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Training Camp Notebook: With No Preseason Games, In-House Reps Bringing Out the Best

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It wasn't lost on Derwin James during the Chargers' first padded practice on Monday just how difficult it is to guard wide receiver Keenan Allen.

"Keenan, in that slot?" James said – mic'd up – to fellow safety Rayshawn Jenkins. "He gets you right though, bro."

In an August void of preseason games, in-house reps against high-caliber competition are the next best thing. And right now, both sides of the ball are benefitting from the depth of talent the other unit possesses.

"It's a challenge each and every day," quarterback Tyrod Taylor said. "They make it tough for us as well as we make it tough for them. And I think ultimately, that's what's gonna make our defense and our offense even better."

To prepare for the Cincinnati Bengals in less than four weeks, Taylor has defensive end Joey Bosa chasing him down while trying to find open receivers in a secondary sprinkled with All-Pros including James, Desmond King, Chris Harris Jr. and Casey Hayward.

Flip it, and those talented DBs get tested each rep by tight end Hunter Henry, Allen and wide receiver Mike Williams. Hayward joked Wednesday that a 50-50 ball to Williams is actually a 70-30 or an 80-20 ball in favor of the 6-foot-4 receiver.

If one unit wins a battle, the other is more than capable of returning the favor. Hayward said Taylor and Co. are "messing us up on a lot of things and I feel like we got a pretty solid defense."

Taylor, a former Pro Bowler himself, has the mobility to pick up yards with his legs and the arm strength and touch to hit on explosive plays.

"That's an element that he's bringing to this offense," Hayward said. "Being able to boot, being able to do a lot of these things – kind of like what [quarterback] Lamar Jackson's been doing [in Baltimore] and those guys been doing: a running quarterback that can throw the ball and be very accurate."

Taylor said the energy during practice is infectious and the competition is fierce. Each group wants to win over the other in the summer, knowing that the end goal is to beat their Sunday opponents come September.

"I feel like our offense is gonna get rolling," Hayward said, "and our defense is gonna be rolling, and we're gonna have a chance to be really special."

Take a look at some photos from Wednesday, August 19th's session of Chargers Training Camp 2020, presented by SoFi.

Odds and Ends

-Taylor on his chemistry with Allen and Williams: "Yes, I think we're definitely building a lot of chemistry with one another. Those guys are phenomenal talents. It's my job to get the ball to those guys so they can make plays and be their best selves. Of course, I'm definitely dropping back looking for one of those two.

"Of course, coverage has to dictate where the ball goes and it's not just those two. We have a bunch of, like I said, talented guys on the offensive side of the ball, whether it's at the running back position or tight end position. But, when you have two stud receivers in Keenan and Mike, you definitely have to make it a point to get those guys the ball and just try to allow them to make plays because more often than not they come down with the ball, and they're big playmakers."

-Hayward on the defensive backs: "Our whole secondary [is] pretty much returning: myself, Mike [Davis], Derwin and Rayshawn and Desmond, we all played a lot of ball here. We all going on four years and up, so everybody's played a lot of ball. DJ played the last six games of the season, so to get one of the best safeties back in the league, our defense can only go up. And then you add Chris Harris Jr., who's been a premier corner in this league for a long time. If he can play like he's been playing for over the last eight years, we got a chance to be special."

-Hayward on his personal goals for 2020: "Man, win the division. ... That's as personal as I can be. If we can win the division, that means I'm probably playing well. But, overall I just want to play well, be consistent, make plays for this defense and I feel like if I'm making those plays – get interceptions, pass break-ups and things like that; not allowing my guy to catch the ball – we got a really good chance of winning those games. So, hopefully I can continue what I've been doing."

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