It is a pivotal season for coach Anthony Lynn, who is entering his fourth season with a Chargers franchise that has made one playoff appearance since 2013. After parting ways with veteran quarterback Philip Rivers, the team is faced with its first decision at quarterback since choosing Rivers over Drew Brees in 2005.
Quarterback is one of the five positions subject to a training camp battle for the AFC West franchise.
The Chargers made a hefty investment in free agent offensive tackle Bryan Bulaga this offseason after trading starting left tackle Russell Okung to Carolina in exchange for offensive guard Trai Turner. There have been conflicting reports on whether Bulaga will begin his Bolts career on the left or right side. Regardless, the other role is going to be an open competition and, quite frankly, not a promising one. The candidates are Sam Tevi, Trey Pipkins and Storm Norton. Tevi and Pipkins each started more than a dozen games last season, so they do possess experience.
Los Angeles should probably start the ex-Packer on the left side and allow Tevi to remain on the right. Bulaga did spend the early portion of his career at left tackle before the team drafted David Bakhtiari.
Coach Anthony Lynn has been adamant that veteran Tyrod Taylor will be his starting quarterback when the team takes the field Week 1 against the Bengals. Honestly, it is probably a wise decision. Rookie quarterback Justin Herbert is already being forced to adapt to the NFL during a shortened offseason. He will have zero preseason repetitions to simulate the speed of the game. There is no chance that he receives enough reps with the first team wide receivers to be on the same page. The offensive line is a work in progress and there will be added pressure on that initial Sunday with rookie No. 1 overall selection Joe Burrow starting at quarterback for Cincinnati.
Taylor has been in a similar situation previously. In 2018, he was deemed the Week 1 starter for the Browns, who had used the No. 1 overall selection on Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield. The veteran suffered an early season injury in a primetime meeting with the Jets, Mayfield was a star and Taylor never got his starting job back. It would not be too surprising if Herbert was the starter in Week 1 because there is a lot of pressure to make an early draft pick pay off. The odds-on favorite, however, is Taylor.
3. Slot receiver
Mike Williams and Keenan Allen are the unquestioned starters on the boundary but there is a vacancy in the slot following the departure of veteran Travis Benjamin, who opted out of the upcoming season as a new member of the 49ers. Veteran Andre Patton was expected to factor into the conversation, but he was released on July 31 and has since signed with the Cardinals.
The suspected starter will be either K.J. Hill or Joe Reed. Both are promising young rookies with speed to burn. It should be a fun battle for fans to monitor during the preseason. Alas, it would have been fun to see them get some meaningful minutes with Herbert before the regular season.
Casey Hayward is one of the two starting boundary cornerbacks. Chris Harris Jr. is the talented starting field cornerback. Those roles will not be up for debate. The real question is what the team will do with that other boundary role. Michael Davis and Brandon Facyson are the likely competitors but there is a lot of versatility in that secondary to move pieces around. Derwin James, alone, is one of the most versatile safeties in the game with his rangy ability in coverage as well as hard-hitting nature in the box. There is a battle for the starting free safety position that will be discussed shortly and Desmond King has not even been mentioned. Roles will be fluid in this defense as defensive coordinator Gus Bradley looks to get his best collection of talent on the field.
5. Free safety
Los Angeles invested a second round selection on Delaware safety Nasir Adderley in the 2019 NFL Draft. Adderley's grandfather's cousin, Herb Adderley, is a Pro Football Hall of Fame cornerback, so the league runs through his family's blood. Early round selections are not spent on depth, but with the intention of that player one day fulfilling a starter's role. He played the first quarter of the 2019 regular season before suffering a hamstring injury that would place him on Injured Reserve. In his stead, the Chargers inserted Rayshawn Jenkins, who started all 16 games and recorded three interceptions.