We are coming up on two weeks completed of the 2022 Los Angeles Chargers training camp. To this point, it has been a great camp with some great performances from star players. Training camp is all about unity, consistency, and trying to find the missing pieces to make that championship run. This can be a player that we expect to make that next big leap or someone that completely comes out of nowhere. There has definitely been a mix of both of those this camp.
The Chargers are on the cusp of contending and are continually included in preseason playoff/Super Bowl predictions. There have been multiple players that have had great training camps that will be key to their Super Bowl aspirations. I will highlight the four individuals that I believe have been winning training camp and have done the most to help their individual stock heading into the season.
Winner – Zion Johnson
When Brandon Staley came into coach last season, it was apparent that he wanted to become a “trenches team” as he continually stated. In the past two drafts they have shown exactly that. Selecting All-Pro tackle Rashawn Slater out of Northwestern last season, and opting for standout Boston College guard, Zion Johnson in the 2022 draft.
Johnson has immediately made his presence felt at training camp. Many players have highlighted his steadiness, maturity, and consistency. There were so many reasons to love this pick originally because he was viewed as safe as you are going to get at their selection. In all the clips that I have seen of training camp, Zion has looked strong and consistently wins his battles. The start to his first training camp has been excellent and I believe is an indication of things to come with him.
You should never expect a strong and instant impact from rookie offensive linemen, but it seems like the Chargers will have that for the second consecutive season.
Winner – Bryce Callahan
I loved the free agent pickup of veteran nickel corner Bryce Callahan. For the contract they got him at, it was a very low risk, high reward potential pick up. With the signing of star corner J.C. Jackson, it was apparent that the two starting corner spots would go to Jackson and Asante Samuel Jr. The third spot was really up for grabs with an expected competition between Callahan and Michael Davis. The competition has not been what I expected with Callahan seemingly winning the spot very quickly. Davis has been playing primarily with the second team while Callahan has been getting the bulk of the first team reps.
Callahan has been lining up primarily in the slot during camp, which is where he considers home. He has consistently been breaking passes up over the middle and battling with the top playmakers on the team at the same time. The biggest factor for Callahan has always been his health and ability to stay on the field. At this point in training camp, his health has been great and we are able to see the talent and ability that he has. I consider this a huge win for the secondary as a whole, having a player of his caliber as the third corner gives the defense a ton of flexibility.
Winner – DeAndre Carter
I really wanted to write about Josh Palmer here, who has also had a fantastic camp. However, I pivoted towards DeAndre Carter because he has been a bigger surprise to me, and is making plays all over the field. Everyone was aware of Carter’s abilities as a return man, and to some extent what he could potentially do as a gadget player on offense. At least to this point of training camp, he is showing so much more as a receiver than I was anticipating. Of course, his main value will be as an elite return specialist, but what he can provide as a receiver on offense, opens up limitless possibilities for the offense as the Chargers can truly go five deep this year.
Staley has stated on multiple occasions that Carter is not just a return man or even a gadget player for the offense, but he has legitimate ability as an overall receiver. Just on Sunday in the intrasquad scrimmage, he made several plays for both the first and second teams. He had one of the better plays of the day, catching a 35-yard laser from Justin Herbert to set the offense up at the 1-yard line.
He has quickly and surprisingly built quick chemistry with Herbert. Not many people have helped their stock more than Carter this training camp. He went from what I assumed would be the fifth receiver on the team, to convincingly outplaying Jalen Guyton to this point. While I believe Palmer will end up being the third receiver for the offense, I won’t be surprised to see Carter on the field just as much as him. That is how impressive he has been during camp at this point.
Winner – The Entire Defensive Line
This is cheating a bit and going against what I originally said, but I couldn’t choose 1 individual, I had to highlight the entire defensive line to this point. Last season, the Chargers in many different metrics were among the worst in the entire NFL. Having that bad of a run defense wasted so many potential opportunities to get Herbert the ball back, and ultimately cost them the last game of the season because of it. The Chargers revamped the unit and will have three new starters (in the nickel front) alongside star pass rusher Joey Bosa. Khalil Mack, Sebastian Joseph-Day, and Austin Johnson will greatly aid their quest to solve the run defense. Add in some development from Breiden Fehoko and rookie Otito Ogbonnia and the Chargers should be significantly stouter up the middle.
It is difficult to consider Mack a “winner” due to the fact that he has a defensive player of the year award to his name and a ton of success during his career. However, I have been shocked at how explosive, fast, and flat-out dominant he has looked. He will change this defensive line with his ability to another game wrecker to the front. Bosa just stated on Sunday that this is the best first two weeks of training camp of his career. With Mack rushing from the opposite side of him, Bosa should see the smallest amount of double teams of his career. I am expecting Bosa to have the best season of his career.
The Chargers have so much talent on this team at significant positions. The more they are able to develop the depth of the roster, the better off they will be at the end of the season. There are multiple other players that I did consider including here, which is a very good thing. The players that I have highlighted have significantly raised their stock during training camp, and I am very excited to see how much higher they can go.
Wide Receiver DeAndre Carter hauls in a pass in the Chargers’ first scrimmage. (Via Mike Nowak)