Nothing better than football on a Sunday evening, even outside the regular season.
About 1 p.m. I began what I thought would be my hour and a half long ride to Chargers minicamp in Costa Mesa. There are no words as to how astonished and unprepared I was for what was going to smack me directly in the face by way of this horrific traffic. Great G-word almighty, why aren’t all of you at home, shopping or at the beach. Please get off my road. Not a prayer of that happening. It took me almost three hours to get to training camp. The faithful must have had divine intervention or a portal because the line was already down the street about a quarter mile. The Bolts should be proud of their fans. There may not be rain or snow, but the traffic is far beyond either.
Today, I was looking for a few things out of the Chargers. Were they going to be in full pads? Any injuries? Is Derwin James finally going to practice? Are the Chargers leaning towards playing Pipkens at right tackle? Will Michael Bandy and Joshua Palmer continue to impress? AND of course, how is the offense looking against this stacked defense?
The players started to arrive with their shoulder and thigh pads. You know what that means. Full pads!!! The energy was high, but it went up once people started making that connection. Fans would also get to see team reps on the main field today. That is always nice to see. Derwin James was once again spotted only for a brief moment during the very beginning part of walkthroughs. After that he vanished like a ghost! I am not alone in hoping this upcoming week brings good news with a final signed contract for the young safety. Rookie Andrew Trainer, free agent pick up Kyle Van Noy, and Donald Parham Jr. were present, but not practicing today. Andrew Trainer is sitting out due to an undisclosed injury. Kyle Van Noy seems to be suffering from a possible hamstring pull. In last week’s training camp sessions, Van Noy spent the majority of stretching and warm up on hamstrings. Parham Jr. injured his left leg during Saturday’s session and I am sure after the traumatic injury last season precautions are being taken to ensure he is 100% going into this season. Week 15 against the Chiefs, Parham landed a sprinting touchdown catch in the end zone. As he hit the ground banging his head so hard against the turf he knocked himself unconscious losing the ball. Parham suffered a severe and serious concussion, but made the decision to return to the game and this Chargers team he is quoted as calling ‘special.’
After warm-ups, the team did some individual work before heading into 11-on-11s, red zone opportunities, and 2 minute drills. The 11-on-11s gave the Chargers fans a glimpse at what is to come. Trey Pipkens III started and took the majority of first team reps today. It appears that the Chargers coaching staff may be pushing towards Pipkens gaining the starting position over Storm Norton. Pipkens struggled a little bit against Khalil Mack today, but not as much as Norton did when given the opportunity to face off against Mack. What was really promising to see was the ability of the offensive line. In spite of their inexperience and youth, they were picking up the blitz. This gave Justin Herbert a good solid pocket on multiple occasions.
During these team sessions, the first offense looked good. Not without some mishaps that accompany the start of training camp and the newness of playing together, but the offense was gaining positive yards all day. That is a promising sign in my book. Isaiah Spiller was showing his ability to salvage broken plays with a nice catch and run on the far side of the field. We also got to see Joshua Palmer continuing to separate himself as the number three wide receiver for the Chargers.
I know my readers are probably tired of me talking about him, but Michael Bandy is flashing greatness at camp. His route running isn’t shining as brightly as when training camp focused on fundamentals, but let me tell you he is making plays in team scrimmages. He made numerous big catches to convert for the second and third team offense. I am telling you now and once again this man will be big for the Chargers down the stretch! After one of his catches was converted, I couldn’t tell if that was Michael Bandy or Wes Welker.
Another player who I have been quietly impressed with is Larry Rountree III. He showed off his ability to run downhill and catch out of the backfield, but what really impressed me was his ability to pass block. At 23, Rountree is only 4 months older than I am. He is reported as 5’10’’ and 211 pounds. Incredibly deceiving for the explosive talent this young player is showcasing at camp. With this stacked running back room, I can see the Chargers utilizing him as a blocking back for play action or as an extra blocker out of the backfield. With Rountree’s ability to catch and run as well, it would keep defenses on their toes and work to the advantage of the Chargers’ early down play action heavy offense.
Khalil Mack is doing what the Chargers brought him in to do. Bringing relentless pressure to the back field. Facing off against both Pipkens and Slater causing both early on to have their hands full, but after the first series both settled down and were able to contain Mack to a point. The sky’s the limit for this defense. If Mack and Bosa stay healthy along with the secondary coming into its own and stopping air raid offenses allowing everything to click into place this team is primed to make a run at the Super Bowl this year. Who holds the lightening Bolt of the Gods? Zeus or Staley? Time will tell.