The San Diego Chargers officially broke camp over the weekend, so it's time to hand out some 2016 Training Camp awards.
Joining Ricky Henne (@ChargersRHenne) and Hayley Elwood (@ChargersHElwood) with their picks are Nick Hardwick and Judson Richards, the new morning hosts on Xtra1360. In addition to their roles on “Hardwick and Richards,” which can be heard weekdays from 6-9am, the former Pro Bowl center is also the Bolts' color analyst on game broadcasts while Richards hosts the Chargers Post Game Show. You can also follow them on twitter at @Hardwina and @Judson1360
Henne: Keenan Allen -KA13 was the best player on the field for the second straight training camp, making it easy to see why the Chargers locked him up with a four-year contract extension this spring. From Philip Rivers to Head Coach Mike McCoy, the wideout received universal praise each day not only for his performance, but for his work ethic as well.
Elwood: Keenan Allen –Allen proved he hasn't missed a step since going on Reserve-Injured mid-season last year. Throughout camp, number 13 was unstoppable. His chemistry with Philip Rivers was unmatched as the QB and WR were on the same page in 7-on-7s and 11-on-11s with Allen consistently shaking defenders to make catches.
Hardwick: Keenan Allen -Keenan has been unguardable this training camp. Whether working against Pro Bowler Jason Verrett in practice or Patrick Peterson last week, he's showing that he's a true number one. He has put himself both mentally and physically in position to make his first Pro Bowl in 2016.
Richards: Keenan Allen –His route precision went viral from Friday night's game. He was the player you couldn't take your eyes off whenever the Chargers were on offense.
Henne: Manti Te'o –The linebacker said he wanted to emerge as a leader of the defense in his fourth year, and he took a major step in that direction during training camp. Teammates gravitate toward Te'o, who has the natural ability to inspire. Equally important, he made numerous plays dropping into pass coverage while showing a knack for finding the running back when the offense handed it off. It's also a pleasure to watch his growing chemistry with Denzel Perryman.
Elwood: Brandon Flowers –Throughout camp, Flowers discussed having a fresh start for the 2016 season and has done just that. Healthy and back in shape, Flowers has spent time breaking up passes and shoring up coverages in camp. His athletic pick-six in Friday's game was a huge play for number 24 as Chargers fans hope he'll continue to make plays like that in the regular season.
Hardwick: Brandon Flowers –Flowers had a comeback training camp after a lackluster performance last season. With a pick-six from a nickel blitz against the Cardinals, his confidence is welling up. It seems that he's recaptured some of the youth that he had two seasons ago. I have to believe that having a solid group of players around him in the secondary that support and push him is going to allow him to have a tremendous season.
Richards: Brandon Flowers –That was really a difficult pick-six against a quarterback that won 13 games last year in Carson Palmer. His training camp leads you to believe that he'll look more like he did in 2014 than in 2015.
Most Impressive Rookie
Henne: Drew Kaser –Hunter Henry probably performed the best of all rookies, but the most impressive in my eyes was Drew Kaser. It didn't take long for the sixth-round pick to put an end to the punting competition as the team waived Kasey Redfern before the first preseason game. Known for his booming leg, Kaser has had good hang time on his punts while showing pinpoint accuracy. He still has room for improvement, but he's been very impressive, evidenced by his performance against the Cardinals where he averaged 54.5 yards on three attempts with two landing inside the 10.
Elwood: Hunter Henry –Coming into training camp, Chargers fans knew Henry was a sure-handed tight end. Fast forward through the past couple of weeks and number 86 proved he's ready to make an immediate impact in 2016. Henry made routine circus catches throughout camp proving to be a complement to Antonio Gates.
Hardwick: Hunter Henry –This one has been obvious since day one. Henry has shown through his performances that he's going to contribute to this offense in a very meaningful way. Not only can he make plays down the field, but he has a willingness and ability to block. That combination makes him very difficult to gameplan against.
Richards: Derek Watt –It takes a special kind of dude to want to be a fullback. Derek is that guy. You can tell he loves being on the field and will do whatever it takes to get the job done.
Most Surprising Player Award
Henne: Isaiah Burse –The wide receiver had a strong offseason, but few expected him to ascend this quickly up the depth chart during training camp. In part due to Stevie Johnson's season-ending injury, as well as ailments to Javontee Herndon, Tyrell Williams and Travis Benjamin, Burse saw an uptick in playing time with the first-team offense. He made the most of those opportunities with the expected plays as well as highlight-reel receptions.
Elwood: Tyrell Williams –His 80-yard touchdown in Week 17 of the 2015 season certainly called attention to the then rookie, but training camp put the 6-4 Williams on the map. Rivers connected countless times with Williams in camp and as we inch closer to the regular season, one can hope that camaraderie will only grow stronger.
Hardwick: Tyrell Williams –Hard to say it's been a surprise, but a guy who wasn't on everyone's radar early is Tyrell Williams. Everyone knows the Chargers' own Keenan Allen was on pace to break all sorts of records last season. And folks who have been following the offseason were excited about the signing of Travis Benjamin. But, at Chargers Park, there's a quiet gut in Tyrell Williams who had an amazing training camp after finishing the 2015 season with an 80-yard touchdown against Aqib Talib and the Broncos. He's got big play ability. I'd look for him on the field whenever there's at least two receivers on the field.
Richards: D.J. Fluker –Go back and watch Melvin Gordon's 12-yard rush to the sideline against the Cardinals. Fluker was a human bowling ball as he pulled from the right guard position. The mauler was on full display.
Henne: Damion Square –The 6-2, 293-pound defensive tackle got his shot last year after being promoted from the practice squad midway through the season. Square is making his case to be part of the 53-man roster to start the year, seeing significant time in practice and games due to injuries along the defensive front. That was especially true against the Tennessee Titans when the Bolts had only a handful of active defensive linemen at their disposal.
Elwood: Darius Philon –Philon has come a long way since returning from Reserve-Injured last December. The former sixth-round pick worked his way lining up with the ones in camp and brought the heat in team drills. He steadily showed flashes of bringing pressure, stuffing run blocks and sending rushers backwards for what would have been tackles for loss. Although he's still young, Philon has proven he can be a starter in this league.
Hardwick: Nick Dzubnar –Nick may not look physically impressive at times, but he has a knack for knowing how the game is going to flow. He has a great understanding of the playbook. That's why he's going to be trusted with being the third middle linebacker. He also has led the team in tackles the first two preseason games.
Richards: Jeff Cumberland/Donavon Clark –Both are really good football players and were having impressive camps, but are lost for the season after injuries Friday night. I feel for those guys. They worked their tails off.
The opinions, analysis and/or speculation expressed above do not represent the opinions or policies of the San Diego Chargers' front office staff, coaches or executives.