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Three Takeaways: Depth, Star Power Highlight Early Days of Chargers Camp


Below are three takeaways from the fourth day of Chargers Training Camp.

Iron sharpens iron

The Chargers took the practice field at Jack Hammett Sports Complex on Saturday morning as a part of the NFL's "Back Together Saturday". In front of a packed crowd, the Bolts added in some red-zone work for the first time.

If the first week of practice has provided some insight into what lies ahead next week, the competition will ramp up when the Bolts practice in full pads beginning Monday.

One player in particular, tackle Rashawn Slater, mentioned how tough it will be to face outside linebacker Khalil Mack in practice, adding that it'll be a great learning opportunity.

"It's eye opening," said Slater about Khalil Mack and his pass rushing ability. "It just goes to show you. I thought I had seen it all last year, but there's a lot more for me to learn and I'm going to get a lot better going against [Mack]."

With a revamped defense, the offense knows that it will be back and forth every practice — and it's been that way through the first four days of training camp. While the offensive line deals with Mack and the rest of the rushers, the receiving corps does not have it much easier.

"A lot of back and forth and there's going to be a lot more of that during camp," said wide receiver Mike Williams about the battle with the secondary. "When you have great players on both sides of the ball, somebody might have that day, somebody might have [the other]. But yeah, it's been a lot of going back and forth."

Williams has seen a lot of new Chargers defensive back J.C. Jackson through the first couple of days training camp. With Jackson being one of the best corners in the NFL, Williams believes that going against him in practice will only improve his own game.

"It's going to help me a lot," said Williams about facing Jackson. "I probably won't see nobody on the other side of me as good as him, so going into games, I'm going to be a lot more prepared."

Slater on the 'confidence' from rookie guard Zion Johnson so far

The 17th overall pick in the first round, Zion Johnson was drafted by the Chargers with the expectation that he would slot in at guard. In his first full offseason as a pro, Slater talked about Johnson's confidence, and he believes that Johnson is ready to take the field.

"I can tell he has a really good head on his shoulders," said Slater about Johnson. "Smooth, confident, he's always looking at his playbook, watching film, he just gives me calm energy. He's ready to go, and I'm really excited to watch him play."

Having been a rookie offensive lineman himself last year, Slater has talked to the rookie about the experience and what to expect. But, with the way Johnson has carried himself thus far, it might not be needed.

"I really don't think he needs too much of it," said Slater. "He seems to be doing really well so far."

Still, Slater has mentioned somethings to Johnson, as he believes sticking to what he already knows will take him far.

"I tell him, 'Ball is ball'," said Slater. "At this level, everything moves a little bit faster. Guys have different talents [and] are a little bit quicker and stuff like that. But at the end of the day, it's just like college and if you can just stay calm, trust your technique and trust what got you here, he'll be just fine."

'Urgency' will be clear in training camp

The Chargers' busy offseason has provided them with plenty of depth throughout the roster, specifically on the defensive side. These new additions have added some competition to this year's training camp, as Defensive Coordinator Renaldo Hill believes this will create some urgency among that unit.

"I believe every rep is counting," Hill said following Saturday's practice. "I think maybe in the past, they could've looked and said, 'I don't have that guy behind me, I can correct it'. But that rep may get [taken] away from you if you're not urgent and keep repeating the same mistakes."

With the mix of veterans and rookies, the Bolts believe this competition, plus being more demanding as coaches, will bring out the best in everybody.

Additionally, this urgency should create even more depth, which will be needed throughout the long season.

"We know in this league that injuries happen," added Hill. "We need the next guy to be just as good as the guy who he's replacing…they know that the reps that they get have to count."

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