Los Angeles Chargers training camp: Is Justin Herbert poised to take over the AFC West?

The Los Angeles Chargers have several storylines as we head into training camp, from QB Justin Herbert's development to a defense with a new star pass rusher.

The Los Angeles Chargers have accumulated a lot of talent, especially strong-armed, towering quarterback Justin Herbert, one of the most gifted passers in the NFL.

A brutal overtime loss to the Las Vegas Raiders cost the Chargers a playoff berth and raised some questions about coach Brandon Staley’s decision-making.

The Chargers’ disappointing finish and 9-8 mark after a 4-1 start does not dispel the fact that they have an opportunity to contend as we head into training camp.

The Chargers, under general manager Tom Telesco, have built a dangerous roster.

It’s no fun to play against them, but will that be enough in an ultra-talented AFC West division that includes the Kansas City Chiefs, Las Vegas Raiders, and the Denver Broncos.

5 storylines for Los Angeles Chargers training camp

The biggest story of the Chargers’ offseason besides the family strife between owner Dean Spanos and his sister was the trade for pass rusher Khalil Mack from the Chicago Bears.

They acquired Mack for second-round and sixth-round draft picks.

Just how dominant can the front seven be?

Mack, when healthy, can apply a lot of heat to opposing quarterbacks. Between Mack and fellow outside linebacker Joey Bosa, the Chargers’ front seven is truly gifted. Bosa is a tough blocking assignment. So is Mack. Who will opposing teams choose to double-team?

Mack is a three-time All-Pro selection. Though he was limited to seven games last season in Chicago due to injuries, he still finished with six sacks.

This is a good group overall, including Sebastian Joseph-Day, Jerry Tillery, and Austin Johnson.

How good can this defense become with J.C. Jackson addition?

The Chargers ranked 23rd in total defense last season. That isn’t expected to happen again. Not with Mack and Bosa’s presence along with the addition of former New England Patriots cornerback J.C. Jackson. Jackson can shut down opponents’ top receivers.

Jackson intercepted 25 passes in four seasons for the Patriots.

What will Herbert do for an encore?

Herbert has a cannon arm and processes plays quickly. He is the prototype NFL quarterback. He passed for more than 5,000 yards last season. And the Chargers led the  NFL with 181 fourth-quarter points.

The Chargers retained Mike Williams to go with Keenan Allen. Williams had 76 catches for 1,146 yards and nine touchdowns, and both Williams and Allen were selected to the Pro Bowl.

Six of Williams’ touchdowns came in the fourth quarter or overtime to tie the game or take the lead, a single-season NFL record.

What’s next for Austin Ekeler?

Ekeler is one of the most versatile players in the game.

The all-purpose running back tied for the NFL lead with 20 total touchdowns: 12 on the ground and eight as a receiver. In four games, he had both a rushing touchdown and a receiving touchdown.

Ekeler’s 24 receiving touchdowns in his first five NFL seasons are the most by any running back in that amount of time since 1967. Is there still room for more growth from the dynamic back?

Is Derwin James about to get paid?

Multiple league sources predict that the Chargers will make James one of the highest-paid safeties in the NFL. There is mutual interest to try to hammer out a deal but with no deal regarded as imminent, per sources. James was named to his second Pro Bowl last season after recording a career-high 118 tackles. James has more than earned his payday. When healthy, James is one of the top young defensive players in the league.

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