The Chargers aim to turn their biggest weakness into a strength.

Five core members Charging deviceThe 2021 minor has missed 15 games with injury. Each was absent for at least two weeks.

The top three understudies have missed 29 games due to injury.

All of these faulty body parts added up to some serious wobbly moments as the Chargers’ defenses collapsed too often during the fight. Season 9-8 that died for a short while playoffs.

On Saturday, the Chargers practiced with 16 defensemen, not counting safety at the Pro Bowl. Derwin James Jr.who stays on the sidelines while negotiations continue about a possible extension of the contract.

The Chargers defense overhaul during the off-season included an increase in quality and depth. In the back they signed quarterback JC Jackson after his first Pro Bowl pick and veteran Bryce Callahan, who is number one in the slot corner. They also developed JT Woods, Ja’Ser Taylor & Dean Leonard.

Inflow increased Michael Daviswho has started in 49 games over the past four seasons and finished fourth in defense depth.

It also increased competition. Defensive coordinator Renaldo Hill said the defenders made the first four days of training camp “urgent”.

If any of the Chargers’ defensemen felt too comfortable in their roles prior to this season, Hill suggested the opportunity was no longer there.

“Every rep counts,” he said. “Maybe in the past they could look and say, ‘Well, I don’t have this guy behind me.’ I can fix it. But this representative can be taken away if you take your time and keep repeating the same mistake.”

Working against a Pro Bowl quarterback Justin HerbertThe defense has so far won most of the team runs.

Reserve Kemon Hall intercepted Chase Daniel on Saturday in practice, in which Davis also interrupted passes (on a 50/50 ball meant for Jalen Guyton) and Asante Samuel Jr. (on the inside screen to Mike Williams).

“Definitely pleased with the progress,” Hill said.

Chargers coaches expect that with so many defensemen in camp, the competition will only intensify as the roster gets sorted out.

“It will be difficult for these representatives to distribute themselves,” Hill said. “These guys know that when they’re there, that reputation matters.”

Johnson adapts

The Chargers will not train on Sunday, but will return on Monday morning for their first training session in running shoes.

This will be the first opportunity for coaches to take a closer look at the first round picks. Zion Johnsonwho was chosen as the team’s starting right-back.

Rushon Slater, who entered the Pro Bowl as a rookie left tackle in 2021, praised Johnson’s confidence and his “calm energy”. He said they were talking about moving to the NFL.

“I told him, ‘The ball is the ball,'” Slater said. “At this level, everything moves a little faster. The guys have different talents, a little faster and stuff like that. After all, it’s like college. Just stay calm, trust your technique and trust what you have. He’ll be fine.”

The competition for the starting spot between Storm Norton and Trey Pipkins III will also intensify on Monday.

As well as the battle for number 1. 2 running back task.

“Until they put on the pads, I don’t think you can evaluate something on the back,” coach Brandon Staley said. “We’re going to give them every opportunity to prove themselves. That’s what this training camp for this position will be about.”

Running back spots behind the starter Austin Ekeler will also be partly determined by the contribution of special teams. This includes quarterback where Gabe Nabers and rookie Zander Horvath compete.

Poppy influence

Slater called what he saw from veteran pass rusher Khalil Mak already

“Now we hardly rush without pads, and he already comes up with a couple of variations of some techniques that I have never seen before,” Slater said. “He’s very smart. He’s very quick-witted. He’s also very strong.”

The Chargers traded for Mack in March. Slater said fighting Mack could only strengthen his game.

“I guess it just goes to show that I thought I saw it all last year,” Slater said. “But no, I still have a lot to learn and I’m going to get a lot better going against him.”

Practical Observations

  • Linebacker Drew Tranquill and tight end Donald Parham Jr. did not train on Saturday due to unknown injuries. Staley is expected to provide an update on both players on Monday.
  • Without James, Tranquill and veteran Kyle Van Noy called for defense in the crowd.