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Evaluating the Offensive Line with OL Coach Pat Meyer
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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 OL Coach Pat Meyer.
Ken Whisenhunt – The Offense
George Stewart – Special Teams
Gus Bradley – The Defense
Giff Smith – Defensive Line
Alfredo Roberts – Running Backs
Shane Steichen – Quarterbacks
Nick Sirianni – Wide Receivers
Ron Milus – Safeties
Ron Milus – Cornerbacks
John McNulty – Tight Ends
Chargers.com: As we head into training camp, perhaps no unit has undergone the most change in terms of personnel this offseason than the offensive line. How has it gone for you, and how did you think the offseason program went?
Meyer: It was refreshing for me, and the guys were great. I learned a lot from the players in terms of what they’ve been taught in the past. They’ve been great, especially regarding their work ethic. They want to learn different techniques and schemes, so it was a good offseason. I feel the chemistry up front has been great. We have a veteran in Matt Slauson who has taken control of the group. He sets the tone, which is nice. And then we bring in Russell Okung, who is another important veteran. He brings a certain edge, experience and work ethic. There has been a lot of competition. It’s been a good offseason because we have a good mixture of veteran leadership with young players who want to learn.
Chargers.com: Every coach has his own philosophy. What’s yours? What did you try to hammer home during those OTA practices, and what is it you want to see when training camp starts that will make a guy stand out to you?
Meyer: Obviously getting better, but really using the techniques that we want to use during games during practice. I don’t want to do drills just to do drills. We’re not just going to do a drill because it’s what’s been done in the past. The main focus was on techniques. Every coach has a different philosophy, such as how to hit blocks. Not to say that one is right or wrong; just that there are different philosophies. A lot of what we’ve done is different than what they were taught in the past. When we come back for camp, the number one philosophy is coming to work every day with the right attitude wanting to get better. Obviously they are professional athletes who need to know their plays and assignments. You always look for that, too. But I look for guys who you can see want to come to work every day to get better. That’s the main thing. So the quality we look for in a lineman here first is the right attitude and demeanor. Not talking skill level, just attitude. Also, playing hard and how they finish. You know what kind of product you are going to get. When you have guys come in with that attitude it makes things easier. The temperament of a player is important.
Chargers.com: Looking at specific players, let’s start with Forrest Lamp. A lot of people are calling him the steal of the draft. What was it about Forrest during the evaluations that you liked, and what has stood out about working with him so far?
Meyer: You watch Forrest and you see a tough, smart player. He played different positions, so you look at his athleticism. He has what you want in terms of being an athlete. He’s got very good hand control. Once he gets on defenders, he’s able to control them. I thought he had a unique skillset with his hands, especially for a young college player like that and it showed up during OTAs. He’s learning everything is different for him. Obviously he’s been training differently, and his learning curve is a little bit longer than some others, but he was great. He asked questions, was attentive and watched the veterans.
Chargers.com: How about Dan Feeney, our third-round pick?
Meyer: Feeney is obviously a tough guy. We did the research on him and knew what kind of guy we were getting. Both Feeney and Forrest were two-time captains, so we knew they were going to be leaders. Obviously they have to pay their dues as rookies, though. But Dan is another guy who is versatile, and he’s gotten some good reps at center. That’s important for any player. If you want to be active, you have to be able to play multiple positions. But he’s been great. He’s picked up a lot of the techniques quickly, and he’s going to compete for a job. He’s been a pleasant surprise.
Chargers.com: Can you think a better person or leader to guide both of those rookies than Matt Slauson? And on the field, how helpful is the versatility he brings to the table?
Meyer: It’s great. I had a prior relationship with Matt because I coached him in Chicago, too. I knew his abilities, his leadership qualities, and how he is going to be demanding on the field and with the guys. It’s great to have that not only come from me, but from a veteran player who has proven to be a tough guy.
Chargers.com: You mentioned Russell Okung earlier as an established presence in this league. Can you expand more on how he has fit in since he first arrived?
Meyer: He’s been awesome! He really has. The guy has won a Super Bowl and been a Pro Bowl player, but I didn’t know Russell (personally) before he came here. I watched him as a player, and you could see he had a unique skillset. He’s still one of the top left tackles in the league, but he asks questions like he’s a rookie. Asking what we want him to do in certain situations, how to hit different kind of blocks and how he should use his hands. He wants more to put in his toolbox, and he knows it will benefit not only him, but the team.
Chargers.com: Right now Joe Barksdale is the only player back at the same position as last year at right tackle. What are your thoughts on Joe?
Meyer: We are expecting big things from Joe. Getting to know him, I thought Joe would be kind of the quiet guy, but he’s not at all. He’s very outspoken, and brings a lot of energy. Bringing in some new guys to play next to Joe I think is going to be a good fit. It’s going to benefit Joe, and benefit the team.
Chargers.com: We have a pair of second-year centers among those fighting for the starting job in Spencer Pulley and Max Tuerk. How big of a jump can players like those two guys take heading into their sophomore year?
Meyer: They can take huge gains. Max unfortunately couldn’t play last year due to injury, but he was in the room and learned. Spencer was able to get some game reps. I am expecting big things out of both of those guys in terms of their gains. Somebody has to earn the starting job, and the only way to do it is to prove it during training camp and the preseason.
Chargers.com: Another young veteran is Tyreek Burwell, who is entering his third season. He doesn’t get the amount of publicity as some of the other younger players, but what has stuck out about the former undrafted free agent?
Meyer: I like what I’ve seen from him. He’s a big guy who is athletic. He competes out there. We didn’t have contact during OTAs, but during training camp and the preseason, you’ll see a guy who plays to the whistle. He plays hard, and has improved from what I saw in the past from him. I’m looking forward to seeing him out there.
Chargers.com: It’s impossible not to respect someone like Kenny Wiggins, who used up all of his practice squad eligibility but kept fighting until he established himself in this league. What are your thoughts on Kenny?
Meyer: I have a great deal of respect for Kenny. He’s a guy who is versatile enough to play any of the five spots up front. Having someone like that is huge. He’s smart. He’s a tough guy. Once you have those two qualities, you can work around your deficiencies. Every player has deficiencies. They all know what they are, but it’s how to not get exposed by them by using your strengths to your advantage. Kenny does a great job with that, knowing how to work around it.
Chargers.com: Another veteran is Chris Hairston. I always think to that game a couple years ago in Green Bay when he played nearly 100 snaps when it looked like he wouldn’t be able to even suit up. What are your thoughts on Chris?
Meyer: He’s another guy who is versatile. Again, if you are not a plug in starter you have to be able to back up multiple positions. He can do that. He can play both sides, and flashed at times last year on tape. Chris has been awesome and he’s working hard.
Meyer: When I was first evaluating Sam, I liked his feet. That was number one. He’s obviously playing opposite of Garret Bolles at Utah, who went in the first round, and he kept standing out. I think Sam has the ability to play either right or left tackle. Like the other two guys, and Dillon DeBoer, they aren’t shy for rookies. Sometimes those rookies don’t want to ask questions, but all four of those guys are (vocal). They are all sharp coming in, so it’s been a good group to work with.
Chargers.com: It was hard for everyone to watch Donavon Clark go down in the preseason last year and miss an entire season. What are you looking for when last year’s seventh-round pick returns to the field?
Meyer: Once he gets cleared, we’ll roll him in there and see what he can do. Right now, we don’t know what he can do. We haven’t seen him out there. But he’s been working hard and been very attentive in every meeting. He’s out there all the time watching the veterans, and he listens to everything. Once he’s ready, we’ll roll him in there and see what Mr. Clark has to offer.