COSTA MESA, Calif. — Training camp is around the corner. Things have been silent on the Los Angeles Chargers’ side of things. There is little hype or lofty expectations like last season.
They are flying under the radar, so they will need these three players to step up during camp to make an impact this season and take teams by surprise.
1. Kenneth Murray Jr.
The team didn’t pick up Murray’s fifth-year option for two reasons; the money and his play. It isn’t a knock when speaking about his play because Murray has improved every year since he was drafted.
He still hasn’t reached the expected level, especially because he was drafted in the first round.
The Chargers need him to take the next step in his development, especially if he can make an impact in the run game.
He has done all the right things on paper. Teammates have been raving about his work ethic and how he has grown.
Murray will be lining up with former all-pro linebacker Eric Kendricks, who said the former Oklahoma linebacker helped him learn the playbook and adapt to his new team.
Yes, Murray hasn’t lived up to the position he was drafted, but this will be a make-it-or-break-it training camp for him.
2. Alohi Gilman
Will the Chargers go after free agent safety John Johnson to pair him up with Derwin James? He fits and knows the Brandon Staley defense, why wouldn’t they sign him?
These are some of the questions Chargers fans, and even some media pundits are being asked. Currently, Staley and new defensive coordinator Derrick Ansley are confident in fourth-year Alohi Gilman.
He was drafted in the sixth round in 2020 and has grown into his role over the last three seasons. He showed promise in 2022 with some nice plays against the Cleveland Browns and Miami Dolphins.
Now that Nasir Adderley has retired, it is Gilman’s role to lose. He has two interceptions in his career, both coming at clutch moments. One was in 2021, in Kansas City late in the game to help get Justin Herbert the ball to put the game away and last season against the Browns in the red zone when it looked certain Cleveland would score.
Gilman will look to take the spot next to James and try to be the partner that helps make the defense better and not a crutch.
He will need to have a strong training camp to fend off J.T. Woods and other safeties, which the coaching staff could be high on.
3. Isaiah Spiller, Joshua Kelley, or Larry Rountree
Yes, this is cheating, but there is a serious need for one or all three of these players to step up. The running back position behind Austin Ekeler has been weak.
Each player brings something unique, but with injuries and other factors, none made an impact last season.
Kelley started the season with some productive outings but got hurt and couldn’t continue where he left off. He has shown potential, but he needs to stay healthy.
Spiller was a rookie who was given little chance to play even after Sony Michel was let go. He could be the back that surprises during camp, especially during the preseason games.
Rountree is more physical and can bounce off of initial tackles. He might be the player who takes advantage, mainly because his skill set differs from the rest of the backs.
Now it isn’t all on them. The offensive line play hasn’t been up to par, especially with left tackle Rashawn Slater out last season. This season the line should be much improved, and they have emphasized improving their run blocking.
The addition of offensive coordinator Kellen Moore should help each of these backs, especially because he is a good play caller and can put each back in winning situations.
All three backs have the talent; now, it is about making an impact during camp.