The San Diego Chargers open training camp on July 30 at Chargers Park in San Diego. Here’s a closer look at the Chargers camp, which wraps up on Aug. 21.
Top storyline: All eyes will be on Melvin Gordon, San Diego’s first-round selection in this year’s draft. So far, the Wisconsin running back exceeded expectations during offseason work, quickly picking up the offense and showing a better-than-expected grasp of the passing game. Now, Gordon has to take the next step and prove he can handle the physical pounding of an NFL defense once exhibition play begins. The Chargers are not counting on Gordon to carry the offense, but just to do his part. Also, with Antonio Gates suspended for the first four games for violating the league’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs, the Chargers will have to find someone to replace that production. Tight end Ladarius Green, entering the final year of his rookie contract, will get the first bite at the apple to fill in for Gates.
Position battles to watch: With Marcus Gilchrist leaving the Chargers and joining the New York Jets in free agency, the strong safety position is up for grabs. Jimmy Wilson is the front-runner heading into training camp, but Jahleel Addae and Darrell Stuckey are also in the mix. Johnnie Troutman will have competition for the starting right guard job with free-agent signee Joe Barksdale and 2014 undrafted rookie free agent Jeremiah Sirles.
Veterans to watch: Receiver Stevie Johnson feels like he did not get an opportunity to show what he could do in his one-year stint with the San Francisco 49ers. But he should get a chance to make plays as a replacement for Eddie Royal at slot receiver in San Diego’s offense. The 28-year-old California native looked comfortable with Philip Rivers during offseason work. And at 6-foot-2 and 207 pounds, Johnson is another big target with a similar skill set to third-year pro Keenan Allen.
Rookies to watch: Inside linebacker Denzel Perryman, a second-round selection in this year’s draft, has a chance to compete for time with the starters. Coaches like his ability to make plays and be a hammer in the run game. But the University of Miami product will have to show that he can play fast in defensive coordinator John Pagano’s 3-4 scheme. Fifth-round selection Kyle Emanuel also has a chance to earn playing time as a pass rusher on third down. He has transitioned nicely from his days playing defensive end at North Dakota State to a standup outside linebacker for the Chargers.
Bubble watch: Donald Brown underperformed during his first year with the Chargers last season, averaging 2.6 yards per carry. With Gordon, Woodhead and second-year pro Branden Oliver, the Chargers have good depth at running back. Brown is set to make $3 million in total compensation in 2015, and the Chargers could opt to go with more inexpensive depth at running back.
Los Angeles bound? The big-picture issue looming over this season is will it be the Chargers’ last in San Diego? While chairman Dean Spanos maintains the team’s top priority is staying in San Diego, the Chargers are putting all of their energy toward getting a deal done on a shared stadium with the Oakland Raiders in Carson, California. Players and coaches say the issue is not a distraction, and they are focused on doing their jobs. But it’s hard not to pay attention to the possibility of relocating your family. The potential relocation of the franchise to Carson remains an issue that players and coaches have to address for the duration of the 2015 season.
For daily updates at camp, check out the San Diego Chargers clubhouse page.