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Chargers Camp Report: 5 Takeaways from the Halfway Point


The Chargers have a day off from training camp Monday.

When they resume practice Tuesday morning at Jack Hammett Sports Complex, they will have completed 10 practices with nine left on the docket.

Preseason games start soon, too, as the Chargers host the Rams on Saturday at 7 p.m. from SoFi Stadium. In other words, the grind of camp is moving along.

Here are five observations from the midpoint of camp:

1. Pipkins, Norton even in RT battle

The biggest position battle coming into camp was at right tackle between Storm Norton and Trey Pipkins III.

Halfway through camp, neither play has a clear advantage — and both players have looked solid. In a recent 1-on-1 drill, both Norton and Pipkins earned wins in reps against Joey Bosa.

The team has split reps equally, too, with both players getting the same number of chances with the first-team offense.

Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert said Sunday that he's liked what he's seen from both players thus far.

"[Trey] and Storm have done a great job competing. That's kind of the spot that they're kind of going after, that right tackle spot," Herbert said. "Both of those guys, I think very highly of. I know [Chargers Head] Coach [Brandon Staley] thinks very highly of them as well. It's exciting to see them compete and push each other."

With the preseason games looming, not to mention joint practices against the Cowboys next week, that battle could become clearer in the coming weeks.

"I'll say this, I'm kind of happy with both of those guys," said Chargers Offensive Coordinator Joe Lombardi. "The story is still to be told on that. I'm really pleased with both of them right now. We'll see how it falls out.

"The preseason games and the practices against the Cowboys, and as we get more consistently into pads here, that will define itself a little bit more," Lombardi added.

2. Plenty of competition for RB2 spot

Perhaps the hungriest group on the team are the running backs vying for playing time behind Austin Ekeler.

The trio of Joshua Kelley, Larry Rountree and rookie Isaiah Spiller are fighting for the backup role, and each has had their moments.

Kelley's all-around game has stood out, while Rountree has ripped off a few solid runs and Spiller has turned heads with his pass-catching ability.

Staley offered his assessment of Kelley after Sunday's scrimmage:

"As a player, I think that he's just become a more complete back. Physically, he really has come in in outstanding shape," Staley said. "I think he's much stronger, much more compact, and has done a really good job earning our players' trust in pass protection.

"Then, running the football, making people miss. breaking tackles, being physical on contact," Staley added. "It hasn't been to the ground yet, but he's been very steady. Very steady. He's had a good quick cam and I'm excited to see him live in this preseason."

Spiller, a 2022 fourth-round pick, has seemingly fit right in as a rookie. Staley said Spiller will likely make an impact this season, whether it's on offense or on special teams.

"I think the one thing about Isaiah is he's not impressed by the NFL. He feels like he belongs. He has confidence in himself. I think he carries himself that way," Staley said. "I think what we've seen in him is his competitive nature come out through camp, trying to become a complete running back, taking pride in all of the little things that make good runners, especially young runners in the league.

"And then being an impact player on special teams. That's not something that he did at Texas A&M, but he's really shown the willingness to get better at that," Staley added.

Ekeler will get the bulk of the workload this season, but the Bolts should be better behind him based on how camp has gone.

"I really like the progress of all of them," Staley said. "I think the competition is bringing out the best in them."

3. The secondary is deep

Everybody is making plays in the Chargers secondary these days.

At cornerback, newcomer J.C. Jackson has been as advertised, showing off the traits that have made him a shutdown corner. Fellow newcomer Bryce Callahan has assimilated well into a scheme he knows well, mostly manning the slot.

And second-year cornerback Asante Samuel, Jr., has flashed throughout camp, too. Michael Davis, a starter a year ago, has lined up in multiple roles, including in the Money spot, which is a linebacker-safety hybrid role.

"He has a lot of Dime Money-type of characteristics because he's big, he can cover and he's a good tackler," Staley said of Davis. "We're just trying to get guys in as many roles as possible and experiment. He's having a good camp at a lot of different places.

"He's been outstanding at gunner [on special teams]," Staley added. "I know that he's another guy that has come in with the right mindset. He has really improved as a player."

At safety, Derwin James, Jr., has not practiced. But that has meant plenty of action for others such as Nasir Adderley and Alohi Gilman, who has been with the first-team defense.

Elsewhere, JT Woods and Deane Leonard have been among the players getting valuable reps.

"It's given young guys really big opportunities," Staley said of a secondary without James at the moment. "I think that is a part of training camp that we're excited about; we're finding out more about guys that we don't know as much about.

"Where if Derwin was out there, like, we know what that's going to look like, we know what that is," Staley added. "Training camp is more about the discovery of other people and the development of other people."

Check out the best photos from the Chargers intrasquad scrimmage on the tenth day of Training Camp 2022 at the Jack Hammett Sports Complex in Costa Mesa!

4. The Bolts are big up front

Here are some words Bosa used to describe some interior players the Bolts have on both sides on the ball.

Bosa said defensive tackle Sebastian Joseph-Day is "rugged," and noted that rookie guard Zion Johnson is built like a "brick house."

Yes, Staley's hope for a more physical team has shown up in camp.

Offensively, Johnson has impressed everyone, including coaches and veteran teammates such as Corey Linsley and Matt Feiler. And he's added some beef up front to go along with left tackle Rashawn Slater, plus whomever wins the right tackle job.

And defensively, newcomers such as Khalil Mack, Joseph-Day and Austin Johnson have added some noticeable size up front. Mack, for example, was stout on the edge with a pair of tackles for loss in Sunday's scrimmage.

The Bolts will know more once the regular season starts, but the hope for a more physical teams looks the part so far.

"You can't be afraid to get after each other sometimes," Bosa said. "Especially in the front line there, going against each other, you've got to get down and dirty sometimes."

5. An emphasis on special teams

Ryan Ficken is the only new coordinator on staff, as he is in charge of special teams after spending the past 15 seasons with the Vikings.

The Chargers have made the third phase a focus on camp thus far, too, spending multiple periods a day on special teams.

Dustin Hopkins and James McCourt have been solid overall in the kicking game, and new punter JK Scott has shown off a strong leg. New long snapper Josh Harris, a Pro Bowler in 2021, has also drawn praise for his leadership.

DeAndre Carter has been the primary returner on both punts and kickoffs, and that's in addition to his superb camp as a receiver. (Carter has made plays in the passing game nearly every day with multiple quarterbacks).

And at the halfway point of camp, it's clear that roster spots will be at a premium for upcoming cutdown days, so special teams value will be of the utmost importance for many players.

"We have great guys on this roster, and they want to be great — they work hard, they're professionals," Ficken said. "They want more and more each day. We have to make sure that we continue to work with them on that and get them better."

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