COSTA MESA — Donald Parham Jr. didn’t have many opportunities to gain receiving yards as a red-zone specialist for the Chargers last season.
Parham’s role will likely expand this season because the 6-foot-8 tight end has done a lot of running with the ball in his hands through the first seven practices of training camp.
He’s gone from just seeing jump balls in the end zone as a mismatch nightmare to a yards-after-catch playmaker for quarterback Justin Herbert.
“He’s a speedy guy,” Chargers tight end Jared Cook said about Parham. “I think he has the fastest time from what we’ve heard on the scanners this week. He’s done a good job of just opening up running. Big guy, big target.”
Parham said he didn’t like the way he finished his first season with the Chargers last year and focused this offseason on building lower body strength and improving his knee movements. That has led to Parham improving as a route runner and getting open in space.
Parham also credited his improvements to the chemistry he built with Herbert in the offseason.
“We spent a lot of time over the offseason making sure that we got together and threw a little bit,” Parham said. “We wanted to get it together this upcoming season, so we can make big plays all year.”
Parham has kept pace with Cook as one of Herbert’s favorite targets in practice, but Parham isn’t just seeing more opportunities because of his athleticism and size. He’s made strides as a blocker and that could lead to more snaps this season.
Last season, Parham saw only 20 targets and recorded 10 receptions for 159 yards and three touchdowns.
“I have really no other choice but to get better at it,” Parham said about blocking. “I definitely make that a point in my practice when I get those reps to make sure that I’m going hard and practicing good habits.”
Tight ends coach Kevin Koger said he’s noticed many improvements with Parham since joining the Chargers’ staff this year.
“He’s a better athlete than you would think for a guy that’s 6’7, 6’8,” Koger said. “He has a good set of feet on him. He’s able to bend better than a lot of other 6’8 guys, but that’s (just) one of his strengths.”
BULAGA’S DAY OFF
Right tackle Bryan Bulaga wasn’t present at practice Wednesday and it wasn’t because he finished Tuesday’s workout with his right hand wrapped, according to Chargers coach Brandon Staley.
“Veteran day off for him,” Staley said. “Before (camp) started, we got together and really mapped out his schedule. We wanted to get this first install off the ground. This is that perfect first day for him before an off day.”
Staley said he wasn’t concerned about Bulaga leaving Tuesday’s practice with his hand wrapped.
“Typical O-line stuff,” Staley said. “He’ll be back at the next practice.”
Third-year offensive tackle Trey Pipkins filled in for Bulaga during team drills.
OTHER CAMP NOTES …
The Chargers practiced without pads for the second consecutive day. Staley plans for the team to wear pads for the next three practices after Thursday’s day off. “We wanted to really have our guys ready for pads,” Staley said. “Then, when we get the pads on, we’re going. Establishing our practice tempo and routine, I think it was important, being brand new, that we really establish our way of doing things. I think we’ve done that through seven practices.” …
Wide receivers Tyron Johnson, Jalen Guyton and cornerback Ryan Smith didn’t participate in Wednesday’s practice. …
Rookie defensive back Mark Webb didn’t finish practice because he had his right upper leg wrapped. Before exiting, Webb tipped a Chase Daniel pass that was intercepted by cornerback John Brannon, who had two interceptions Wednesday. …
Rookie kicker Alex Kessman made all five of his field-goal attempts, with the longest going for 55 yards. Kicker Michael Badgley went 5 of 7 on his field goal-attempts.