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Evaluating the Wide Receivers with WR Coach Nick Sirianni
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Over the coming weeks, we’ll be checking in with the Chargers’ position coaches and coordinators to get the inside scoop. We continue with Wide Receivers Coach Nick Sirianni.
Chargers.com: Last year our wide receivers dealt with a lot of adversity on the injury front, yet the group still produced. What is it you value in a wide receiver, and really hammer home to the unit as a whole over the offseason?
Sirianni: Every time you break down a route, I think you always look at how you release off the ball against the press, how you attack the defensive back, how you get in and out of a break to separate, and then finally, how you catch the football. I don’t think it matters what time of year it is; those are always the keys whether it’s in the middle of the season or in OTAs. They are the fundamentals of football when it comes to playing wide receiver. You want to be good at those specific things to be a good wide receiver. I don’t think it ever changes. They are the fundamentals we try to fit into every drill.
Chargers.com: There are so many talented players at the position, but just one ball to go around. Do you feel a need to address that with the wideouts? That is about the team over the individual?
Sirianni: Not at all. The type of guys we have, they are all about the team over personal (statistics). We have the right type of people in here that they don’t get prideful. They truly are happy for each other when they have success. Would everyone like to have 70 catches? Yeah, but I don’t sense from this group that they put individual numbers over the group’s success. They are humble, and root for each other. That’s a testament to (General Manager) Tom Telesco as well as the guys he’s brought in here.
Chargers.com: What stood out to you about the wide receiver corps now that the offseason program has ended?
Sirianni: They’ve done a good job. The thing that stands out is getting Keenan (Allen) back in the mix. He brings a lot, and is obviously the leader of the group. To have him back on the field, he is a great example for the guys. He runs such good routes, so it’s easy for those guys to look at Keenan and say, “That’s how it’s supposed to be done.” Other guys can grow watching him.
Chargers.com: What’s one word you would use to describe the Keenan Allen you’ve seen on the field this spring?
Sirianni: Fearless. He’s just fearless. He was back out there like nothing had ever happened, which is great. You want football players like that as much as you can. He’s fearless. He’s hungry. He’s ready to get back to work and have the type of season he’s been fixing to have the last couple years before injuries set in. I think that speaks to his hunger for the game, and his desire to fight back through adversity. He doesn’t let adversity hold him down, and that’s a good attribute to have not only in football, but in life.
Chargers.com: The team had high hopes for Tyrell Williams heading into last year, and it’s safe to say he exceeded them with a 1,000 yard campaign. Still, he admits he is still a work in progress to perfect his game. What is it you like about Tyrell, and what is it you believe he needs to work on?
Sirianni: Every time you talk about Tyrell and what you like about his game, it’s the two things that you want every receiver to have but you can’t coach and can’t teach: He’s big, and he’s fast. That’s always what you like about his game. Those are attributes not a lot of wide receivers have. He had a great year last year. He played outstanding. He had an opportunity to be thrust into the spot he was thrusted into, and he took full advantage of it. As far as improving, I think it’s the fundamentals. Having played at a smaller college, he didn’t see press a lot. He’ll also be the first to tell you that he has to make some of the difficult catches he didn’t make when the coverage is tighter. But for him, it’s really to continue working on the fundamentals.
Chargers.com: Travis Benjamin felt he couldn’t show himself fully last year with his injuries. What is it he brings to this team?
Sirianni: Speed. He’s faster than anyone I’ve ever seen in person. He’s truly track fast. You watch him and go, “Wow!” We’ve all been in the NFL and seen the top speed of the best of the best. So when you see a guy who is so much faster than everyone else, that’s pretty impressive. That’s what Travis is.
Chargers.com: We also used our first round pick on Mike Williams. When evaluating possible prospects leading up to the draft, what was it about Mike that stood out?
Sirianni: Mike has the capability to singlehandedly change a game. He doesn’t even necessarily have to be open; he just knows how to make the catch. This is a guy who catches almost every ball no matter who’s on him or where he is on the field. It doesn’t matter if a guy is draped on his back. Mike brings another big receiver to Philip (Rivers), who has had success with bigger receivers. You think of Malcom (Floyd) who would go up and get the football. This guy can do that. He showed in college over and over again that he has the basketball awareness that Malcom had to go up and rebound the football.
Chargers.com: Dontrelle Inman has been a steady, dependable option ever since he got here. Philip often talks about his reliability. How valuable is it to have a player like Dontrelle who can step in and the offense knows they won’t miss a beat?
Sirianni: That’s very valuable. He is also valuable for the type of person he is with his knowledge of the game and the way he works. Younger receivers can look to Dontrelle and say, “That’s how a pro is supposed to work. That’s how you are supposed to prepare yourself for the opponent.” Dontrelle studies all the time. He stays after practice and catches the football. That has rubbed off on Tyrell. Dontrelle is contagious in a good way as his way of being a pro has rubbed off on players. And then on the field, he is a solid, fundamentally-sound wide receiver who knows how to get open. He knows how to be in the right place at the right time. Dontrelle is just a good football player.
Chargers.com: One young wideout who Head Coach Anthony Lynn singled out earlier this offseason is Geremy Davis. We signed him off the Giants’ practice squad midway through last season. Now that he has had a chance to work with the team through the offseason, what kind of player do you see in Geremy?
Sirianni: He is big, strong and physical. He catches everything. He’s got really strong hands, and is another guy who is a pro. You never have to worry about him. He knows every spot, and knows where he wants to go. He knows he has to be ready to be plugged in at any spot. Geremy was our blocking wide receiver last year. He’d come in and was so physical with guys. We like his effort, demeanor and his ability to catch the football with strong hands; he can make phenomenal catches that not everybody can you make.
Chargers.com: Another young WR Lynn praised was Jamaal Jones. He was with us last offseason but got hurt early in training camp. What’s it been like being around Jamaal again?
Sirianni: He was hurt for a lot of the time he was here last year, so we never got the chance to see the real Jamaal. He is a really good wideout. Thinking back on his tape, he made so many plays at Montana. Now we are able to see why. He’s got that something to him that stands out. He’s a talented player.
Chargers.com: Isaiah Burse bounced back and forth between the practice squad and active roster last year. He is still trying to find his niche, but showed he is capable. Where do you see him fitting in?
Sirianni: Isaiah has this quickness about him. I always think that perhaps more so than speed, quickness can be more important. Isaiah can separate because he is really quick. I can see that he has worked really hard on his hands this offseason so he can finish more. Isaiah has a lot of talent, and he also helps out on special teams. You see what he can do as a returner.
Sirianni: This is as good of a young group as far as learning an offense that I’ve seen in my time in the NFL. They pick things up quick, so now they are able to play with that talent we saw in college because they have picked up the system. They’ve worked really hard at it. We have 12 guys in our group, and there is a lot of depth. We’ll see how it plays out. There is a lot of competition, and we’ll evaluate everything they do, but I don’t think there is any substitute for competition. It raises everyone’s level of play. Nobody wants to lose their spot, so that will all play itself out. The young guys are pushing the veterans.Read