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What We Learned From the 1st Week of Chargers Camp

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The first week of Chargers Training Camp is in the books.

The Bolts held three open non-padded practices (plus a closed walk-through) and are off Sunday.

The team will get back to work Monday as they ramp up the second week of practice with pads.

Here are five takeaways from the first week of camp:

1. Herbert opens on fire

Justin Herbert had quite the week.

The Chargers franchise quarterback signed a multi-year contract extension that will keep here in powder blue for years to come.

"I've never wanted to be anywhere else. This is where I've wanted to be for, shoot, as long as I've been born and playing football. It's a dream come true," Herbert said.

With his off-field business handled, Herbert then flourished on the field in Kellen Moore's new offense.

Herbert said Wednesday that his main goal this season is to get the ball downfield to the Bolts playmakers, something he's done early and often in camp.

Chargers Head Coach Brandon Staley said he's seen his quarterback thrive in all facets so far in camp.

"I can't think of someone I would rather play fast and free than him because the quarterback has so much pressure on him. There's so much day to day and game to game, season to season," Staley said. "The fact that he feels that way, that's exciting for me. I think that shows his experience.

"It shows what he's putting into his game and the fact that he feels that confidence, not only in himself, but his teammates and his coaches, that's what you're looking for," Staley added. "He's improving every time he goes out. I told you guys at the first press conference when he signed the contract, that's his secret is just being able to fiercely work at his game. He's improved so much as a player. As long as he can continue to play fast and free, it's going to be good for us."

2. Both sides are shining

Herbert's deep connections with Keenan Allen, Mike Williams and others are drawing headlines so far.

But the defense has made its fair share of plays, too.

Raheem Layne and Asante Samuel, Jr., have tallied interceptions, with the latter returning his pick for a score on Saturday.

Derwin James, Jr., also found the end zone on a fumble that was forced by Khalil Mack.

And those are just the splash plays.

It seems as there's a tightly contested battle between the offensive and defensive sides of the ball — or between certain position groups — on every single play at camp.

Staley's hope is that competition creates a culture that brings out the best in the Bolts roster.

"I think that there has been really good competition on both sides of the ball," Staley said. "I think you're seeing really good effort and energy. I think that the execution has been really good.

"What it has forced both sides of the ball to do is make plays. Both sides have been able to consistently make plays in all three days," Staley added. "I've been pleased, for sure."

3. J.C. Jackson continues to grind

J.C. Jackson's presence on-field presence on day 1 provided a boost of energy on Day 1 to the entire roster.

Both teammates and coaches raved about Jackson's work ethic and perseverance in rehabbing from a serious knee injury to be able to be ready for camp.

Staley said Satuday that he's been involved in team drills but that there is still a progression plan for the Pro Bowler. 

"He got a little bit more work than he did the first couple of days," Staley said. "As long as he keeps progressing, then that's going to be the plan.

"[Director of Player Health, Wellness and Performance] Marco Zucconi and [Head Athletic Trainer] Sal [Lopez] are doing a really good job working him back into practice," Staley added. "He has looked strong and healthy. He's been on top of his assignments. We're a much better team with him out there."

If healthy, Jackson is expected to line up at outside cornerback alongside Michael Davis, with Ja'Sir Taylor and Samuel both being able to play in the slot.

Check out the best photos from the third day of Training Camp 2023 at the Jack Hammett Sports Complex in Costa Mesa!

4. High expectations for Bosa & Mack

We'll get a better evaluation of the trenches next week once the pads come up.

That also means a closer look at Bosa and Khalil Mack, a tandem the Bolts hope to rely heavily on in 2023.

Bosa said this week that he and Mack are closer than ever and ready to be one of the league's top duos in Week 1.

"I'm probably as close with him as anybody I've ever played with. He's like a big brother, in a way," Bosa said. "Having a guy that's an elite player kind of complements me differently. We obviously have our different styles, but just as a friend and as a person, I'm really happy to have him on the team.

"I've said that a bunch of times already, but we all know the player that he can be and the player he is. After dealing with his foot surgery last year, he's coming out flying, feeling great," Bosa added. "We both have put some weight on, so we're both feeling good. I think, just as camp goes on, the chemistry will grow stronger and stronger. By the first week, I think we'll be out there to dominate again."

Bosa noted that he's planning to play around 265 pounds this year, an uptick in what he played at in recent seasons.

Staley said he expects Bosa to thrive at that stature ... and with Mack on the other side.

"For him, as he told you, that's where he's most comfortable," Staley said. "You have to be able to establish power as a rusher, that's what's going to make you really, really dangerous.

"He has some of the best hands in the NFL, which is kind of what he's famous for, but to set those hands up, you have to really establish power," Staley added. "It's going to help you in the run game and in the pass game. He's feeling as good as he ever has."

5. Early eye on special teams

The kicking battle between Dustin Hopkins and Cameron Dicker will likely stretch well into August.

"Long way to go. There's no pressure, there's nobody here, so we don't know much right now," Staley said.

And while decisions don't need to be made now, both players did get a chance to kick in the first week of camp.

Dicker made seven of his eight tries while Hopkins missed twice on eight attempts. Both players had a long of 47 yards.

In other facets of special teams, punter JK Scott looked solid in practice Saturday as he lofted punts to returners Derius Davis and Darrius Shepherd.

Special teams will be a key aspect in some players making the roster, and expect that phase to get even more work once the pads come on soon.

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