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For Chargers' Sophomores, Training Camp No Longer 'Survival Mode'


Many of the buzz-worthy moments from Chargers training camp in Costa Mesa came courtesy of second-year wide receiver Mike Williams.

But as camp officially closed on Thursday, Williams wasn't the only sophomore who left Jack Hammett Sports Complex more confident and comfortable than one year ago. Several Chargers -- including defensive end Isaac Rochell -- have made noticeable strides ahead of their second NFL season.

"Last year, it was just survival mode," said Rochell, who played 71 percent of the team's defensive snaps last Saturday against the Seattle Seahawks. "Trying to learn the playbook, surviving in that way; figuring out a good routine for recovery, so it's surviving that way; and then just adjusting to the speed and stuff of the game – again, survival mode.

And then this year, it's easier to focus day-to-day on developing -- and then I already have a routine set up, so continuing to do that. It's just so much easier to get better."

Browse through the top photos from day two of joint practice with the New Orleans Saints.

Like Rochell, safety Rayshawn Jenkins saw extensive playing time last Saturday (65 percent of defensive snaps). Then there's cornerback Desmond King, who intercepted Hall-of-Fame-bound quarterback Drew Brees during Wednesday's joint practice with the Saints. King proved to be a reliable nickel cornerback in his rookie season – more will be expected in 2018.

For cornerback Mike Davis, confidence is king. Davis revealed that he lacked it in his rookie season, but not this year. Defensive Coordinator Gus Bradley said earlier in camp that Davis has become a more "well-rounded" player. Head Coach Anthony Lynn took it a step further.

"Mike Davis – night-and-day," he said on August 14. "He's a guy that's playing with more confidence. He's more physical. He's becoming very dependable."

On the O-line, guard Dan Feeney said he entered Year 2 having benefited from starting nine games last season. The former Indiana standout also has the opportunity to learn from Pro Bowl vets like offensive tackle Russell Okung and center Mike Pouncey. Feeney's teammate and fellow second-year guard Forrest Lamp returned to practice last week, too.

Running back Austin Ekeler, who went from undrafted free agent to Melvin Gordon's primary back up in 2017, showcased explosiveness and versatility both in training camp practices and the first preseason game in Arizona. At the beginning of August, Ekeler joined Chargers Weekly to expound on the difference a year makes.

"Once you start settling down, you start getting the plays down, and then physically – you have to accept physically that you can play at this level," he said. "And once you do that, then the mental part starts coming, then your game starts clicking."

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