The 2023 NFL Scouting Combine is off and running, as Chargers Head Coach Brandon Staley chatted with local media members Tuesday afternoon.
Here are five takeaways from Staley's media availability:
1. Hiring Moore as OC
The Bolts will have a new offensive coordinator in 2023, as Kellen Moore is now in charge of the offense going forward.
Staley offered his first comments on the hire Tuesday, noting that the chance to add a 34-year-old coordinator with four years of play-calling experience was too good to pass up.
Plus, Staley said, he's been a fan of Moore for a while.
"Leadership No. 1, the type of person he is, the type of competitor he is. He's the son of a coach, we were kind of brought up the same way," Staley said. "Whether he did it as a college quarterback at Boise [State], myself being a college quarterback, I just always admired how he played there. 50-3 as a starter and just all the intangibles, all those qualities that make Boise so special, I think a lot of it had to do with Kellen Moore, who he is as a person, as a leader.
"I love how he's been trained in football, I think that really brought us together and then just competing against him in the league and knowing how tough of a cover he is," Staley added. "My first defensive coordinator game was against him when I was with the Rams and he was with Dallas. We played against him in the last two years since I've been with the Chargers, we scrimmaged them, we spent two days with him and I think I was able to see up close how special of a coach he is."
Staley later harped on "the play style that I believe in" and "maximizing the quarterback," as key traits that Staley was looking for in a new offensive coordinator.
That, of course, means a strong pairing with quarterback Justin Herbert.
Staley said that getting Herbert on the move is among the top priorities for the offense going forward.
"That's certainly a weapon we need to take advantage of," Staley said. "I think that's been a hallmark of how they played in Dallas, was getting Dak [Prescott] on the move whether it's under center, in the shotgun, changing the launch point, changing the timing and rhythm of the play to keep defenses guessing.
"I think it can access more parts of the field for you, I think it can protect your O-line, which is very important," Staley added. "That's something that Kellen understands, as much as it's about Justin, which it certainly is, it's also about your O-line. These defenses nowadays, the rushers are so good you have a way to slow them down, oftentimes changing the launch point is one way to do it. We all know how good Justin is outside the pocket. Hopefully we'll be able to take more advantage of that."
2. Ansley ready for DC role
The Chargers on Monday announced they elevated Derrick Ansley to defensive coordinator after he spent the past two seasons as the secondary coach.
Staley said he views the 41-year-old as a rising star in the coaching world.
"He's been one of the most highly sought-after coaches in the NFL and in college the last couple years," Staley said. "He's as good of a defensive coach that I've been around and as good as a secondary coach as I've ever seen."
The Bolts will have continuity with Ansley in his new role, and with Tommy Donatell, too.
Donatell is now the Passing Game Coordinator/secondary coach after being Ansley's assistant for the past two seasons.
"I think us being able to team up, being able to elevate Tommy in his role, was the right staff structure," Staley added. "I'm really excited for DA and this opportunity.
"I've known that he's special for a long time and now the NFL gets to see it," Staley added. "Our players already know that and I'm excited for him to impact our entire unit."
3. A peek at free agency
The 2023 New League Year — and the start of free agency — is almost two weeks away.
The Bolts are scheduled to have 26 players be free agents, with that list headlined by names such as Drue Tranquill, Trey Pipkins III, Bryce Callahan and others.
Staley noted that this time of the calendar year is when agents of those players chat with the front office to get a read on numbers and possible fits.
And while teams rarely bring back every prospective free agent, Staley acknowledged the play and efforts of that group.
"All those guys mean a lot to us … and they played at such a high level all year," Staley said. "It remains to be seen how that's all going to shake out. We don't know what their market is going to be and … here at the Combine is when you're establishing the market and getting some feelers on what it's going to be.
"Right now, it's too early to tell. But I think all those guys played well enough where they will have a market. I think that's the tough part of the NFL. They mean so much to you and you want to bring everybody back, but you know you can't do that. We're going to do the best we can … and I'm going to be happy for the whether they're playing for us or someone else."
Other notable players who are slated to be free agents include Kyle Van Noy and Nasir Adderley.
Take a look back at photos of the Chargers celebrating in the locker room following wins during the 2022 season
4. Focused ahead on 2023
Staley touched on the way the Bolts season ended with a playoff loss in Jacksonville.
"You have to take full ownership for what happened and I hate the way that happened," Staley said. "But it's a part of sports and you got to get through them and I think that's what you've got to know as a competitor is that you got to get moving."
Staley said it's full steam ahead to 2023. And while free agency looms — as mentioned above — Staley likes the way the roster is constructed.
"I think compared to last year, we're just in such a better spot as a football team," Staley said. "I think about where we were last year, we didn't have Austin Johnson, Sebastian Joseph-Day, Otitio Ogbonnia, we didn't have Zion Johnson, Jamaree Salyer. I really felt we needed to get deeper on the lines of scrimmage and I felt like we did that.
"One thing I said last year was we needed to be a more complete football team, and our special teams took a huge, huge step last year," Staley added. "I thought a lot of it was investment in personnel, punter, kicker, deep snapper, returner, I thought you saw the investment pay off this year. And so, I think we were a much more complete football team now."
A key, Staley said, is remaining healthy.
"I want our team to get to play together because our team didn't get to play together this year," Staley said. "I know if our team gets to play together, I know what that level is.
"I think we're at the point now with where our team is where we can just keep onboarding the right type of players, in the right spots because I think we have our starters kind of situated for the most part, maybe make a couple things in free agency here and there, but we go into the draft really trying to get difference makers for this football team," Staley added. "I think that's what you're trying to do at the top of the draft, is add some difference makers at the top of the draft. Then as the draft moves, you're trying to get those depth pieces that you need to be deep enough to make it to the end and to win the final game. I'm very excited about where we're at because I think that's truly the approach we need to take in the offseason."
5. Updates on Salyer and Jackson
Here are a few more quick nuggets from Staley's nearly 30-minute chat:
Jamaree Salyer will factor into the Chargers plans in a big way along the offensive line in 2023.
"I have a very difficult time envisioning him not being a starting lineman for us somewhere," Staley said. "He's going to be a starter for us somewhere, I know that. He's proven that.
"We're very fortunate that we drafted him, a great draft story for us," Staley added. "The flexibility that he has — playing college tackle and his ability to move inside — gives us a lot of flexibility. Where he [starts] remains to be seen based on free agency and the draft."
Salyer primarily spent time at guard in training camp and the preseason, but started 14 games at left tackle in 2022 after Rashawn Slater was lost for the season with a torn biceps.
Going forward, Staley said Salyer's permanent position is still a bit up in the air.
"Where his best position is? I don't think we know yet," Staley added.
On the defensive side, Staley provided an update on cornerback J.C. Jackson, who suffered a torn patella tendon in Week 7.
"He's rehabbing at our facility every day, which is something that's been good to see," Staley said. "Sometimes when they're at other places, you don't know what's happening.
"It's a significant injury so I'm not sure how he's going to respond because he's never had an injury like this," Staley added. "Time will tell but he's working hard."
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