Sports Out West

NFL Training Camp 2014: 3 points of emphasis for the Chargers

Photo Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

With the draft done and the month of May almost over, training camp is quickly approaching for all NFL teams. 

The San Diego Chargers will sport old and new coaches and players during August this year. After a surprisingly successful playoff season in 2013, the team hopes to continue their winning ways in 2014.

And the winning starts in training camp.

Here are three points of emphasis the team should consider during their 2014 training camp.

Secondary

An obvious point of emphasis for the Chargers in this upcoming training camp is their secondary situation.

New and old faces will take the field for this area of the defense in 2014. The team has an array of players sitting on their roster at the moment, which include every one from safety Eric Weddle–who is returning from a Pro Bowl 2013 season for his eighth in the NFL–to first round pick cornerback Jason Verrett–who will hopefully boost the corner position in his rookie year.

Defensive coordinator John Pagano will have a bit of a puzzle to solve in the area with so many players ready to play. But other than a few names, none stand out for obvious starters.

Several cornerbacks started throughout the 2013 season, with none ever doing an outstanding job a majority of the time. The list includes Marcus Gilchrist, Richard Marshall, and Crezdon Butler just to name a few.

It should be interesting to see if any corner comes into camp with new talent after a hard-working offseason. In the end, Pagano will choose whoever he sees can do their job the best, and someone who can accompany Verrett favorably.

Unlike the corner situation, the safety position isn’t in as big of a throw up. Eric Weddle is naturally the secondary’s best asset, and they will count on him to continue to hold them together in this upcoming season.

Alongside Weddle should be second-year safety Jahleel Addae. Addae played in all 16 regular season and both post-season games in his rookie season last year, including three starts. He shocked many with his solid play, hard hits, and pass breakup capability. He complimented a spread-too-thin Weddle nicely. If the two grew their relationship over this offseason, the duo could potentially become a fearful safety tandem.

Passing Game

The receiving game should always be a point of emphasis for the Chargers in training camp as long as they rest their success on the shoulders of quarterback Philip Rivers.

After two severely mediocre seasons, Rivers had an extremely successful bounce-back year in 2013. One so good, it won him the NFL’s Comeback Player of the Year (not that he would say he needed to do any comeback-ing).

With what seemed like a strong receiving corps this time last year, they quickly diminished throughout the season, with several players going down with injuries.

But as he has always proved, Rivers doesn’t need the fanciest of receivers catching his passes. He can make anyone look like a star, and usually makes several with his ball-spreading habits.

After being in limbo since the second game of the 2013 season, wide receiver Malcom Floyd finally knows his football fate. And thankfully for him and his team, he received good news, being cleared to play football again after a critical neck injury.

Floyd will bring a deep threat back to the Chargers’ offense. Although the team doesn’t throw the long-bombs like it used to (which worked out just fine last year), Floyd will be able to stretch the field simply with his presence, leaving shorter routes open for second-year standout Keenan Allen.

As it sits now, the receiving and tight end positions are looking fairly solid. But as the team saw last year, it could change quickly. But we’ll think positively.

Players who can catch the ball aren’t the only key to a successful passing game. The players who block for a quarterback to throw the ball are extremely important as well.

After several seasons of roughed up and unstable lines, Ken Whisenhunt finally put together a seamless five guys in 2013.

Although the starting five didn’t start together as much as the team would have wanted last season due to injuries, they still managed to keep Rivers upright for much of the season, which allowed him to improve his play.

If the starters can stay healthy and together in 2014, Rivers may have an even better year than last.

Ground Threats

There is a loaded roster of potential ground threats coming into this training camp, making it a point of emphasis.

The team has Ryan Mathews, Danny Woodhead, Donald Brown, and newly drafted Marion Grice–to only name a handful–to work with.

For the talent of Mathews, Woodhead, and Brown, the backfield is looking slightly overcrowded. All could be starters, so it should be interesting to see what new offensive coordinator Frank Reich does with them.

Like last year, the running backs will more than likely trade off at certain times of the game. Mathews will start, especially after finally having a successful season in 2013, and Woodhead, Brown, and the other many backs will add specific other talents depending on what the offense wants to do.

Mathews is the haul back (if he can stay healthy, of course), while Woodhead is outstanding in the passing game as a fail-safe for Rivers and short yardage pickup. Brown, new to the team this season, should bring another physical, ground n’ pound-type player behind the quarterback.

The Chargers official training camp schedule will be announced during the summer.

Photo Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

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Olivia Hops

Olivia Hops is a San Diego journalist, reporter, and producer who brings a fresh perceptive to the world of sports. Olivia has worked with U-T San Diego, U-T TV, Sports Illustrated, and other print and online publications. She is an absolute football junky, and her true passion lies with the NFL.