Chargers Camp Preview: Coaching Sessions Reveal Position Battles

William RisserCorrespondent IMay 29, 2009

The official start of the Chargers training camp is just over a month away and compelling story lines are already forming. The recently completed off-season coaching sessions at Chargers Park showed who's who on the depth chart and not everyone was happy.

Hell, special-teamer extraordinaire Kasim Osgood won't attend due to his lowly status on the receiving totem pole.

Returning all but two starters there are only a handful of spots up for grabs and that should make for a training camp worth watching. Will a rookie emerge? Does a veteran still have it? It will all be on display at guard, defensive end and safety.

The loss of left end Igor Olshansky to Dallas and right guard Mike Goff's departure to Kansas City opens the door at those positions, while the strong safety spot has a new starter after Clinton Hart's demotion. 

It will also be interesting to see how inside linebacker Kevin Burnett, signed from Dallas this off-season, fits in as a coverage specialist across from stalwart Stephen Cooper. Covering tight ends has been a problem and he was brought in to help fix that.

Meanwhile, Matt Wilhelm and Tim Dobbins will be engaged in a ferocious battle to see who will occupy that weak side spot on running downs. 

Competition at left end should be much less contentious. A rotation of Ryon Bingham, Jacques Cesaire, and rookie behemoth Vaughn Martin shouldn't make anyone pine for Olshansky. Who starts is immaterial. They'll all see time given the NFL's ruthless attrition. 

There are a pair of players hoping to fill Mike Goff's vacancy on a already formidable line. Nine year veteran Kynan Forney signed a two year deal this off-season after being acquired from Atlanta during last season. It's currently his job to lose and he doesn't plan on letting that happen. 

Just to be sure, GM A.J. Smith drafted mammoth Louis Vasquez out of Texas Tech in the third round. The 6'5", 333 pound rookie will have to show his power and work hard to learn the offense to keep up with Forney who will have a major advantage.

It should come down to who can be the better in the run game. The ability for the offense to get tough yards on the ground is crucial. 

A trio of contenders will be vying for the strong safety spot now that Clinton Hart has fallen back after a forgettable, injury riddled season. The captain knows he's got to impress Defensive Coordinator Ron Rivera big time to get his starting job back.

Hart's now behind Steve Gregory on the depth chart and USC rookie Kevin Ellison doesn't seem phased at the prospect of starting. It's going to be fun to watch.

Ellison, at 224, is something the Chargers secondary doesn't have and could use- a hammer. A punishing hitter at safety would be a welcome addition to the secondary. He's had some substantial injuries so his health may determine whether he's on the field to bring the pain. 

Should Gregory perform well and get the starting nod, little is lost. Both are team players ready to do whatever it takes to bring home a championship. That is a good thing. You can never have too many good players in this league

But I'm not going to count Hart out yet. When the defense went bad last year Hart was usually left holding the bag. He's not the only one of his defensive teammates that is ready to show that last year was an anomaly.

The commitment by the players to the off-season program was noticed by the coaching staff over the course of the coaching sessions which began earlier this month and continue through June.  

There's no doubt they will be well attended by veteran players looking to get a leg up and younger guys trying to learn the system. Because once training camp begins all bets are off. It's time to earn your spot.