Everyone thinks that their team looks good in the off-season with newcomers, and untapped potential just waiting to be harnessed. So maybe they are minicamp myths, but the Chargers seem to have an unfamiliar excitement surrounding them this off-season. Heading into training camps there are some big question marks and some fierce position battles getting ready to take place, so these are some of the things to look forward to.
How Will Travis Benjamin fit into the Offense?
With Malcolm Floyd retiring and the Chargers being lethargic offensively in 2015, they went out and landed one of the top wide receivers available in Travis Benjamin. Coming off a career year, Benjamin will have to find his place on an offense with many mouths to feed, but with his speed, and getting $13 million guaranteed dollars, he will find the field.
Benjamin ran a 4.36 second 40 yard dash coming out of college and was tied for fourth in the league with 6 receptions of 40+ yards last season. The Bolts need his speed to take the top off of the defense and I can only imagine all of the different ways coach Ken Whisenhunt is going to implement his new weapon.
He also took a punt back for touchdown last season, so you will definitely see him fielding punts out at Chargers park considering they were, by far, the worst team in the NFL with 84 yards for the whole year.
A New Energy on Defense
If there is one thing that the Chargers hope to sustain going into training camps, besides health, is the newly found swagger of the defense. You have heard many times already this year that they want the big plays, even in practice, to be celebrated more than years passed, and so far they have been doing just that.
“When they do make a play, get excited, be big” defensive coordinator John Pagano said in an interview for Chargers.com. “Its about each teammate, when they do make that play and celebrating as one and as a unit, and that’s been positive, and that’s been good to, you know, be able to see that, ‘cause its something that we’ve emphasized in the off-season not only about creating turnovers, but we gotta to make sure it carries over to the regular season”.
This is good news for Chargers fans attending the 11 days of practices open to the public during training camps, because the competition is a little higher with player trying especially hard to make some big plays and get noticed. The Chargers also have a joint practice with the Cardinals that is open to the public on August 16th, leading up to their preseason game. Having a high energy team like this in town will undoubtedly raise the stakes on the practice field, with all of this celebrating I wouldn’t be surprised if things got chippy.
The Fight for a Roster Spot
Over the years the Chargers have been known for finding the best undrafted free agents, which has led to an influx of yearly candidates who target San Diego specifically because they have kept so many on the roster.
Last season San Diego had as many as 16 undrafted free agents on their 53 man roster including veterans starters Antonio Gates, Malcolm Floyd and Jahleel Addae.
Also just because you’re drafted doesn’t make you safe. Last year they only had five draft picks and signed them all, but in 2014 they had no problem cutting their 6th and 7th round picks to make room for undrafted free agents Dontrelle Inman and Brandon Oliver. So later round picks Donovan Clark and Derek Watt will have to be on alert.
One position battle that is intriguing is 6th found pick fullback Derek Watt and undrafted rookie RB/FB Chris Swain out of Navy. Derek Watt, JJ Watt’s younger brother, who was Melvin Gordon’s fullback while at Wisconsin, isn’t a huge power blocker but is athletic enough to find someone to block in space. He needs to gain some weight to compete, but also has receiving skills and can play on special teams.
Swain had many more carries while at Navy because he played running back, and he is also the bigger of the two so he would give the Chargers a hard-nosed back that they have lacked in short yardage situations. Swain only had 2 catches in his career at Navy and didn’t play fullback, so it will be an uphill battle for him but he is a great story, and you can’t help but root for one of our countries heroes.
Another guy to look out for is former University of Houston safety Adrian McDonald. Being so small (5’9”, 190lbs) he went undrafted, but his production spoke for itself with 17 career interceptions, 8 forced fumbles, and 299 tackles. He will have to make some plays on special teams to have a shot to make the team, and he will have to beat out former CFL linebacker Dexter McCoil who is trying to make the squad as a hybrid safety/linebacker.
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