Los Angeles Chargers 2023 Training Camp Preview
The Los Angeles Chargers are entering the 2023 season after a disappointing finish to their 2022 campaign. Los Angeles had a respectable 10-7 record as they finished second in the AFC West Division. However, they had a horrific collapse in the first round of the playoffs blowing a 27-0 lead against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Now, the Chargers will look to bounce back in the 2023 season. Los Angeles has added former Dallas Cowboys offensive coordinator Kellen Moore. Also, the Chargers drafted first-round pick Quentin Johnston out of TCU in the hopes of making the Chargers receiving core of Keenan Allen and Mike Williams one of the better trios in the NFL. Los Angeles still possesses studs on defense, like Joey Bosa, Khalil Mack, and Derwin James Jr. They have a solid cornerback duo in J.C. Jackson and Asante Samuel Jr. to help round out the defensive backs.
The Chargers have an overall strong roster with not many glaring holes. However, they have not been able to put it all together but maybe 2023 will be the year quarterback Justin Herbert can carry the Bolts to a playoff win.
Three Position Battles To Watch
RB2: Joshua Kelley, Isaiah Spiller
One of the biggest position battles for Los Angeles is the backup running back position. This battle may be more important for 2024 as it appears RB Austin Ekeler might not be back next year. Kelley, the veteran in this battle, won the job last year over Spiller. He was serviceable in the third down role with 287 yards and two touchdowns on 69 carries and 14 receptions for 101 yards. Kelley averaged a fantastic 4.2 yards per carry but he never truly impressed in this role.
On the other hand, Spiller only played in six games totaling 41 yards on 18 carries and three receptions for 13 yards. He had a tough rookie year but that does not mean he can not take a huge leap heading into his second year. Spiller has talent as an elusive back with solid cuts but he will need to improve his physicality and burst at times. The backup running back position is up for grabs and there will likely be more opportunities this year with Moore as the offensive coordinator. Also, whoever wins the job will need to prove that they are capable of possibly taking over the RB1 job in 2024.
QB2: Easton Stick, Max Duggan
Justin Herbert is a star quarterback in the NFL but every team needs a good backup quarterback. This can be seen in how backup quarterback Chad Henne played valuable snaps for the Chiefs in the divisional round of last year’s playoffs against the Jaguars. Chase Daniel was the backup quarterback for the Chargers over the past two years but heading into the 2023 season he is no longer on the roster.
Now, the 2019 fifth-round pick out of North Dakota State Easton Stick has a chance to take the job. He has experience in the NFL and experience with the Chargers organization on his side. However, he will be battling it out with former TCU quarterback Max Duggan. This rookie was selected in the seventh round, but demonstrated his talent as one of the best quarterbacks in college football last year. He threw for 3698 yards and 32 touchdowns while leading the Cinderella Horned Frogs to a National Championship appearance. Duggan became a fan favorite last college football season but he has his work cut out for him if he wants to prove himself as a capable NFL quarterback.
This QB2 battle will be an important one as a bad backup quarterback can tank seasons if the starter misses some time so it will be interesting to see if Stick or Duggan can come out on top.
Safety: Alohi Gilman, JT Woods
Safety is one of the Los Angeles Chargers’ weaker positions on their roster. They have a perennial pro-bowl safety in James, but who will be lining up across from him is not yet known. Gilman played 17 games last season and started five as he is the front-runner to win the job this year. He had a solid season with 58 tackles, 35 solo tackles, and one interception.
However, former Baylor safety JT Woods who was drafted in the third round of the 2022 draft can make this battle competitive. He played in ten games last year and started one as a rookie but was not that effective.
Both of these players will need to improve if they want to be solid contributors alongside James. Gilman is more than likely the one to win the safety job but that does not mean Woods is insignificant as the first backup. James Jr. has had multiple injuries including missing a whole season and only playing in five games another season. There is a chance that these two safeties start games together in 2023 and this is a position battle I see happening throughout the whole season.
Ready To Breakout: Quentin Johnston
Quentin Johnston is currently the wide receiver three for the Chargers after being drafted with the 21st pick in the first round in 2023. He is a behemoth of a man measuring in at 6-foot-4, 215 pounds. He had 60 receptions, 1069 yards, and six touchdowns last year and he was one of the reasons that TCU was one of the best offenses in the country. Johnston is a physical wide receiver with good speed that can stretch the field for the Chargers.
He will need to improve his route tree but his frame and huge catch radius make him a dangerous threat for Herbert as an NFL receiver.
Johnston has the potential to break out as he is in a great situation with Herbert behind center and offensive coordinator Moore calling plays. Los Angeles has a talented wide receiver room which means Johnston should not see many double teams allowing him to use his big frame to win one on ones. Ultimately, the Chargers now have two huge deep threats in Williams and Johnston while Allen can work over the middle of the field.
Rookie To Watch: Tuli Tuipulotu
The rookie to watch is first-round pick Johnston but to throw another name in the mix is defensive edge Tuli Tuipulota. He was the 2023 second-round pick out of USC for Los Angeles.
Tuipulota broke out as a senior at USC racking up an eye-catching 13.5 sacks. This was a vast improvement over his 5.5 sacks the year before. Also, he managed to get 31 solo tackles, 22 tackles for loss, and three pass deflections last season. He lacks the desired frame but has good strength and athleticism for someone his size. Tuipulota is a powerful rusher with a great motor that can help him make a name for himself in the NFL.
He is a rookie to watch because he will be backing up Bosa and Mack. These two are incredible pro-bowl edge rushers but they each have had issues with staying healthy. This means that if Tuipulota can improve as a rusher and continue the success he had in his senior season then there is a good chance he will play meaningful snaps throughout the 2023 season.
Fantasy Sleeper: Isaiah Spiller
The RB2 position is up for grabs, as I stated earlier. In the new Chargers offense led by offensive coordinator Moore, it is likely that there will be two relevant Los Angeles running backs. Moore spent his last four years with Dallas Cowboys where it was a split back backfield between Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard. Especially, in the last two years both of these running backs are extremely fantasy relevant. There is a good chance that his system will carry over to the Chargers and Spiller or Kelley will be effective for fantasy as a backup running back.
I am not sure who will win the job but it seems like Kelley has shown his ceiling a bit so I will take the swing on the second-year Spiller. If Spiller can translate his talent to on-field production then there is no reason he will not be worth a pick as a late-round running back. I believe the opportunity will be there in 2023 for the Los Angeles Chargers backup running back which is only more reason to pay attention to the RB2 position battle.
What do you think about the Chargers heading into the 2023 NFL season? Let us know in the comments below!