Chargers Training Camp
Excitement Abounds On Offense
Optimism was in the air at Jack Hammett Sports Complex in Costa Mesa, California. The crowd erupted in cheers and applause as soon as Justin Herbert completed his first pass. It’s not unusual for that to happen. Everyone loves when the golden boy slings the ball. But this pass was nothing special. Just a short curl route on a walk-through drill without a defender and in shorts and t-shirts. What this shows, is just how amped the Chargers fan base is heading into the season. And after all that these fans have been through over the years, it’s impressive that hope springs eternal.
But there are plenty of legitimate reasons for that hope. Herbert, of course. One of the most versatile and deep receiver corps in the league. A seemingly improved defense. But what might have all you Chargers fans up in a tizzy is Kellen Moore. You want to see what Herbert and this offense can look like when targeting that receiving corps down the field.
Austin Ekeler is on the Kellen train, saying in his post-practice presser, “I just talked to (Moore) after the practice today and I was like, man, I’m really excited. We were making plays. We’re flying around. We’re having fun, you know…” “..there’s this energy feel, you know. Justin’s balling out these first couple days. I was like, man, we’re going in the right direction. I feel so good about where we’re going and Kellen coming in and just meshing it all together.”
The goal of the Chargers offense at today’s training camp was to install their 11 personnel packages. This resulted in deep bomb after deep bomb. To Mike Williams, To Keenan Allen, To Quentin Johnston, To Josh Palmer. Each made incredible catches on well-placed deep balls. One thing I can report with confidence is that Williams and Allen are still very good at catching those passes.
Another interesting wrinkle from today’s install was Mike Williams lining up in the slot. Williams lined up in the slot 93 times last season and was only targeted nine times on those routes. In 2019, Williams lined up in the slot 238 times (a career-high) and averaged 18.2 yards per catch, which was 3rd highest in the league. Moore spoke to this during his press conference, “Mike’s a premier player in this league and so people are going to have game plans and matchups associated with where he lines up and so the more you can line him up in different spots it just makes it more challenging for other teams to focus on him.”
It’s a simple concept, and it makes all the sense in the world. Adding to that, his size makes it difficult for smaller nickel corners to cover him and his athleticism makes it hard for linebackers to keep up with him.
Other Offense Notes
Josh Palmer was commonly on the first team, while Quentin Johnston repped mostly with the second team. Although Moore dismissed the distinction of a WR3 or 4. He stated that he preferred to think of the group as a rotation. Johnston followed up his impressive deep catch from Herbert with a drop of a very catchable ball from Easton Stick.
Stick and Max Duggan rotated in behind Herbert at a pretty even split. By my eye, it seemed that Stick has an edge with his arm.
Defense Gets One Back
Getting the first glimpses at the Moore offense was what everyone wanted, but the defense is the real story from the day. According to reports, the defense struggled to keep up on day one. That was not the case on day two. Several big plays were made by a variety of defensive backs in 7-on-7s and 11-on-11s.
Although the practice was pad-free, the secondary was playing very aggressively. One of the first standouts was, 2022 UDFA Raheem Layne. He made a very belligerent play on a ball. Had it been a game it would have garnered a penalty flag, but he dislodged the ball. But you gotta love seeing a guy like Layne making his case and making it with fervor. He also made a great read on a ball and picked it off. It was the first INT of camp.
Asante Samuel JR., Cam Brown, and Michael Davis all knocked the ball out of the hands of the receivers they were covering. Khalil Mack dislodged a completed pass and Derwin James scooped it and brought it to the end zone.
The combination of the deep throws and the ball-hawking made for a good show. But the defense wins the day for Chargers Training Camp Day 2.
Other Defense Notes
With Austin Johnson and Otito Ogbonnia on the physically unable to perform list, Christopher Hinton got a lot of reps with the first team. Alohi Gilmam practiced with the first team