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One-on-One with Ken Whisenhunt
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Midway through training camp and on the eve of the second preseason game, Chargers.com sat down with offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt for a wide-ranging interview.
Here is what he had to say:
Question: So first things first, how have things been going for you so far in San Diego?
Ken Whisenhunt: “It’s going really well. I’ve enjoyed working with these players and these coaches. I think that a big part of this whole process is the chemistry that you develop, and it’s developed quickly. We haven’t played a real game yet, and you’re always anticipating that, but so far between the FanFest and going through the first preseason game we got a sense of how things are going to work and how everybody works together. And it’s been really good. But this is all about the people that you work with. When you have the type of people that you’ve got here, it’s really good.”
Question: How did you feel the offense did in the first preseason game, particularly the first-team offense?
Whisenhunt: “I was excited the first half of that game because we played against a very good defense. A lot of people have talked about Seattle being one of the best defenses in the league and we had two 12-play drives, two nine-play drives and a seven-play drive in that first half. Now, we didn’t get as many points as we wanted, but we had 22 minutes of possession. Those are all things that are extremely encouraging going forward because it shows that we’ve got guys that are doing things the right way. I don’t want to get too excited from the first preseason game, just like if we hadn’t done well we wouldn’t have panicked. But the time that we’ve been together in football terms has been a short time. So it was nice to see us start that way.”
Question: When you were first hired here, you said one of the things you were really looking forward to was working with Philip Rivers. Now that you’ve been with him for a few months, what is your impression of him?
Whisenhunt: “It’s been great having Philip as our quarterback. I’ve been fortunate enough to have worked with two really special Hall of Fame quarterbacks before I was hired here, and to me Philip is on that level as far as preparation, how he works and his leadership ability. I’ve really enjoyed being around him and am excited about working with him through the season.”
Question: In the running game, what are your thoughts on Ryan Mathews?
Whisenhunt: “I think there’s been a lot of pressure put on Ryan. That’s one thing I’ve seen as someone who had no preconceived notions about him. There’s a lot of outside pressure because of where he was drafted, and that’s part of this business that you have to understand. But the way I judge Ryan is on how he’s worked this offseason, and he worked very hard. He was here all the time doing all the things that we asked him to do, and it was nice to see him perform well in that first game. He’s run the ball well out here as I’m sure all the fans that have been here have seen. And I want to say that there have been a lot of fans here which is very impressive. But it was nice to see Ryan do it in a game. I like his mentality, the way he’s studying and the way he’s working. I like the fact that he’s getting downhill in the run game. He’s picking his holes and hitting it. He looks strong and powerful. I’m excited to see that continue.
Question: Of course, in order for an offense to click it’s important for the offensive line to play well. How happy are you with the way they’re coming together?
Whisenhunt: “I think probably on a football team the unit that needs to have the most cohesion and chemistry is the offensive line. That’s because there is a lot of pre-snap communication that goes on between them. They could be working to the guy to their right or the guy to their left, and they have to communicate what they are working on. So those guys have to have great communication and feel for each other. Probably, this group for as young as they are working together, they’ve developed a good chemistry. Now, we’ll have to judge it based on how we play going forward. But I really like the way these guys are working. Now, we’ve still got some things that we’re working through in regards to who is going to play where and how it’s going to shake out. But that’s what preseason is about. But I really love the way that group is working. (Offensive line) coach (Joe) D’Alessandris has done a great job with those guys, and they’ve bought in. And a lot of that is because of Nick Hardwick and how he leads that group. It’s important when you have a guy who has such a close bond with the quarterback, is an unselfish leader and wants to do it the right way. That spreads throughout the team and I’ve seen it.”
Question: You obviously work very closely with head coach Mike McCoy. What’s been your impression of him?
Whisenhunt: “It’s been great working with Coach McCoy. He’s been fantastic. We go back a number of years. We have a number of coaches that we’ve worked with that we have in common. But I’ve been very impressed by how he’s handled the situation here. I feel very lucky to be here and I’m grateful he gave me the opportunity to be here. I’m excited to be working with him going forward.”
Question: You were an offensive coordinator with the Pittsburgh Steelers and then head coach with the Arizona Cardinals. Has that experience as a head coach changed the way you’re acting as an offensive coordinator from the first time you were in this position?
Whisenhunt: “I think you learn in every situation that you’re in. I’ve been fortunate to have a number of different opportunities. I was fortunate to work in Pittsburgh for a number of years. We had a lot of success and I was very fortunate to be in Arizona as head coach for a number of years. So to me, this business is all about learning as you go forward. As far as being an offensive coordinator here, I think hopefully there are some things I do better because I’ve been in the league a little bit longer than I was before. But I think to me the most important thing is the people that you work with. Mike and (general manager) Tom Telesco did a great job hiring this staff, and the players that we have and the chemistry we’re building, that’s a really big piece. And I like the people in this building. They’ve all been really good with trying to help this team get to where it needs to be. But we’ve got work ahead of us to do. But that part has been really good.”
Question: Finally, is this where you’d want this offense to be at this point of training camp?
Whisenhunt: “I think it’s fair to say we’re coming together. I don’t think we have arrived yet. We have a lot of things that we have to work on, and I’m sure there’s going to be bumps in the road, but the one thing I want to make very clear is that we’ve got good people. We’re doing a lot of things in training camp, putting people in different positions and trying to figure out who will make up our best squad. That will be up to coach and Tom, and hopefully we make it tough on them to pick the 53 man roster because that’s what it’s all about. That part of it has been exciting.”