San Diego Chargers: 3 Players Impressing in 2012 Training Camp

Mike Walkusky@mwalkuskyContributor IAugust 3, 2012

San Diego Chargers: 3 Players Impressing in 2012 Training Camp

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    The San Diego Chargers training camp is in full swing, and fans are getting extremely excited about the upcoming season.

    The Chargers will open up the NFL preseason against the Green Bay Packers on Thursday.

    With preseason football so close, the Chargers will have a chance to figure out which players fit into their plan for their regular season roster.

    Despite no preseason games being played, there have been three Chargers that have been extremely impressive throughout training camp.

    These three players have had extremely different football experiences up until this point in their careers, but they all hope to be big contributors to the Chargers this season.

    Let's take a look at the three most impressive players of training camp thus far.

Mike Harris, OT

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    Every year, a few lucky undrafted free agents land in the perfect situation for them to make a team's roster.

    That seems to be the case with Mike Harris, an undrafted offensive tackle out of UCLA.

    When Harris was signed, many people did not expect him to make the team. However, injuries to Jared Gaither and Brandyn Dombrowski have forced Harris into the first unit for a decent amount of time this training camp.

    While playing with the starters, Harris has performed admirably. He has appeared overmatched at times, but that's to be expected from any rookie.

    Harris does not currently possess the talent to make a considerable impact in the NFL, but he has flashed the ability to be a solid backup offensive tackle. A backup offensive tackle is tremendous value for an undrafted rookie free agent.

    San Diego Union-Tribune columnist Kevin Acee believes that Harris has already earned a spot on the roster.

    Harris is another great undrafted free-agent find by the Chargers' scouting staff. If he makes the team, this will be the 17th straight year that an undrafted free agent broke training camp on the 53-man roster.

Aubrayo Franklin, NT

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    Aubrayo Franklin was a late addition to the Chargers roster during the offseason, and most fans likely viewed Franklin as an afterthought.

    Franklin was far from a hot commodity in free agency following a disappointing season with the New Orleans Saints.

    However, Franklin played an unfamiliar position with the Saints—the 4-3 defensive tackle.

    When Franklin was on the San Francisco 49ers, he played nose tackle. Franklin flashed the ability to be one of the more dominant nose tackles in the league. In fact, the 49ers even threw the franchise tag on Franklin following the 2009 season. 

    Now that Franklin is back in the familiar position of nose tackle, he has shown that he will command a great deal of playing time. 

    Franklin's training camp performance has been impressive thus far. He has been getting snaps with the starting defense over the very promising Cam Thomas.

    Ian Rapoport of saw Franklin crush a running back a few days ago, and he believes that Franklin can be productive for the Chargers defense.

    Picking up Franklin was a shrewd move by A.J. Smith, and his addition might force the talented Antonio Garay to take snaps at defensive end.

Antonio Gates, TE

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    Earlier this offseason, Antonio Gates was in the news because he asserted that he would revamp his diet in order to lose some extra pounds, according to U-T San Diego.

    Well, it looks like his decision is paying off.

    Gates has looked like the Gates of old during training camp rather than the tight end who could barely get downfield last season.

    Ian Rapoport of NFL Network raved about Gates' performance during training camp.

    The best thing is, he can actually run… He’s in shape. He looks skinny. He was burning cornerbacks left and right in practice.…He is feeling healthier now than he’s been in a couple of years.

    Following the loss of Vincent Jackson, the importance of Gates' health has increased greatly.

    For Chargers' fans, the reports regarding Gates are very encouraging. Even Gates' teammates are excited about what he has shown during training camp.

    Eric Weddle placed some pretty lofty expectations on Gates during an interview with ESPN.

    He’s going to be the best tight end in the NFL this year. The best. You can’t guard him … I know there are a lot good tight ends coming up in the league, but Antonio is the best. He looks that good. He hasn’t looked this good since my rookie season.

    If Gates truly is the best tight end in 2012, the Chargers' offense will hardly miss Jackson.