Below are three takeaways from Chargers Head Coach Brandon Staley, quarterback Justin Herbert and safety Derwin James, Jr.'s media availability on Wednesday:
Staley on the 53-man roster
The Bolts initial 53-man roster was set Tuesday and aside from the new rookies brought in, the team will bring back a lot of continuity from a season ago.
And there is a lot of excitement about how the roster has shaped up over time.
Chargers Head Coach Brandon Staley, who is entering his third season at the helm, sees the improvement of the roster through his first couple seasons on the team — across all three phases.
Staley credits the work put in by everyone in the organization that has helped the team improve on and off the field each season.
"I think what's been positive for us is teaming up with [General Manager] Tom [Telesco] and his staff — [Director of Player Personnel] JoJo [Wooden], [Director of College Scouting] Kevin Kelly," Staley said. "We've been able to, in all three phases of our team, kind of engineer it the way that we want it.
"I think we've teamed up in a good way and really have gotten better every single season," Staley added. "Going into every year, that's what you want to say, is that you're a better team than you were last year and that you're building something, along the way, that's growing, and I think that's what's happening here."
And there's an excitement among the players as well, such as Bolts safety Derwin James, Jr., who has enjoyed lining up with the group every day.
"I feel like we have a lot more depth," James said. "It's a lot of fun to come out here and compete with the guys, for sure."
Among one of the storylines of the initial 53-man roster was a pair of undrafted rookie free agents who stood out throughout training camp and ultimately earned a spot.
Rookie running back Elijah Dotson was one of four running backs on Tuesday's list, as he capped off an impressive preseason with 18 carries for 146 yards and two touchdowns.
The Northern Colorado product was someone that Staley praised for his feel of the game and some of the things he's able to do with the ball in his hands.
"Instincts and burst. I think that he can see the game," Staley said. "When he sees it, there's a burst through the hole. You feel the physicality. We think he can break tackles to create explosive runs."
On the defensive side, safety AJ Finley made an impression on both the coaches and his teammates with his maturity and learning in the classroom, plus his play-making skills on the field.
The rookie has impressed James during his time with the Bolts.
"He's a lot more mature than I would have thought, being a young guy." James said. "He's already married, has a family, has a wife coming in as a rookie.
"He's a quiet guy, but he works hard. He doesn't complain," James added. "He made a lot of plays in practice and through training camp."
Presenting the initial 53-man roster for your 2023 Los Angeles Chargers
Early prep for the Dolphins
The excitement and anticipation to start the season continues to brew in Costa Mesa — but it's one step at a time.
"Definitely," James said with a smile. "Every day, we're just trying to come out here, iron everything out and get one percent better every day."
"Oh, I definitely want to be playing, but like I said, we have more time," James later added. "More time to get better. It gives us more time to sharpen things ourselves, personally, and be ready to come play next week."
The gap between now and when the Bolts will host Miami in the season opener still lands over a week away, but preparations have already started ahead of the Sept. 10 clash.
Week 1 matchups and early-season games come with some challenges given that there is not a ton of tape available on the opposing team, just preseason and previous seasons. A lot of it comes down to the team focusing on itself.
And Staley believes that that's the key in preparation from now until then and into the game — controlling what they can control.
"I think it's probably different for every coach," Staley said. "We have to play our game in Week 1. You have to just take the information that you have and you have to go try to play a clean game — make it more about you in the first game anyway, use all the information that you can to play against the opponent.
"I think, early in the season, it has to be about your football team and making sure that you go out there with the right energy, give your guys a game plan that they can go execute, and then you're going to have to make adjustments throughout the game.
Staley continued: "If something does happen that you didn't see or that was un-scouted, you have rules to fall back on that you've been working on since Phase One. There's always that excitement and that little bit of the unknown, and I think that brings out the best in you."
The Week 1 matchup with the Dolphins will have a lot of eyes on it, especially after last year's primetime matchup. But this time around, Miami comes in with a new defensive coordinator in Vic Fangio, who will throw something new at the Bolts compared to what they saw last season.
Still, quarterback Justin Herbert pointed out some of the things the offense has done to prepare, picking up on what they've done so far and on the style of defense in previous iterations.
"I think it's a great challenge and opportunity that we face," Herbert said. "They're a really well-coached team. We've seen a little bit of them in preseason.
"It goes back to years before. We're going to have to watch film from Denver," Herbert added. "We're going to have to watch film from Chicago. There's a whole lot that goes into it, but we're going to do our best to watch as much as we can and be prepared as best we can."
The same applies to the Bolts defensive side of the football that saw success against the explosive Dolphins offense last season.
It's all a part of the chess match that comes with the NFL said Staley.
"That's what the NFL is about, the premium matchups like that," Staley said. "You have to measure yourself against the best people. It's going to be another one of those type of matchups where you're going to have to do a lot of adjusting within the game because those guys are good coaches and they have a lot of good players.
"It's their second year in the offense, so they're going to be playing even faster," Staley added. "They've added some good pieces on top of what they already had. It's going to be a tough challenge and we're excited about it."
Take a look at some of the best shots of Justin Herbert during the 2023 Chargers Training Camp.
Staley on addition of Muse
The Bolts claimed linebacker Tanner Muse off waivers from the Steelers on Wednesday morning.
Muse, a 2020 third-round pick by the Raiders, has played in 23 career games, including a start, all with the Seattle Seahawks.
He has primarily been a special teams player in his career, a role Staley said the Chargers envision for the linebacker.
"He's a core special teams player in all four phases," Staley said. "He's a guy that has got really good speed. I did a lot of work on him coming out at Clemson.
"Our special teams coaches —Ryan Ficken and Chris Gould — were really high on him, as well as our pro scouting department," Staley added. "Those two sides came together and we feel like he'd be a really good fit to help us on special teams."
Muse starred collegiately at Clemson, where he helped the Tigers win a pair of national titles.
He was a safety at Clemson, earning Third-Team All-American honors as a senior while also being a finalist for the Jim Thorpe Award, which annually recognizes college football's top defensive back.
The Chargers waived fullback Zander Horvath as a corresponding move to get the roster at 53 players.
Staley said Wednesday that the Chargers hope to add Horvath to their practice squad.
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