Sports Out West

Chargers training camp 2013: 5 positive signs amid the turmoil

Photo Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn/USA TODAY Sports

The San Diego Chargers have struggled to stay healthy or put together enough solid quarters to notch a win in the preseason thus far, but that doesn’t mean that they’re a lost cause to this point. 

Injuries are the most notable setback to this point, and it’s easy to glean that the Bolts may be snakebitten. But it’s early, and despite losing to the Chicago Bears on Thursday, 33-28, there are a lot of positive takeaways thus far. 

1. Brad Sorensen’s emergence

Charlie Whitehurst had his best game of the two preseason contests thus far on Thursday, going 9-of-13 for 97 yards and two touchdowns. Brad Sorensen, however, keeps pushing him with solid performances of his own. In his second straight game with a touchdown pass, the Bolts’ 2013 seventh-round pick finished an efficient 8-of-14 for 126 yards. There may now be a mini-controversy (More on Sorensen and Whitehurst) at the backup spot behind Philip Rivers, and that’s a good thing. 

2. Wide receiver depth

It’s a catch-22, but the Chargers have been forced to use their wide receiver depth due to several injuries to their staff. Most recently, they signed Seyi Ajirotutu and will give him an opportunity to make the 53-man roster out of camp. The injuries to the corps of receivers themselves have been nothing short of devastating given the severity and frequency, but the silver lining is that Ajirotutu has been a reliable depth receiver when called upon at the highest level. In 2010, he showed that he can contribute when he totaled 13 catches for 262 yards and two touchdowns for a 20.2 yards per reception average. 

Head coach Mike McCoy has been impressed with his other wideouts as well. He told reporters on Friday that he was particularly impressed with wide receiver Mike Willie‘s play on Thursday.

Via the team’s official website: 

“It’s a great example of a guy making the most of his opportunities, which is great to see,” McCoy said. “He had two opportunities to make some big plays in the red area and he did that.

Not bad for someone seen as the last man up. 

3. Ryan Mathews has some competition / motivation

Nothing motivates an incumbent like a player poised to take his job. We’re not there yet with Mathews, but Danny Woodhead, Ronnie Brown and newcomer Fozzy Whitaker each bring a different set of skills to the table and can push Mathews to stay healthy and hungry. Most importantly from the Chargers’ perspective, they’ll have a stable of reliable backs who can fill in if (when?) Mathews goes down again. 

Chargers running backs combined for 141 yards on 29 carries and averaged a healthy 4.9 yards per carry on Thursday against the Chicago Bears. 

4. Vincent Brown 

Vincent Brown has become a de facto leader on a team with a lot of youth on both sides of the ball. The third-year wideout out of San Diego State and Rancho Cucamonga, Calif. will be an important part of the offense in 2013, but he’s also worked with the young defensive backs to help them improve their hands.

This is a sign of a leader in the making, and an encouraging display of camaraderie. The best thing about it all is that despite missing a some practice time, he’s fully healthy and ready to contribute early on in the passing attack. 

5. The defense

The Chargers’ new defense had perhaps the most question marks heading into camp, but so far, they’ve already grown as a unit and taken strides forward. Donald Butler recorded an interception and continues to mentor the younger players, despite being a relative youngster in his own regard. McCoy likes what the defense did on Thursday against the Bears, despite allowing 33 points. Many of those points were given up due to poor field position as a result of turnovers or special teams mistakes. 

While that doesn’t necessarily make any Bolts fan feel good about how the game unfolded, it does speak to the progress the new-look defense is making relatively early in camp. 

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Photo Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn/USA TODAY Sports

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Michael C. Jones is the managing editor and founder of Sports Out West and a Southern California-based sports journalist. His work is also regularly featured on Yahoo! Sports and SB Nation. You can catch up with him on Twitter: @MikeJonesTweets.