Chark vs Johnston and More Top Los Angeles Chargers Training Camp Battles

Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Los Angeles Chargers training camp kicks off in less than a month. With the top-to-bottom changes that have been made, much will need to be sorted out including several positional battles for playing time.

Let’s look at what should prove to be the best Chargers Training Camp battles to watch this summer.

Los Angeles Chargers Training Camp Battles

Safety Battle: Alohi Gilman vs Tony Jefferson

NFL: Baltimore Ravens Training Camp
Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY SportsCredit: Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports

You can chalk this one up to age versus experience. The new Chargers regime made the decision to resign Alohi Gilman after a fantastic final rookie contract season. They also brought in, veteran and formerly retired, Tony Jefferson for depth but also to add some motivation for Gilman to continue to develop.

Jefferson has far more experience playing near the line of scrimmage and in the box than Gilman. With Jesse Minter’s in-your-face style of defense, Jefferson might prove to be the type of safety he wants to roll with.

The Chargers have faith in Gilman, but he will need to prove to be able to get physical in order to increase his snap share.

#1 WR Battle: DJ Chark vs Quentin Johnston

NFL: Los Angeles Chargers-OTA
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY SportsCredit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Some have already thrown in the towel on Quentin Johnston after he failed to meet the expectations of a first-round wide receiver. Perhaps Jim Harbaugh has too. Is that the reason he brought in another 6’3″ 200+ pound pass catcher? And one that’s a proven commodity in the NFL?

Chark’s production over the last few years isn’t exciting, but Harbaugh will be much happier with a consistent option over a flashy one.

Nothing went right for the 2023 Chargers, so perhaps there is still room for Johnston to impress coaches at Chargers training camp, but he comes in needing to prove himself.

Rookie/ Sophomore Battle: Junior Colson vs Daiyan Henley

NFL: Los Angeles Chargers Minicamp
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY SportsCredit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Some have already penciled Junior Colson into the starting spot and for good reason. As a former Michigan Wolverine, Colson has intimate knowledge of Harbaugh’s defense and he is as tough as nails.

Daiyan Henley didn’t play much in his rookie season, but when he did, he acquitted himself nicely. In just 53 snaps played he racked up 16 tackles including four STOPs. In coverage, he allowed just 20 yards on seven targets.

Can Henley impress enough to earn playing time over one of Harbaugh’s favored players?

Receivers vs Rookie Receivers

Harbaugh typically keeps six receivers on his depth chart. The Los Angeles Chargers head into training camp with exactly double that. It seems that just about every non-Harbaugh pick at the position is on the chopping block. There are only 53 spots available, so this position group will see significant cutdowns as the Chargers training camp progresses. If a player doesn’t fit in with the vision, they will be sent packing. Or they could ask to be released if they don’t see themselves getting the playing time they feel they deserve.

The top two candidates for that are Derius Davis and Simi Fehoko. But it wouldn’t come as a surprise if either Josh Palmer asked to be traded or cut. The same goes for Quentin Johnston.

Cutting players on rookie contracts isn’t the most popular practice, but like I said before these roster spots are reserved for the players that fit in the new ethos. In reality, they only have to cut two, as they brought on four undrafted free agents.

But assuming that the three drafted rookie receivers and DJ Chark are safe, there will be an odd man out. Joe Hortiz and the rest of the Chargers brass aren’t afraid of breaking a few eggs to build their omelet. Expect the unexpected after the Chargers training camp.