It appears Chargers have decided who’ll start at right tackle

The Chargers conclude the preseason Friday in New Orleans with a game that mostly will feature players at the back end of their roster or about to be waived.

They had their final training camp workout Wednesday in Costa Mesa and will practice three times next week before the regular season officially arrives the following week.

A look at the five most important developments of training camp 2022:

Trey Pipkins III at right tackle: Coach Brandon Staley so far has refused to identify who will start the season at right tackle but all indications point to Pipkins beating out incumbent Storm Norton.

The two split first-team snaps equally throughout camp before this week, when Pipkins took over and Norton worked exclusively with the second string.

Entering his fourth season, Pipkins has started 10 games in his career. He started once at right tackle and once at left tackle last season.

The right side of the Chargers’ offensive line will be closely monitored. Rookie Zion Johnson will start at the guard spot next to Pipkins, giving the Chargers little NFL experience.

J.C. Jackson’s availability in question: The Chargers lost their top free-agent addition for two to four weeks after Jackson had a surgical procedure on his right ankle Tuesday. His return now is dependent on how quickly the wound heals.

Jackson evidently is doing his part to accelerate the process. He posted on social media a picture of his foot heavily wrapped as he spent time in a hyperbaric chamber.

In his absence, Michael Davis and Asante Samuel Jr. will be the Chargers’ starting outside cornerbacks.

Significant enough on its own, Jackson’s loss could be doubly felt if he misses the first two weeks. The Chargers open with a pair of AFC West games: at home against Las Vegas on Sept. 11 and at Kansas City just four days later.

 Chargers running back Joshua Kelley arms up before a preseason game.

For now, it appears Joshua Kelley might have won the No. 2 running back position by default.

(Ashley Landis / Associated Press)

No clear-cut backup to Austin Ekeler: The Chargers entered training camp with hopes that Joshua Kelley, Larry Rountree III or Isaiah Spiller would emerge as their second running back, offering a complement to the dynamic Ekeler.

That didn’t happen. Now, it appears they’ll start the season taking a hot-hand approach, meaning that if one of the backups develops a “hot hand” during a game, he’ll be the No. 2 for that day. Kelley started the first two preseason games, suggesting he’ll be the first off the bench in Week 1.

A rookie fourth-round draft choice, Spiller is dealing with an ankle injury and, Staley said, might not be ready for the start of the season.

Ekeler gained 911 yards and scored 12 touchdowns on the ground in 2021. The Chargers’ other three running backs — Kelley, Rountree and Justin Jackson — totaled 553 yards and three scores.

Joshua Palmer grabs No. 3 wide receiver spot: If the Chargers recognized a training camp MVP, Palmer or safety Nasir Adderley probably would have been honored, with wide receiver/kick returner DeAndre Carter also in the hunt.

Given how Palmer finished his rookie season, the expectation was he would be the team’s third receiver behind Keenan Allen and Mike Williams to open 2022. That’s precisely what happened over the last few weeks.

Offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi said Palmer has developed more consistency in his second season and no longer is dealing with the typical rookie transition into a more complex offensive system.

“The arrow is up on him,” Lombardi said Tuesday. “He’s a guy that, from Day 1, we felt really good about. I think he’s just getting better and better. So … very excited about his progress.”

Special teams remain a concern: Since November 2020, six different coaches have overseen special teams for the Chargers, including Anthony Lynn, who finished that season as, essentially, both head coach and special teams coordinator.

Staley hired his second special teams coordinator in as many seasons when he brought in Ryan Ficken in February. It is not an overstatement to say this area of the team has been a significant problem.

Then, on Saturday against Dallas, the Chargers surrendered two kick returns for touchdowns.

They will enter 2022 with a new punter, long snapper and returner. What they really need, however, is for their coverage units to vastly improve, which probably means more experienced players on the field.

Expect to see the likes of Adderley, Drue Tranquill and Troy Reeder covering kicks in Week 1.

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