While it is easy to expect a lot out of an early first-round pick, it is even easier to expect there to be some roadblocks along the way. There is no denying that Slater is going to be a good offensive lineman in the NFL. His floor is that of a quality starter.
However, it would not have been all that shocking if he struggled in year one. Not only is the leap from college to the NFL a big one, but Slater did not even play college football last season. Granted, he worked out tirelessly while not playing but we have not seen him take actual reps in over a year.
Combine that with the fact that Slater, despite his fantastic techniques, is still a bit undersized for the tackle position. There are so many built-in reasons for him to struggle in his first season in the league and it would be completely understandable.
If Monday's practice is an indication of anything then Slater is going to take those built-in reasons and demolish them. Let's not expect him to be an All-Pro or anything of that caliber this early in his career, but if he plays this season as he did on Monday then the Chargers are getting a Pro Bowl-caliber left tackle.
That is massive as the Chargers themselves were likely expecting there to be a learning curve for Slater as well. If Slater can be this version of himself all season then the conversation shifts to the Chargers not only having a better offensive line but having an offensive line that is above average.
If Corey Linsley can play like he did last season and Bryan Bulaga can stay healthy and return to his 2019 form then we suddenly go from the Chargers having an above-average offensive line to a borderline top-10 offensive line in the league.
All because Rashawn Slater blows our expectations out of the water. Nothing from LA Chargers training camp is a guarantee, but it is hard to not grin ear-to-ear after seeing how he played in his first padded practice.