Six questions surrounding the Chargers training camp

Can J.C. Jackson return to his New England form to help this defense?

Training camp has been underway for two practices so far at Jack Hammett Sports Complex. 

As they keep on going through camp, there are several questions that they will need to answer before it ends.

Here are the six questions: 

1. Can they stay healthy?

Unfortunately for the Chargers, every year, it seems like this phrase ‘The Chargers can be a dangerous team…if they stay healthy.’ That last part is on repeat year after year.

Last season they lost left tackle Rashawn Slater with a torn bicep (14 games), Keenan Allen with a hamstring (seven games), Joey Bosa with a groin (14 games), Mike Williams with an ankle (four games), and cornerback J.C. Jackson with an ankle/knee injury (12 games).

That is a lot of firepower, not to mention Herbert had a rib injury that bothered him for a good part of the season.

Plain and simple health will be critical for this team in 2023.

2. Who is going to step up and be the second running back?

The offense needs someone to step up. Five running backs not named Austin Ekeler will be watched closely.

It won’t be a surprise if the coaching staff doesn’t take it easy with Ekeler during camp and rev up the workload of the other backs to see what they are made of.

This coaching staff and the players know what they have in Ekeler. They have an idea of what they have in Joshua Kelley if he can stay healthy. They don’t know what they have in Isaiah Spiller, Larry Rountree, Tyler Hoosman, and Elijah Dotson.

3. Will Kenneth Murray be a difference-maker?

The former first-round draft pick hasn’t lived up to the position in which he was drafted. That is clear, but there is hope. 

The newest Charger linebacker Eric Kendricks has spoken highly of Murray, as has head coach Brandon Staley and defensive coordinator Derrick Ansley. 

This defense will need Murray to step up this season.

4. Will they sign John Johnson, or is the safety room enough?

The rumor mill about the Chargers and John Johnson being a perfect marriage has been around since the Cleveland Browns released him.

He has tweeted at former teammate Sebastian Joseph-Day and even took a picture with Joseph-Day and Morgan Fox. The flirting has been there, but the coaching staff has been adamant about Alohi Gilman’s maturation and J.T. Woods’s potential.

The Chargers must find a solid companion to play next to superstar Derwin James. They need two because James plays five different positions.

Sometimes he is at either safety spot. Other times he becomes an extra pass rusher, linebacker, or even cornerback.

This defense has a lot of inexperience at the safety position behind James and Gilman that could play a significant factor this season if others don’t step up.

5. Can J.C. Jackson have a full camp?

Yes, this is sort of cheating because number three was about staying healthy. But the health of Jackson is crucial to the game plan for 2023.

If he has a full camp and becomes his nickname, Mr. INT, then the Chargers are in a good spot. They have a healthy secondary full of talent.

So far, Jackson has participated during 7-on-7 and has made some good plays, but they are slowly bringing him along.

“There’s a long way to go, but for him to be out there practicing, going full-speed, we have to ramp him up — just because he’s cleared to be out there, that doesn’t mean that he’s cleared to play a full game,” Staley said. “We just have to make sure that we ramp him up the right way.”

If he has a rollercoaster camp similar to 2022, they will need Michael Davis and Asante Samuel to step up again and call upon Ja’Sir Taylor.

6. Will an undrafted free agent make the team?

Nineteen undrafted free agents will be on the 90-man roster to start training camp (20 if and when receiver Pokey Wilson returns from the non-football illness list).

It will be interesting to see how many of them could push to make this roster.