Chargers camp questions: How will new-look offense change? Who’s filling holes on D?

Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert signs autographs for fans.
Not long after he signed a new contract, Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert signs autographs for fans.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

Just hours before opening training camp Wednesday, the Chargers set off fireworks — financial fireworks.

The team made Justin Herbert the NFL’s highest paid player — based on average annual value — by agreeing on a five-year contract extension worth up to $262.5 million.

Now, the 25-year-old quarterback can get busy earning all his new money for a franchise attempting to make consecutive postseason appearances for the first time in 14 years.


The Chargers are coming off a 10-7 regular season that earned them an AFC wild-card playoff spot, where, you might recall, they built a 27-0 lead in Jacksonville before losing 31-30 on the game’s final play.

So, having reconvened for their final camp in Costa Mesa before relocating to El Segundo next year, the Chargers aren’t lacking for motivation.

The Chargers and quarterback Justin Herbert agreed on a contract extension, a five-year deal worth up to $262.5 million, making him the highest-paid player in the NFL based on average annual value.

July 25, 2023

“I do think there’s a sense of urgency throughout the building, especially after that playoff game,” defensive lineman Morgan Fox said. “We know we’re better than what happened in Jacksonville. We know how good a team we can be.”

With Herbert’s long-anticipated deal done — he signed the contract Wednesday — here’s a look at six story lines with camp opening and heading into the Chargers’ season opener against Miami on Sept. 10:

The Kellen Moore effect: For a team that made few bold-headline personnel moves in the offseason, the hiring of Moore as offensive coordinator easily has been the most touted.

Moore spent the last four years overseeing the offense in Dallas, where the Cowboys put up plenty of points and netted acres of yards but won only a single playoff game. Still, Moore’s units did produce.


New Chargers offensive coordinator Kellen Moore says he loves what he sees in L.A.’s offense, but will bring some Cowboys wrinkles to run a more balanced attack.

Feb. 1, 2023

The Chargers are looking for more consistency and power in the running game and more explosiveness in general. Moore’s effect during the offseason was reflected in several Chargers using the word “creative” when describing him.

How he deploys the record-shattering arm of Herbert will be worthy of daily — at least — camp updates.

“I think last year was a floor for us,” tight end Gerald Everett said. “I think we’ll be more dynamic this year. We have another weapon, more time spent together, more chemistry.”

Will Q be the A? The new weapon Everett mentioned is rookie wide receiver Quentin Johnston, drafted No. 21 overall by the Chargers in April. Coming out of Texas Christian, Johnston brings a big body and equally sizable potential.

Since the moment they selected him, the Chargers have raved about Johnston’s ability to generate yards after the catch, which is one sure way to increase an offense’s explosiveness.

Breaking down the Chargers’ 2023 NFL draft picks and how they might contribute on offense, defense and special teams next season.

April 29, 2023

Said Moore, “I think you can certainly see that his suddenness to get in and out of breaks once he catches the ball — the transitioning into a runner — I think that will be really big for him.”


Johnston should benefit from playing with two accomplished veterans in Keenan Allen and Mike Williams and in battling for the team’s third wide receiver spot with Joshua Palmer.

J.C. Jackson’s return: The Chargers still aren’t sure what they have in their biggest free-agent signing of 2022. Jackson struggled last year before suffering a season-ending knee injury in Week 7.

He participated in the majority of practice Wednesday, sitting out only full-team drills, a sign that Jackson is well on his way to recovering completely.

“For him to be out here Day 1, that speaks a lot about how hard he’s been working,” safety Derwin James Jr. said. “I just told him to take it day by day. He’s going to make plays.”

J.C. Jackson was signed by the Chargers before last season with huge expectations, but injuries ended his season in October. The star corner says he has much to prove to L.A.

June 13, 2023

Jackson spent the last several months mostly working on his own but was able to take part on the fringes of the Chargers’ offseason team work leading into summer break.

If Jackson is able to return to something close to his previous Pro Bowl self, the Chargers’ secondary becomes noticeably deeper and more versatile, especially with cornerback Asante Samuel Jr.’s ability to play multiple positions.


Secondary shuffle: The most obvious change on defense comes at inside linebacker, where veteran Eric Kendricks is replacing leading-tackler Drue Tranquill, who was allowed to depart in free agency.

But the Chargers also will have two new full-time starters in the back end after safety Nasir Adderley and inside cornerback Bryce Callahan were not re-signed. Adderley retired and Callahan remains a free agent.

Safety Alohi Gilman proved to be a capable starter in the second half of 2022 and offers the Chargers a bit of stability next to James. Gilman continued to work with the first team Wednesday.

An intriguing player to watch will be JT Woods, a 2022 third-round pick who struggled in limited chances as a rookie. The Chargers still love Woods’ range and speed, with head coach Brandon Staley certain he can be developed.

Ja’Sir Taylor spent the offseason program as the No. 1 slot corner and is poised to replace Callahan, unless he falters in camp.

Chargers rookie Tuli Tuipulotu (45) runs a drill during rookie minicamp. He was a great pass rusher for USC.
(Jae C. Hong / Associated Press)

Other kids to watch: Besides Johnston, the Chargers could have immediate contributors in edge rusher Tuli Tuipulotu (second round), linebacker Daiyan Henley (third) and wide receiver Derius Davis (fourth).

Tuipulotu joins a position group that is thin behind starters Joey Bosa and Khalil Mack. He had 13½ sacks last season, the most for a player at USC in nearly two decades.

Henley and Davis both are forecast to be a significant pieces on special teams for coordinator Ryan Ficken. Henley played special teams in college, and Davis entered his first NFL camp as the Chargers’ No. 1 return man.

Another rookie who could be needed early is defensive lineman Scott Matlock, who was taken in the sixth round. The Chargers placed defensive linemen Austin Johnson and Otito Ogbonnia — both coming off significant knee injuries — on the physically unable to perform list.

Kicking it around: For a franchise that has had a history of kicker issues, the Chargers’ latest issue is having too many kickers. Dustin Hopkins versus Cameron Dicker is the purest one-on-one competition entering camp.

Hopkins is 27 of 30 on field goals and 42 of 44 on extra points in 16 games with the Chargers since his arrival in October 2021. He missed the final 11 regular-season games and the playoffs last season, however, because of a hamstring injury.


Dicker filled in admirably for Hopkins, making 19 of 20 field goals and all 22 of his extra-point tries in the regular season. However, he did miss a 40-yard field goal attempt midway through the fourth quarter of the Chargers’ one-point playoff loss.

Hopkins has more experience and the stronger leg, but Dicker earned plenty of trust among the Chargers’ coaches and players in 2022.