Buy Or Sell Chargers Training Camp Hype
The Los Angeles Chargers have wrapped up training camp after their joint practices with the Dallas Cowboys last week. On Sunday they played their second preseason game and the focus has gradually started to shift from roster construction to their preparations for the start of the 2022 regular season. A lot of the key events that happen throughout the season will be determined somewhat by what transpired throughout the preseason and training camp. Practice hype happens every single year.
Some of it becomes legitimate throughout the course of the 18-week season, some of it fizzles out before the season even starts. At this time last year, we were hearing borderline tall tales of how smooth and dominant a certain Chargers first-round pick was performing in every practice. Rashawn Slater of course backed up that hype en route to an All-Pro, Pro Bowl season that recently earned him an appearance in the NFL’s annual Top 100 list. We were also hearing of the electric connection between Justin Herbert and Tyron Johnson. The latter of which was ultimately cut before the season, claimed by the Jaguars, cut again, and then finished the season with the Raiders. That being said, this article will set out to Buy Or Sell some of the hype coming out of the 2022 edition of Chargers training camp hype.
One of the storylines at the forefront of Chargers training camp has been the sheer presence and ability that Khalil Mack will be bringing to Brandon Staley’s defense. I wrote about some possible outcomes for Mack’s 2022 season earlier in the summer, but the hype train has absolutely exploded out of the station. Especially after a video of Mack bull-rushing the aforementioned All-Pro left tackle went viral.
Whether it be Staley, Slater, or Joey Bosa, it seems like all anyone can talk about is what Mack has brought, and will bring, to the table. I think the biggest concern about Mack from a national perspective has been his health, and Bosa did acknowledge the other day that Mack isn’t fully back at 100% just yet. That being said, Mack has looked every bit as explosive and dominant as he once was in one on one drills, team sessions, and their first scrimmage last week. He recently told Peter King that he was trying to be better than the classic version of himself. While that seems a tad unrealistic to me, I don’t see any reason why he can’t return to his 2020 form when he totaled 59 pressures, 10 sacks, 33 run stops, and was in the top 10 in pass rush win rate. Those numbers would be a huge upgrade and free up a lot of one on ones for both him and Bosa, which should be a scary thought. I’m buying the hype here.
Losing Ground To The Shiny New Toy
There are a lot of thoughts about Jalen Guyton being a bad player on social media and I frankly disagree with those sentiments. By no means do I think he is a great player, but he has excelled in his own role on this team and has made some very crucial plays for this team over the last two seasons. He’s worked hard to earn Herbert’s trust and has improved every year that he’s been in Los Angeles.
That being said, many of us figured that he would enter training camp in a position battle for the third wide receiver spot with Josh Palmer. However, it became evident almost immediately that Palmer had a stranglehold on that position. As such, Guyton seems to be relegated to fighting for the fourth spot with the new addition of DeAndre Carter. The former Washington Commander has been making waves ever since he arrived, and arguably is the biggest winner of training camp.
Many fans and analysts who cover the team would argue that Carter has the early lead for this battle, and he has the production to back that up as he consistently racked up touchdown after touchdown.
While Carter is playing very well as a receiver, it’s important to note that the two players are very different. Carter has shown flashes of being able to threaten in the deep parts of the field, but he’s primarily a short area option out of the slot. Guyton is still the team’s only true legitimate deep speed threat, primarily working as the backside (aka Z) receiver. The vertical skillset that he brings to the table is still unique within the wide receiver room, and it’s what has helped him earn the trust of Herbert over the last two seasons.
Rookie cornerback Deane Leonard talked a few weeks ago about this on the Guilty As Charged Podcast (selfish plug) and mentioned that Guyton’s team-leading speed makes him out to be a tough cover on every single rep. Guyton has been getting open vertically at a high rate in practices and games, but he has been the victim of some poor quarterback play by Chase Daniel and Easton Stick. When he’s gotten reps with Herbert, he’s been much more productive. He’s still going to have a very important role on this team. I am going with a hard sell on this one.
Leading Bounce Back Candidate
After being Casey Hayward’s understudy for quite some time, the Chargers took a relatively large leap of faith in Michael Davis in 2021 and signed him to a sizable three-year extension. He was going to serve as the team’s top corner under the tutelage of Staley, Renaldo Hill, and Derrick Ansley. Ultimately he struggled in that role. He dealt with some injuries and recently opened up about some off-the-field issues that impacted his play as well.
The Chargers went into the offseason with a clear mission to improve the defense, and that included the signings of J.C. Jackson and Bryce Callahan this offseason. They also drafted two late-round cornerbacks in Ja’Sir Taylor and Leonard, the year after drafting Asante Samuel Jr. in the second round. The cornerback room has gone through a drastic makeover and that left many (myself included) thinking that Davis would be the odd man out, and eventually be a likely cap casualty next offseason.
However, the beauty of training camp is that players can rewrite their narratives – if they take advantage of their opportunities. At the start of camp, several of the Chargers’ defensive backs were making all these big plays in practice. It felt like there were 30-something interceptions in that first weekend of practices based on the reporting that was happening. All was quiet on the Davis front though. It’s hard to say if he was playing badly but he was working with the second team defense and wasn’t really standing out either.
That all changed a few weeks ago, really after the scrimmage when he had an interception and an additional pass break-up. Since that point, the rotation between him and Samuel has swung almost completely in his favor and he has played really well. My favorite thing about the change is that they’ve experimented with him in the slot (AKA their STAR role) and he has really flashed with some physicality. Jackson will serve as the team’s lead corner, and Callahan has a clearly defined role as the starting nickel back, but I am cautiously buying the bounceback hype surrounding Davis.
Living Up To His Draft Status
The Chargers’ search for a true complementary running back to Austin Ekeler has been discussed at nauseam by now. I think most people were surprised when Isaiah Spiller ultimately was the only new body they added into that room. They’ve been deliberate with their plan to ease Spiller into the rotation, which again probably surprises people outside of the building. Spiller has been good in the limited action he’s gotten, especially as a pass catcher out of the backfield.
However, this plan left a significant cloud over the rotation with only Joshua Kelley and Larry Rountree vying for that second spot. Both of those players really struggled in 2021 but the Chargers again expressed some faith in their ability to develop players, and so far it seems to be paying off, at least for Kelley. He flashed some very high upside early on as a rookie in 2020 before being bitten by a fumbling bug which clearly affected his confidence as a runner.
He’s spoken about how beneficial his offseason weight training has been to who he is currently as a player. He added around 10 pounds of muscle and really focused on his diet. It’s so difficult to tell where a running back truly is in training camp and in preseason games but there is no doubt that Kelley is running with more confidence and looks more explosive.
I’m a little skeptical of Kelley being able to maintain his success rate throughout the whole season but the Chargers don’t really have any other option. Spiller’s injury certainly puts him behind the eight ball and Rountree frankly has not shown enough to even merit a roster spot. So long story short: I am buying the opportunity that Kelley is going to have, but need to see him perform well in a real game first before I really buy into him being the guy.
Buy Or Sell Chargers Training Camp Hype – Via Ty Nowell