COSTA MESA, Calif. — The Chargers opened their two-day rookie minicamp Friday morning.
Here are some takeaways and observations.
1. There were 26 players on the field for practice — 23 rookies and three second-year veterans. All eight of the Chargers’ 2022 draft picks — first-round pick Zion Johnson, third-round pick JT Woods, fourth-round pick Isaiah Spiller, fifth-round pick Otito Ogbonnia, sixth-round picks Jamaree Salyer and Ja’Sir Taylor and seventh-round pick Zander Horvath — were in attendance. The three veterans were wide receiver Michael Bandy, tight end Hunter Kampmoyer and offensive tackle Foster Sarrell.
2. Woods was wearing his No. 22 jersey but did not have his helmet or participate in any drills. He sat out due to a minor contract issue. All other rookies participated. Ogbonnia, Salyer, Taylor, Leonard and Horvath signed their contracts Friday, the team announced. Woods could potentially participate Saturday if the contract issue is resolved. Saturday’s practice is not open to the media. While the Chargers’ defensive backs and linebackers did positioning drills as a unit toward the end of practice, Woods watched from behind the safeties and motioned through mental reps.
3. Johnson worked at right guard during Friday’s practice. He is expected to start there for the Chargers this season. Johnson did not play on the right side in any games in college at Boston College, so that will be part of his NFL transition. “You build up muscle memory through doing things,” Johnson said after practice. “Honestly, it’s just getting the reps and replicating things over and over again so that it feels natural.”
4. Salyer spent practice at left guard. He was primarily a left tackle in college at Georgia but will be moving inside for the Chargers, at least for the time being. Salyer did play all five positions at various points for the Bulldogs.
“It’s something that I’ve done before,” Salyer said. “I would say that it’s definitely different at this caliber of talent and caliber of players. For me, I like to know that I’m a dominant player and a great player, but I have to go into that at this level. I want to go into that, I want to take the steps, take the baby steps and take the growing pains as they come. That’s what rookie camp is. I’m excited about it. At the end of the day, whatever coach throws at me, I’m going to go out there and do my best every single day.
“We’re just trying to see what I can do. See what I have done and see how that transitions to this level. It’s an exciting exploration for both of us.”
The Chargers will have a competition in training camp to settle on a starting right tackle. Storm Norton, the starter in 2021, and Trey Pipkins are the primary contenders. We will see if Salyer gets an opportunity to play out there in training camp.
“As a competitor, I believe that I can do anything that I put my mind to,” Salyer said of playing tackle in the NFL. “At the end of the day, if they put me at right tackle or whatever they want me to do, I’ll go out there and do it to the best of my abilities. At the end of the day, if I fail, I fail. If I succeed, I succeed. But I’m going to do it as best I can and learn how to do it as best I can.”
5. Sarrell, who spent last season on the practice squad after signing with the Chargers in October, was at left tackle, and undrafted free agent Andrew Trainer was at right tackle.
6. Ogbonnia was the only defensive lineman on the field and worked one-on-one with defensive line coach Jay Rodgers during practice. Rodgers has shifted roles this season, moving from coaching edge rushers to the interior defensive line. “It was a little lonely because I was by myself, but it was good,” Ogbonnia said with a smile. “You can’t beat that, being coached by one of the best in the league.”
7. Both Salyer and Ogbonnia got to reconnect with college teammates when they arrived at the facility. Salyer played at Georgia with defensive back Mark Webb and tight end Tre’ McKitty, both 2021 Chargers draft picks. Salyer said he has seen Webb a few times around the building. “But I haven’t seen Tre’,” he added. “I don’t know where he’s hiding.”
Ogbonnia played at UCLA with running back Joshua Kelley and the two reunited Thursday. Kelley gave Ogbonnia one of his patented massive smiles. “You know the typical Joshua Kelley smile,” Ogbonnia said. “You know how he is, but he was a little bit more elated than he typically is to see me. He was like, ‘Let’s go.’ It’s crazy how full circle that’s come because I was there with him my first two years and to see him and be his teammate again, it means everything to me.”
8. The Chargers are planning on hosting joint practices with the Cowboys in training camp in Costa Mesa this summer ahead of the teams’ preseason game on Aug. 20. The Cowboys hold their training camp in Oxnard, Calif.
9. Taylor was playing in the slot as the Chargers’ nickel corner during defensive team drills. Leonard was playing on the outside.
10. The Chargers have a punter in for rookie camp: Ben Griffiths, a former Australian rules football player who spent the past three seasons punting for USC. Griffiths, 30, is 6-foot-6 and 240 pounds. He is in rookie camp as a tryout player. Griffiths could end up being the second punter in training camp competing with JK Scott. Griffiths played eight seasons in the Australian Football League from 2010-17 before switching to American football with the Trojans.
(Photo of Zion Johnson: Marcio Jose Sanchez / Associated Press)