Chargers have one more move in mind: Up in the standings

on Jul29

The grass was green.

For most people setting foot on the grounds of an NFL practice field, this is a given. But for Chargers general manager Tom Telesco, it’s an important detail — one of many he and his colleagues deal with.

“Everything is brand new,” Telesco said as he sat under a tent at the Chargers’ training camp home in Costa Mesa.

They are in the process of converting an office building into a NFL training complex about two miles north up the road. They’ve packed files, office equipment, weight machines, training tables and computer servers. Piles of flattened boxes gradually got built, packed and loaded in a truck before getting unpacked and flattened again.

It’s taken months; the finish line is in sight.

Rookies report for training camp on Saturday. On Sunday morning, the team will take the field at the Jack Hammet Sports Complex — complete with a $1 million in improvements — and hold a practice.

They will be representing a new home. The move from San Diego will be complete.

“It’s been really, really good. It could’ve been chaotic but it hasn’t,” Telesco said.

Moving a NFL franchise, even just up the freeway, is tough. Transforming from a five-win team to a championship team? That’s next on the to-do list.

To become a contender, the Chargers will have to survive one of the toughest divisions in the NFL, the AFC West, and a brutal schedule that will take them across the country four times.

And they’ll have to answer some difficult questions:

Can Anthony Lynn make that big a difference?

After winning nine games in each of Mike McCoy’s first two seasons as coach, the Chargers won only nine games combined in the next two. Following a season-ending 10-point loss to Kansas City, McCoy was fired.

Enter Lynn, a first-time NFL head coach, with plenty of experience as a player and position coach. During his stops throughout the NFL, he’s earned a reputation as demanding but fair, and for winning trust in his players.

His voice, other coaches have said, can grab the attention of a room.

He’ll turn over the X’s and O’s to coordinators with head-coaching experience, Ken Whisenhunt on offense and Gus Bradley on defense.

Though no one can say for sure how he’ll handle the pressure of being the top guy, how he’ll manage a staff or game, Telesco expects that Lynn’s players will respond to him.

“There’s no doubt he’s got a strong presence to him,” Telesco said. “He’s competitive and he wants to win.”

Will this team finally get healthy?

Injuries ended Keenan Allen’s season before last year’s opener. Pro Bowl cornerback Jason Verrett had a knee injury end his season in Week 5. The injury report started to rival the depth chart as the season went along and a lack of depth was exposed.

Allen was one of the feel-good stories of the offseason, getting on the field during OTA’s and moving with confidence and quickness.

Verrett appears headed for a recovery too, but not all the health news is good heading into camp.

First-round pick Mike Williams was expected to make an immediate impact with the Chargers’ receiver corps, but a lower-back injury forced him off the field after just one day of rookie minicamp.

Williams, Telesco said, is improving but will likely miss the start of training camp.

Could the Chargers be in even more of a rush?

The biggest move of the Chargers offseason was when they agreed to pay Melvin Ingram $66 million over four years. The price tag was high because Ingram is one of the league’s best at getting to the quarterback.

In Bradley’s 4-3 system, he’ll be classified as a lineman, but that’s mostly semantics.

What’s important, the Chargers say, is that anytime a quarterback goes to pass, he’ll have to look out for Ingram on one side and second-year star Joey Bosa on the other.

The duo should be one of the best pass-rushing tandems in the league.

How can the special teams become special?

The Chargers had the worst unit in the league the last two seasons, and they could be making wholesale changes with competitions at placekicker and punter.

Veteran assistant George Stewart, who has guided special teams turnarounds for coaching legends such as Chuck Knoll and Bill Walsh, takes over a unit that needs a revival.

The most fluid depth chart on the team should be the specialty units, with fights for roster spots going into the final days of camp.

How far can this Rivers carry this team?

Philip Rivers is, again, the Chargers’ best and most important player.

Every big move, save for Ingram’s deal, seemed geared at making Rivers’ 14th season in the NFL as easy as possible.

The Chargers fortified the offensive interior, first in free agency by signing left tackle Russell Okung and then in the draft by using three of their seven picks on linemen.

Two of the draft picks, second-rounder Forrest Lamp and third-rounder Dan Feeney, could work their way into starting roles before the year is through.

Rivers should have more time to pick which of his many weapons is most open. That group includes second-year tight end Hunter Henry, who could become one of the league’s best at his position. Antonio Gates, one of the best tight ends ever, is back, and if there was a positive that came out of last year’s injuries, it was the development of receivers such as Tyrell Williams and Dontrelle Inman.

And Melvin Gordon is entering his third season with confidence and a coach who loves running the football.

“I feel real good about where we are, but we’ve got to get on a field,” Telesco said. “We’ve got to show it. You do all this talking between the end of last year and now, you get tired of it. You can only talk about it for so long.”

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