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10 Things We Learned From the Bolts Coaches

Head Coach Anthony Lynn was at Stubhub Center on Wednesday to introduce Offensive Coordinator Ken Whisenhunt, Defensive Coordinator Gus Bradley and Special Teams Coordinator-Assistant Head Coach George Stewart.  Each coach then spent an hour discussing their plans for the Bolts.

Here are 10 things that stood out from the discussions.

  1. The Keenan Allen Effect –The star wide receiver was lost for the 2016 season before halftime of the Chargers' first game.  The silver lining was others stepped up in his place, chiefly Tyrell Williams, Dontrelle Inman and Travis Benjamin.  Now, the Chargers get to add the steady, reliable and versatile wideout back into the mix. Whisenhunt explained how he sees it shaking out moving forward:

"You've got to give Dontrelle, Tyrell and Travis credit for picking up when Keenan went out.  It allowed those guys to show they can do and get better. Now you throw Keenan into the mix, and it gives us a more diverse group there.  One of the things we were good at last year was moving guys around and putting them in spots where they can be successful.  The thing about Keenan is his versatility.  He can play so many different spots.  He can play the slot, outside and can win in those positions.  So getting a guy like him back, and adding to that the fact these guys performed the way they did should give us a pretty good receiving group."

  1. What Parcells Taught Lynn - Lynn's been fortunate to coach along some true NFL legends, perhaps none more noteworthy than Bill Parcells.  Regarded as a larger than life figure by many in the industry, the Chargers head coach explained what Parcells taught him when he coached running backs under him at the Dallas Cowboys:

"What did I not learn from Parcells?! He taught me a lot about the game.  Coach Parcells caught me at a time in my career when I was open and ready to learn.  I was figuring this thing out.  That is when he caught me.  I was really impressionable.  I'm glad I had him at that time because he would sit down and mentor me.  We'd talk about not beating yourself and how to win in the National Football League. A lot of the things he taught me are true today.  The game evolves.  Things change.  But being physical, playing smart and protecting the football; those are still the ways to win."

  1. Bosa's (Not So) New Role –Reigning Defensive Rookie of the Year Joey Bosa is transitioning from a 3-4 defensive end to a 4-3 DE. As such, you might expect his role and responsibilities to change in a new system.  However, Bradley outlined how not much will change for the young star:

"I think there are a lot of similarities between what we are going to ask him (to do) and what he did last year. Although you categorize it as a 4-3, he has a chance to be heads up on a tight end, so he can utilize his length there. Being on the edge, setting the edge on the tight end side, so a little bit different from some of the ways we looked at things. The ability to move around and not only play on the tight end side but on the open side and obviously on third downs (will suit him well)."

  1. Lynn's Right Hand Man – With 29 years of NFL coaching experience under the belt, Stewart brings a lot to the table as the new special teams coordinator.  However, for the first time, he will also serve as assistant head coach. Lynn explained what those duties will consist of, and why it is a vital position:

"He will be with me in all my meetings.  If I get the flu, he will be the head coach.  When I go to offsite meetings like with the owners, George Stewart will be with me.  He will understand the big picture; what our  needs are and the big picture going forward. (That role) prepared me to be a head coach (in Buffalo and New York).  I was able to be the assistant head coach, sit in all those meetings and understand the big picture how to run an organization."

  1. Why Whiz Stayed – Whisenhunt was a hot commodity after the season ended as numerous teams coveted him as offensive coordinator. Evaluating his options, it became clear to Whiz early on why he wanted to stay put:

"A lot of it had to do with the people, the players, the relationships, what you've seen from the team; things you felt like you were able to do last year.  It gives you a good group to build off of, and a big part of it had to do with Anthony.  That's a big piece of it too because for me, where I am at this stage, it's important who you work with and the work environment.  It feels good. Now, with Anthony, I felt a little bit like I had a prior relationship with him.  One of the things I know for sure about Anthony is he's a tremendous person.  Some of my closest friends in coaching have worked with him.  We've had discussions about Anthony before outside of this environment.  So you feel really good about that, and that was a big piece of it."

  1. How Do Verrett and Hayward Fit In? –Bradley is known for creating the Legion of Boom in Seattle behind long, lengthy corners like Richard Sherman.  Naturally, he was asked how smaller corners like Pro Bowlers Jason Verrett and Casey Hayward will fit into his system.  The DC assured the media they will be able to thrive in the new system:

"Some people have asked me, 'Gus, you usually in your scheme like guys with length.' Yeah, you'd like that, but these guys (Verrett and Hayward) play with length. They don't necessarily have to be 6-3, 205 pounds. The ability to play with length and play at the line of scrimmage (is what they can do). We are seeing a lot now where the corners are playing off just by splitting the receivers and things like that, so that short area quickness comes into play. So the two corners that we have, I am really excited about them as well."

  1. Better O-Line Play Needed – The Chargers feel good about their offense, and for good reason as they led the league in explosive catches, established Melvin Gordon as a top running back and put up points in bunches. Still, there are areas for improvement, particularly along the offensive line.  Whisenhunt discussed the team's protection issues and how the Bolts need more from the men up front:

*"We have to play better as a unit up front. There were too many times where we had missed opportunities because we didn't do a good enough job whether it was protection (or) run blocking. Let's not say that that was the reason why we didn't have success, because we did have a 1,000 yard rusher though (in Melvin Gordon) I do know we were three yards short.  We also had a 1,000 yard receiver (in Tyrell Williams).  You don't do that unless you have an offensive line doing good things for you.  But, you can't ignore the fact that we've got to get better.  We have to protect Philip better than we do, and have to do some things run wise where we don't have some negative plays like we did. If we can clean those things up, then I'm really excited about what we can do offensively." *

  1. "The Energizer Bunny" –That is how Lynn introduced Bradley, and the defensive coordinator showed why he earned his nickname with his trademark enthusiasm.  It's the same type of energy he expects out of his defense:

"You talk about style of play? You like to see a defense that plays with great effort (and) great enthusiasm.  A team that really plays smart and hard every play.  The playing fast part of it is so important on defense.  It's a precision league.  Offenses rely on that.  Defenses rely on that. So it's important to try to speed this learning process up so they can go out there and play fast."

  1. Stewart High on Lambo's Strength – The Chargers new special teams coordinator knows the team must improve in the kicking game.  He believes Josh Lambo's talent will be a big part of the turnaround.  The kicker followed up an impressive rookie year with an inconsistent sophomore campaign.  Still, Stewart is a fan of Lambo, particularly his leg strength:

*"The guy has a strong leg. I think the first 12 kickoffs he had last year, there was not a return.  I'm studying him and trying to see coverages.  Who can make a play.  Well, the ball is in the end zone over and over again because his leg is so strong.  That's great because we are putting our defense on the field with their offense going 1st-and-75 to score.  It's very rare that teams consistently march 75 yards.  Josh has a strong leg and I'm looking forward to working with him."

10. Whiz vs. Bradley – The two competitive coaches have had plenty of battles over the years, dating back to Whisenhunt's Cardinals vs. Bradley's Seahawks in the NFC West.  They also faced each other numerous times over the last four seasons when the Jaguars played the Chargers and Titans.  Now, the two will face off daily in practice.  Whiz is eager to pick Bradley's brain, while the defensive coordinator admitted going against Whisenhunt's offense drew him to the Bolts as he believes he can help take their defense to the next level:

"I just felt like what better place to try and make (this defensive system) a step ahead than going against our offense everyday? To me, that is unbelievable to have competitive strong practices where you are getting attacked every day.  You have to make changes and adjust some things.  Then, you go into the season battled and weather-tested. I think that was very appealing as well."*

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