Chargers’ season tied to training camp

COSTA MESA (News4usonline) – Training camp for NFL ballclubs is about getting better. It’s about getting acquainted with the playbook. It’s about getting more familiar with new teammates and adjusting to new schemes to learn. It’s about bonding. It’s also about getting ready to play football at its highest level.

The expectations for the Los Angeles Chargers during this training camp is anything less than a playoff bid would simply be not good enough. Tasting the postseason is something the Chargers have not tasted since they lost to the New England Patriots in the 2019 AFC Divisional round. The painful agony of the 2021 season for the Chargers came about in the last four games of the regular season.

Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert (10) taking a snap during training camp practice on Aug. 6, 2022. Photo by Melinda Meijer/News4usonline

The Chargers lost three of their last four games-two in overtime, including a 35-32 defeat in the last game of the season to the Las Vegas Raiders that knocked them out of playoff contention. On the first day of training camp, Chargers head coach Brandon Staley talked about that frustration at the end of the season.  

“I mean, I didn’t like the way we finished the season, not getting a chance to compete in the tournament — that stayed with me ever since I walked across that field in the last game,” Staley said. “I liked the way we competed as a team in the last four games, but we were 1-3. That’s the facts. We didn’t finish our season, and I think that we’re going to draw a lot of lessons from that.”

The Chargers have never played in a Super Bowl. Based on the moves the Chargers made in the offseason to go along with the veteran makeup of the team, this season could very well be the Year of the Bolts. Those expectations were there last season with Brandon Staley operating in his first year as the team’s head coach.

Linebacker Troy Reeder knows something about expectations. Reeder was a member of the Los Angeles Rams team that beat the Cincinnati Bengals to win Super Bowl LVI. His biggest takeaway from being with the Rams is that everything begins now with the foundations of training camp.

Things are competitive at training camp. Photo by Melinda Meijer/News4usonline

“The biggest thing is you have to be built to go all the way,” Reeder said. “That really starts right now and it seems kind of crazy being that it just turned into August right now. The habits that we’re creating right now are stuff that is going to drive us all the way through September, October, November, and then hopefully into mid-February. Just the little things about what it takes and how to stay healthy and do the right things every single day. I was blessed to be around a group that did do it the right way every day and coming out and competing. I see so many similarities in that here. I think this team has what it takes. We just have to put it all together and keep competing in practice and making each other better.”

The Chargers had their moments of success but couldn’t quite sustain it over the long haul of the season, and were denied an appearance in the postseason.

Justin Herbert still hasn’t made the postseason. This season should yield different results for the third-year Los Angeles Chargers quarterback. In his rookie season, Herbert was thrust into the starting lineup at a moment’s notice after starter Tyrod Taylor went down with an injury just prior to the first game of the regular season in 2020.

He hasn’t left the lineup since.

Not only has Herbert injected himself as the team’s starting quarterback for the foreseeable future, but he is also now ingrained as the face of the franchise. Since being tapped as the starter, Herbert has done wondrous things with his strong right arm. He’s broken all kinds of NFL records and has a place in the Hall of Fame.

This just after only playing two seasons in the NFL. Now in his third season with the Chargers, throwing for a pile of yards and erasing passing marks are not going to cut it anymore for Herbert or for the Chargers. They expect a playoff run this season.

“You just have to compete and you have to execute when it matters most,” Herbert quipped. “Unfortunately, we fell short of that, but I think we have the team, and definitely the pieces, it’s all about how we come together and work as a team. I’m looking forward to the challenge, of course, but a lot of great guys here, for sure.”

Even though this is Staley’s second season as head coach of the Chargers, Los Angeles has a wealth of talent and depth on both sides of the ball to make that a reality.

Los Angeles Chargers running back Isaiah Spiller (28) hauls in this pass during training camp on Aug. 6, 2022. Photo by Melinda Meijer/News4usonline

As the team enters the middle and final stages of training camp with preseason home games against the Los Angeles Rams and Dallas Cowboys, the Chargers have the confidence of a ballclub that has already been there and done that. At training camp, the Chargers are putting in the work to try to formulate that kind of atmosphere.

So far, Staley likes what he sees from his team as they work out the wrinkles in preparation for the regular season.   

“It’s where it should be through seven practices,” Staley said about the team’s intensity during an Aug. 5 press conference. “You have to build these guys up. You have to build a foundation in pads. I felt like we had two really good days in pads. Then, came back down here in the red area — a really short practice, get an off day, and then come back and have a lot of quality work, then finishing with a scrimmage. That third day, they’re ready to really compete and have a lot of plays and really build some wind. More drives, more substitutions and having to play longer. We’re in that process of building them up.”