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Chargers Camp Report: Mack, Defense Shine on Day 1


Chargers Training Camp is underway.

The Bolts opened summer practices in front of a packed house Wednesday morning at Jack Hammett Sports Complex, holding a 90-minute session without pads.

Here are three observations from the first day of camp:

1. Mack, defense off to fast start

Brandon Staley's defense came ready to play in the camp opener.

And it was a pair of newcomers who helped lead the strong performance.

Cornerback J.C. Jackson recorded a pass breakup on the very first play on team drills, drawing a large cheer from the defensive sideline.

Khalil Mack then made his presence known by getting into the backfield for what would have been a run stop near the line of scrimmage.

Mack's impact was felt early on by his teammates, and also seen by Staley.

"That player that was out there today is the player I'm used to seeing," said Staley, who was Mack's outside linebackers coach in 2018 with Chicago.

The defensive play of the day went to defensive tackle Joe Gaziano, who tipped a screen pass to himself before rumbling for a pick six.

Gaziano has played in 16 career games with the Chargers, including one start in 2021.

2. An update on James

Chargers safety Derwin James, Jr., was involved in a walk-through session Wednesday, but did not participate in practice.

"We're working through his contract situation and making sure we get that situated," Staley said. "He's out here going through the walk-throughs, but he won't be going full speed until that gets handled."

Staley later added: "Derwin is ready to go. Once the contract gets done, he'll be out there."

James is a two-time Pro Bowler and is in the final season of his rookie contract after being the 17th overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. The safety has five interceptions, 14 tackles for loss and three forced fumbles in 36 career games.

3. Early emphasis on special teams

The Chargers spent a good amount of time working on special teams Wednesday, specifically focusing on punt coverage and return.

This gave Chargers first-year Special Teams Coordinator Ryan Ficken a chance to get some early instruction to that phase.

The Bolts worked with their gunners early on, emphasizing how to get off blocks and get down the field. Later on, the focus was on the punt return and locking down the opposing team's gunners.

The Chargers have a new coordinator in Ficken, plus other new faces such as long snapper Josh Harris and punter JK Scott, who uncorked some solid punts in the drills.

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