Heading into the 2014 season, the San Diego Chargers are looking to build upon a surprising entrance into the postseason a year ago, their first since the 2008-09 season. With a young and talented roster, major decisions need to be made going forward about most of the positions on the roster. Training camp and the preseason begin the weeding out process. So without further ado, here are the top five position battles heading into camp that Bolts fans should keep their eye on.
Jeremiah Attaochu vs. Melvin Ingram vs. Dwight Freeney vs. Jarret Johnson: Ingram was brought to San Diego in the 2012 NFL Draft to help bolster a pass rush that was in desperate need of change. Fast forward two seasons later and this coming year becomes very important for the former Gamecock. Although he played in all 16 games in his rookie campaign, and provided a boost to that struggling pass rush, last year saw Ingram barely see the field. This was due in large part to tearing his ACL during OTAs, which caused him to subsequently miss a majority of the season. Now, the Bolts come into camp with another young pass rusher looking to make an impact in Jeremiah Attaochu. The former Georgia Tech Yellow Jacket has a ton of upside and if he flourishes, could see the field more than the former first-rounder, Ingram. However, Ingram was really playing well towards the end of last season and will likely be a big part of the San Diego defense this year.
Aside from the two youngsters, Dwight Freeney (34) and Jarret Johnson (32) are the elder statesmen at the outside linebacker position. Both have had brilliant careers putting heat on the quarterback, but both are also coming off injury-filled seasons. Johnson tallied three sacks in 11 games and muscled his way through pain to be on the field for the Bolts. Freeney only saw action in four games before injuring his quad and ending his season.
While these four, and the likes of Larry English, will certainly battle it out for the two OLB spots, this position battle very much works to the Bolts advantage. We learned from the Seahawks last year, more pass rushers equals better defense. These players will likely rotate to keep fresh legs attacking opposing quarterbacks. The two young guns will provide great depth backing up the veterans and keeping them fresh for the playoff run.