Presenting your 2017 Los Angeles Chargers.
The final phase of the offseason program officially begins today with the first of 10 Offseason Training Activities (OTAs). Traditional 11-on-11, 9-on-7, and 7-on-7 drills are finally permitted, but any form of live contact is not allowed.
Outside a voluntary veteran mini camp and last weekend's rookie mini camp, this marks the return of traditional practice as the offense and defense square off. As always, these practices provide a glimpse into plans for this season. While depth charts are fluid and much will change, we should learn a great deal about what Head Coach Anthony Lynn and his staff's plans are at this moment in time.
So, what are some things to look for when the Bolts take the field?
1. Battle in the Trenches – Lynn made it clear early in the offseason that all three interior line positions are up for grabs on offense. Last year's starting guards (D.J. Fluker, Orlando Franklin) were released in recent months while the Chargers drafted two highly regarded prospects in second-round pick Forrest Lamp and third-rounder Dan Feeney. Veteran Matt Slauson is capable of playing guard or center, while a pair of second-year centers in Spencer Pulley and Max Tuerk each look to state their case. Throw in versatile guard Kenny Wiggins and there are a number of combinations the Bolts will look for as they decide who'll line up Week 1 in Denver.
2. Bradley's Scheme – A lot has been said of the switch on defense from a 3-4 to 4-3 under Defensive Coordinator Gus Bradley. In addition to a change in alignment, Bradley brings with him a change in philosophies and schemes. While we've seen bits and pieces of it earlier in the offseason, these OTAs will provide our best glimpse yet as the defense will square off against Philip Rivers and company each day.
3. Who Backs Up Gordon? – Fresh off a Pro Bowl season, Melvin Gordon will be the lead dog in the Bolts' rushing attack. However, like most teams, Lynn prefers to roll with numerous runners throughout the game. Right now, there is an open competition behind number 28 featuring Kenjon Barner, Branden Oliver, Andre Williams, Kenneth Farrow and recently signed undrafted free agent Austin Ekeler.
4. Which Unrestricted Free Agent Shows Out? –Speaking of undrafted players, the Bolts boast the longest stretch of a college free agent making the team (20). The last two seasons saw four make the squad's initial 53-man roster in Farrow, Chris Landrum, Spencer Pulley and Dexter McCoil. So, who will be the next to follow in the same footsteps as Antonio Gates, Tyrell Williams, Jahleel Addae and more? We'll learn a lot more starting with these practices.
5. Returner Rotation –The Bolts also have an open competition when it comes to returning kickoffs and punts. Special Teams Coordinator/Assistant Head Coach George Stewart said Barner and recently drafted Desmond King will get a crack at it as well as Branden Oliver, Travis Benjamin, Isaiah Burse and others. The Chargers struggled in the return game in recent seasons, so finding someone to spark the unit will be front of mind.