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Camp Preview: How Does the TE Group Look in Bolts New Offense?

TE CP

Chargers Training Camp is on the horizon. The Bolts will host 10 open practices as they welcome fans back to Jack Hammett Sports Complex in Costa Mesa.

The Bolts are looking for a repeat appearance in the postseason as they enter Year 3 under Chargers Head Coach Brandon Staley, and have a roster filled with talent and work ethic.

Chargers.com will take a look at each position group leading up to training camp. The tight ends are up next.

Who's on the roster?

Gerald Everett (7th NFL season; 2nd with Chargers), Donald Parham, Jr. (4;4), Tre' McKitty (3;3), Hunter Kampmoyer (3;3), Stone Smartt (2;2) and Michael Ezeike (1;1).

Take a look back at the Chargers Mini-Camp 2023 in monochrome

Camp outlook

Gerald Everett joined the Chargers last offseason coming off the best year of his career — and promptly set career highs in catches and yards with the Bolts in 2022.

The versatile tight end's big year was even more impactful by the injury-plagued year that saw many offensive pieces miss time.

Everett played in 16 games and set career bests in receptions (58) and receiving yards (555) while tying his career high with four scores during the regular season. He capped off the season by hauling in six passes for 109 yards and a touchdown in the AFC Super Wild Card game.

"I think that with Gerald Everett, we know that what we're getting," Staley said about Everett following the draft. "That guy was a weapon for us. That was a tremendous signing for us last year.

"As you saw in the playoff game, that guy may have been one of the best players on the field. I thought that he had his best season as a pro for us last year," Staley added.

Behind Everett lies some intriguing names that have a chance to step up as well.

Donald Parham, Jr., returns to the Bolts after a frustrating season in 2022 where he played in just six games due to injuries. But the 6-foot-8 tight end made his presence felt during the offseason program and could be a big part of the tight group in both the passing and run game.

And Tre' McKitty, a 2021 third-round pick, looks for a bounce back season in 2023.

McKitty had an up and down second season in the NFL, but according to tight ends coach Kevin Koger, the tight end has attacked the offseason with the right mindset.

"He had a decent rookie year and the you have high expectations for Year 2 and it didn't materialize," Koger said about McKitty. "It's a humbling game but he's attacked this offseason the right way.

"His value lies in the run game because he's bigger and stronger and a guy that's able to move people at the point of attack. His biggest thing is doing those things on a consistent basis," Koger added. "He knows that and works at them on a consistent basis. It's a big year for him but he's ready for it. I have no doubt he'll rise to the occasion."

The tight end room is rounded out by Hunter Kampmoyer, Stone Smartt and undrafted free agent signing Michael Ezeike out of UCLA.

Kampmoyer enters his third season with the Bolts after spending last season on the practice squad, while Smartt saw action in seven games as a rookie.

Quick quote

"I think the tight end room is a very rare room and it's a very important room for an offense because they're part of every aspect of the game. The run game, they're right in there with the O-Line in the run-game component and the techniques. They're in the pass game, obviously, with the QBs, at times they're a protector, even in the play-action game and what not. Those guys have to be able to do a lot of different things." — Chargers Offensive Coordinator Kellen Moore on the importance of the tight end position.

TE Camp preview

Player to watch: Donald Parham, Jr.

At 6-foot-8, it's hard to find a tight end with the stature of Parham — which is one of the reasons he holds a lot of value in the tight end room that has different types of skillsets.

Parham's action was limited last season, but he looked good during 7-on-7 drills this spring, using his frame to haul in passes across the middle and down the sideline.

His presence was missed last season, especially inside the 20-yard line where he has become a big red-zone presence for the team throughout his first three seasons with the Bolts. Parham has totaled seven receiving touchdowns with five coming inside the 20-yard line.

But it was also missed in protection, as Parham has shown just how important he is when it comes to blocking on offense.

In an offense that has a multitude of options, Parham often goes under the radar.

"He's another weapon. He moves so well for his height," quarterback Justin Herbert said about Parham. "He's been able to make plays over the past couple of years.

"It's always a bonus for your team when he's out on the field," Herbert added. "His catch radius is huge. He's done a great job of being a leader for that tight end room. It's been really good to see so far."

The Bolts offense has a lot of weapons that will grab the headlines, but Parham's value could be on display in Moore's offense when he's on the field.

Key question: Can Everett have an even bigger year with Moore?

Everett has one-upped himself the last two seasons and built an instant connection with Herbert from the moment he arrived with the Chargers.

But can he go to another level in Moore's offense?

Moore's offenses during his previous tenure in Dallas showcased tight ends becoming an integral part of the offense in the pass game.

With Everett's athleticism and run after catch ability, there is a chance his traits could be on full display in 2023 under Moore.

"Gerald has done a tremendous job," Moore said back in May. "He's been in this league for a number of years. From afar, I've always been impressed with his production and versatility at the tight end position."

Everett Cover

According to TruMedia, 326 of his 555 yards last season came after the catch — the eighth-most among all tight ends.

Everett is hard to bring down in space and can often create a mismatch regardless of who is covering him. His unique skillset and traits is something that makes him one of the most dangerous tight ends in the NFL.

"He's special with the ball in his hands and we're always trying to find more ways to get him the ball in space," Koger said. "Gerald is almost 250 pounds so he's not the easiest person to tackle. He may not be 6-foot-6 but he's hard to bring down for a tight end.

"We just want him to get the ball in space and do what makes him special," Koger added.

With a plethora of offensive weapons across the board, Everett could become even more dangerous in Moore's offense.

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