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Five Things to Watch For at Start of OTAs

For the last five weeks, the offense and defense have worked out on separate fields and on different schedules.

Beginning Monday, traditional practices return to Chargers Park.

Phase III kicks off this week, highlighted by the first of 10 Offseason Training Activities (OTA) before minicamp in mid-June.  Traditional 11-on-11, 9-on-7, and 7-on-7 drills are finally permitted, but any form of live contact is not allowed.

As always, this week provides a unique glimpse into the coaches' plans for this season.  While depth charts are fluid and much will change, it gives insight into Head Coach Mike McCoy and his staff's mindset at this point in time.

So, what are some things to look for when the Bolts hit the field on Monday?

1. Cornerback Rotation – As noted earlier, Monday's practice marks the first time the offense and defense will face off this offseason.  Watching how the Bolts deploy their cornerbacks will be really interesting.  The Chargers signed cornerback Casey Hayward in March, so this will provide an initial glimpse into how he will work in with Brandon Flowers and Jason Verrett, and which CB will see most of his snaps in the slot.  The team also has a number of youngsters in Craig Mager, Steve Williams, Greg Ducre and others who will push for playing time.

2. Rivers and Henry– Hunter Henry impressed during Rookie Mini Camp, and now he will get valuable reps to build a rapport with Philip Rivers.  The Chargers will look to the second round tight end to play a key role opposite Antonio Gates at the position, so his development is worth tracking over the remainder of the offseason.  Henry caught 51 passes with zero drops for 739 yards and three TDs last season at Arkansas.

3. Running Game Formations – Melvin Gordon and Branden Oliver ended last season on the reserve-injured list, and figure to spear-head a three-headed running back rotation along with Danny Woodhead.  However, they may see the field at the same time more than they did in 2015.  Offensive Coordinator Ken Whisenhunt noted the team will have packages featuring two halfbacks at once to take advantage of mismatches.  Meanwhile, the Bolts have a traditional fullback on the roster for the first time since Le'Ron McClain in 2013 in sixth-round pick Derek Watt.  OTAs should shed some light into how the Bolts plan to pound the rock in 2016.

4. Front Seven Retooled – It can be hard at times to gauge how the front seven is operating during OTAs due to the lack of contact.  However, we should get an idea of how Defensive Coordinator John Pagano plans to use his linebackers and defensive linemen.  The D-Line in particular has been retooled, with Joey Bosa and Brandon Mebane penciled in to start alongside Corey Liuget.  While all four starters return at linebacker, watch for how the team works in draft picks Joshua Perry and Jatavis Brown.

5. Which Undrafted Rookie Will Emerge? – Recent seasons saw Jahleel Addae, Tenny Palepoi, Tyrell Williams and Nick Dzubnar among others show flashes that eventually landed them on the final 53 man roster as an undrafted free agent.  San Diego has arguably the best track record when it comes to undrafted prospects with one having made the team for 18 straight seasons.  The next three weeks could provide a glimpse into which underdog may make it 19 consecutive seasons. 

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