Below are three takeaways from Chargers Head Coach Brandon Staley and safety Derwin James, Jr.'s media availability before Wednesday's practice:
Bryce Callahan adding leadership, consistency to Bolts defensive back group
In his first season with the Chargers, veteran cornerback Bryce Callahan leads the team with two interceptions and is just one pick away from setting a new single-season career high.
Ahead of Wednesday's practice, Head coach Brandon Staley talked about the veteran leadership and consistency Callahan has brought to the Bolts secondary.
"I think that Bryce [Callahan] is playing like he always has, which is just steady, productive," Staley said. "I think that he has been a real bright spot for our defense. He's been so consistent through five games. He's been able to go toe-to-toe. I think that you saw the stats, the metrics of his coverage ability, and when he has been in coverage, what the completion percentage has been, and stuff like that."
"He's having an excellent year," Staley added. "That's how he's played. He's just brought that veteran presence. In today's NFL, when you play five DBs, your star is as important of a position as there is. Certainly glad to have him."
Callahan made his impact felt right away as he intercepted Las Vegas Raiders quarterback Derek Carr in the fourth quarter of the season opener. In the first two games of the season, Callahan allowed just three catches for 21 yards when he was in coverage and a 6.3 passer rating, according to Pro Football Focus. In Week 4 against the Houston Texans, Callahan recorded his second interception of the season that helped seal the Bolts' Week 4 win in Houston.
As the Bolts defensive backs prepare to face the Broncos - where Callahan played from 2019-2021 - with a receiving corps that features Courtland Sutton, Jerry Jeudy and KJ Hamler, safety Derwin James, Jr. talked about what adding a veteran corner like Callahan means to the defense five games into the season.
"I think he leads us in picks right now," James said. "We got to catch Bryce right now. He's been doing great, making plays on the ball. A leader, talking out there so it's helping us."
Bolts prepare for MNF matchup against a 'dangerous' Broncos team
After back-to-back games on the road, the Bolts return to SoFi Stadium to host the AFC West rival Denver Broncos on Monday Night Football. The Bolts' Week 6 game also marks the first primetime game of the season at SoFi.
As the Bolts turn the page from Week 5 to Week 6, James talked about the excitement he has when it comes to playing on the national stage back at home.
"Anytime we get to play this game, it's always exciting," James said. "Especially when the whole world is watching. I can't wait until Monday night it's going to be very exciting."
Staley talked about the weapons that the Broncos have on offense and the threat quarterback Russell Wilson posseses on 'every snap'. Despite Denver's 2-3 record, Staley explained why he sees a different team when he turns on the film.
"I see a team that easily could be 5-0, real easily could be 5-0," Staley said. "They've played a good schedule early on. That's what I see. I see an offense that has a lot of weapons. When you start with their quarterback [Broncos QB Russell Wilson], he's a guy that I've had to face several times and a guy that has as good of a resumé as you can find. He has so much experience. He has seen and played in so many big games. He's going through that transition right now, too, of going to a new team, but he's still the same player, in terms of being dangerous every snap. He's a guy that is as tough of a cover as you're going to go against."
James echoed Staley's message in the locker room before Wednesday's practice that despite the Broncos' record, the defense has to be prepared to face Wilson. James also talked about what he sees from the Broncos offense when studying the film and why that unit (which ranks 31st in the NFL in points per game) has gotten off to a slow start.
"I look at it as, they've been driving the field on a lot of teams," James said. "Whether it's fumbling the ball or throwing an interception, they've had a lot of chances in the red zone, I've seen that on film. They could easily be sitting at a different record, a few plays here and there. We just have to come out ready to play because Russ at the end of the day can still play at a high level. We all know that."
Staley talks impact of Mike Williams, gives update on Keenan Allen
Despite having wide receiver Keenan Allen out of the lineup the last four games due to a hamstring injury, quarterback Justin Herbert and the Bolts offense rank second in the league in passing yards per game. A big reason why the Bolts have had success through the air in the absence of Allen has been the chemistry between Herbert and wide receiver Mike Williams.
Staley talked about the impact Williams' performances have on the offense.
"You can't minimize it," Staley said. "When you lose someone as special of a player as Keenan Allen, it's hard to replicate that type of production, especially when the coverage can tilt toward a player. That's why it's been important for us to be able to run the football, stay balanced, and make sure that we force the defenses to defend everybody.
Williams, who leads the Bolts with 392 receiving yards, has recorded 100-plus receiving yards in three games this season with 120 in Week 4 and 134 yards in Week 5.
"We're a much better team with Mike [Williams] touches the ball and when we can get to him a lot of different ways," he added. "I think that that's what we've been able to do. He's just really playing well. He's improving. He just has to stay with it because that type of improvement leads to the results. He and [QB] Justin [Herbert] have able to really connect here and allow us to really score the ball and move the ball."
Staley also gave an update on how Allen is recovering from his injury.
"Keenan [Allen] will be out there at practice today. He's still day-to-day, but he'll be out there in individual [period]. We'll be able to test it out and see how things are going."
Allen did in fact return to practice on Wednesday participating in wide receiver drills and working off to the side with team trainers. Staley talked about the plan to get No. 13 back, emphasizing the importance of easing Allen back in to practice.
"That was the plan, to not put him out there until he was ready to ramp his way back up," Staley added before practice. "He's been feeling better. At least he will be able to get out there, in his helmet, and go do some football stuff."
Due to the Bolts' game being on Monday night the Chargers did not release an injury report following practice.
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