LOS ANGELES CHARGERS (9-7)
OPEN CAMP: July 28 Sam Acho Jersey , Jack Hammett Sports Complex, Costa Mesa, California
LAST YEAR: Bolts’ relocation season ended just short of playoff berth with impressive 9-3 finish under new coach Anthony Lynn following 0-4 start. LA’s new team had one of NFL’s most impressive offenses, with Philip Rivers and receiver Keenan Allen headlining gifted group of playmakers. Chargers finished fourth with 376.6 yards per game, and plus-12 turnover margin was third. Offensive line also allowed NFL-low 18 sacks. Defense rounded into form along with offense, with shutdown cornerback Casey Hayward and pass-rushing stars Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram leading group that finished third by allowing 197.2 yards per game against pass. Chargers won final five games at tiny StubHub Center, even establishing something close to home-field advantage. They barely missed first playoff berth since 2013.
IMPORTANT ADDITIONS: C Mike Pouncey, TE Virgil Green, S Derwin James, LB Uchenna Nwosu, QB Geno Smith, K Caleb Sturgis.
IMPORTANT LOSSES: S Tre Boston, TE Antonio Gates Chris Jones Jersey , DL Jeremiah Attaochu.
CAMP NEEDS: Staying healthy has been almost impossible for Chargers in recent years, and they’ve already lost budding star TE Hunter Henry to season-ending knee injury from non-contact drill in May. They’ll look for new starting tight end in camp, and it’s imperative to get to regular season with no additional serious injuries – and enough momentum to improve on last year’s 0-4 start. Defense that frequently struggled against run must sharpen approach, and tackle Brandon Mebane could help immensely with bounce-back season. Bolts must figure out whether No. 7 overall pick Mike Williams is ready to be regular receiver after injury-shortened rookie year. They must find solid kicker after failing to do so last year, with Caleb Sturgis and Roberto Aguayo headlining competition.
EXPECTATIONS: If Chargers pick up where they left off, they have components of Super Bowl contender. They return with above-average franchise quarterback, Pro Bowl receiver and elite talent at nearly every important position, including two of NFL’s best pass rushers and two of its top cornerbacks if Jason Verrett returns from injury at full strength. Another major injury could scramble forecast, but franchise that has won one playoff game and one AFC West title in past decade seems capable of much more this fall.
When the Los Angeles Rams traded for cornerbacks Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters and signed defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, there were questions about how those three personalities might or might not coexist on the same defense.
Wrapping up their mandatory minicamp Wednesday, the Rams are optimistic those concerns have been put to rest.
"They came in, they were open-minded, and they are coming out here and jumped right into the culture Trent Williams Jersey ," cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman said of the three high-profile additions.
Defensive coordinator Wade Phillips meshed well with Talib when coaching him in Denver during the 2015-16 seasons, and his initial impressions of Peters and Suh have been just as positive. Already aware of the physical talent of Peters and Suh, Phillips praised the work ethic and intelligence of both men.
"You don't always know that," Phillips said. "I mean, sometimes a guy is really talented, but these guys are smart players and talented. And they do things so easily, so naturally. Ndamukong has so much power, you can see it. He just holds a guy off with one arm, those kind of things. And then the movement skills of Marcus are outstanding. He has great change of direction, he's got great hands."
As for Talib, Phillips said he remains as feisty as ever.
"If there's an argument or if there is something going on, Talib is going to take the other side. No matter what it is. He's going to argue about which rap singer is the best or whatever," Phillips said.
But Phillips likes how the the attitudes of all three carry over onto the field.
Phillips pointed to an interception Peters made last season for Kansas City Henry Anderson Jersey , coming off his assigned receiver in man-to-man coverage and making a play on the ball.
"I like personalities because they are independent enough to do things on their own, and they have shown they are independent enough to be great players, too. You don't want a player who does everything you say. You want guys that have some initiative," Phillips said.
With Talib and Peters in the fold, Phillips now has the defensive backs to showcase his own creativity.
Talib and Peters can line up on either side of the field, which is an unusual trait in top cornerbacks, and it gives Phillips added flexibility in how to use them. Add in Phillips' confidence in deploying starting safeties Lamarcus Joyner and John Johnson in man coverage, and the veteran coach can call whatever scheme he can conceive.
"It gives you so many possibilities to double-cover somebody and put the pressure on one of those guys to cover his guy by himself, and I'm talking about any one of those four. They can help linebackers if they need help," Phillips said. "I mean, I can think of a lot of things to play, but I haven't always had the players to play those coverages and so forth and these guys can, so we've got a lot of versatility there."
The possibilities of a secondary with Talib and Peters and a defensive line that will put Suh alongside Aaron Donald have elevated the Rams among the early Super Bowl contenders Gale Sayers Jersey , and Suh believes that potential is what has allowed the trio to integrate so seamlessly and will keep the team unified.
"I think it's easy," Suh said. "We all have one common goal, which is wanting to win and be successful. No matter how strong somebody's personality is or not, it's about as long as you have the same goal all meshing to where you want to be."
The swagger of Suh, Talib and Peters has rubbed off on Robby-Coleman, and the slot cornerback would be disappointed if the Rams do not have the top secondary and best defense in the NFL this season, provided everyone stays healthy.
"That's the level of confidence that we have," Robby-Coleman said.
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