3 most interesting storylines heading into Chargers training camp

Los Angeles Chargers OTA Offseason Workout
Los Angeles Chargers OTA Offseason Workout / Harry How/GettyImages

The 2024 NFL offseason for the L.A. Chargers brought monumental change to a franchise that desperately needed it and to a fan-base that had suffered long enough. What began with the heralded arrival of Jim Harbaugh, fresh off a NCAA National Championship with the Michigan Wolverines, ended with a strong draft and total buy-in by the team during offseason workouts and mini-camp. As the Chargers move into their new headquarters and prepare for training camp in 22 days, hope and expectations are high in Southern California. Will the Chargers live up to that hope? We will soon find out! Here are the most interesting stories heading into Chargers Training Camp 2024.

Most interesting storylines heading into Chargers training camp:

1. Will the WR1 please stand up?

There is no position battle more pressing and hardest to predict than the battle to see who will become Justin Herbert’s number-one wide receiver. The biggest change to the team in this offseason was with this group and this group has the most questions on the team as training camp approaches.

Keenan Allen and Mike Williams both departed and left a gaping hole in the WR group that has yet to be filled. Last year’s first-round selection, Quentin Johnston amassed only 431 yards receiving and two touchdowns in his 10-start rookie year, including the now infamous fourth-down drop against the Packers that was about as open as an NFL receiver is going to be.

While it is unfair and premature to label Johnston a bust, he must prove to the team and to the city that the player that the Bolts thought they were drafting is still in there. To his credit, Jim Harbaugh seems quite high on the second-year player.

2021 third-round pick Joshua Palmer is the only other wide receiver from last year’s team on this roster and his 2023 season was only marginally better than Johnston’s. Palmer had 581 yards receiving last season and only two touchdowns to his name, but Palmer’s stats are low because of injury. In Week 8 of last season, Palmer suffered a right knee strain that would sideline him for six games. Even still, those numbers are not stellar.

Realizing the immediacy of their challenge, the Chargers signed veteran WR DJ Chark and moved up iin the second round to draft Georgia WR Ladd McConkey. Los Angeles then rounded out the room by drafting Brenden Rice, who is the son of Hall of Fame wide receiver Jerry Rice, and Michigan's Cornelius Johnson.

With an expected run-heavy offensive attack, there is less pressure on the Bolts to hit on a star wide receiver this season, but they do need a top target for Herbert. Who that receive will turn out to be is the most intriguing and vital question as the team begins training camp.

2. Will J.K. Dobbins stay healthy enough to run over teams?

The one thing that we think we know about the Chargers' offense in 2024 is that the team will want to run the ball. New offensive coordinator Greg Roman has a well-established history of running a ground-and-pound offense which is backed up by head coach Jim Harbaugh’s desire for his teams to beat their opponents up in the trenches.

The belief is that when teams know that you are going to run the ball and run it effectively, that opens the play-action pass game and makes the offense more dynamic. All is well and fine but, like with the wide receiver group, this team’s running back group has more questions than answers.

Despite a record-setting collegiate career at Ohio State, J.K. Dobbins has failed to live up to the expectations that were set on him when the Ravens drafted him in 2020. The reason? The man cannot stay off injured reserve!

After easing his way into the Ravens offense in 2020, the expectation was for Dobbins to take over in 2021. Instead, he tears his ACL in the pre-season, ending his campaign before it even began. After suffering another knee injury in 2022 that cost him considerable playing time, Dobbins tore his Achilles tendon in week one of last season. Dobbins has talent, his college career proved that much, but he has yet to prove that he can withstand the rigors of an NFL season. The Chargers may very well be the last real chance that Dobbins will have in the league.

Third-year RB Isaiah Spiller remains on the team and the Bolts brought in Gus Edwards who should provide a nice power-back option in this offense, but the real star of the show for the L.A. Chargers RB group is Dobbins. His health will go a long way toward telling the story of the team in 2024.

3. Defense wins championships (we hope)

Despite having stars such as Joey Bosa (who did miss time due to injury), Derwin James and Khalil Mack (who won AFC Defensive Player of the Month in November), at times it seemed like the Chargers' defense was trying to give games away in 2023.

All of this occurred despite Brandon Staley being perceived to be a young defensive savant among league circles. Bolts fans had to watch Justin Herbert and the offense take leads and then give those leads away repeatedly. It had to have been maddening for the even-keel Herbert and this defense was certainly painful to watch in 2023.

When Jim Harbaugh was hired to coach the team, it was expected that he would bring Michigan’s excellent defense with him in the form of defensive coordinator Jesse Minter.

That is exactly what Harbaugh did.

With the signings of Denzel Perryman and Bud Dupree to provide explosiveness off the edge and the drafting of LB Junior Colson from Michigan and DE Justin Eboigbe from Alabama, there is hope for this defense in 2024.

The secondary is still suspect, but if this unit can stay healthy and cohesive, the pass rush from the team should be fun to watch in an increasingly pass-heavy AFC West. One thing is clear: if the 2024 Chargers are going to have any shot at the playoffs, this defense must rebound from last season and do so in both an immediate and meaningful way.