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5 Final Thoughts: Bolts Look to Rally Around Giff Smith in Week 16


The Chargers host the Bills on Saturday night at 5 p.m.

Here are five final thoughts ahead of Week 16:

1. A fresh start

The Chargers have undergone significant changes since their last game.

Giff Smith is now the Chargers Interim Head Coach while JoJo Wooden has taken on the role of Interim General Manager.

Smith said Thursday that there is plenty of anticipation for Saturday night.

"That's why we're all in it," Smith said. "They have a scoreboard out there so we're going to compete to win.

"It's been an awesome week. The staff has been incredible, the organization has been unbelievable," Smith continued. "I just happy to be the guy standing at the podium."

Smith later added: "We're all in this because we're competitive people. I think it will be the same competitive spirit, just a different role that I'm tasked with. But we get to go out there and compete, and that's why we all do it. How great is that?"

Chargers players on both sides of the ball said this week that the Bolts are ready to support Smith in his first game in a head coaching role.

"It's natural. Everybody likes Giff, everybody knows the type of man he is, the type of leader he is," Khalil Mack said. "Very honest, very blunt, forthcoming so it's definitely what you want in this situation. Not sugarcoating, nothing, letting us know what it is and what we have to get ready for."

Eric Kendricks added: "Great coach, great mindset, great attitude. I think the players will rally for sure."

Given how eventful the past week has been, it's safe to say everyone is looking forward to Saturday night.

"We had some time to reflect over the weekend and recharge and get reset," Joshua Kelley said. "When we came back, we were more juiced up to get ready to go and practice and get ready for Buffalo. We know we have three more games left and we have to finish."

Derwin James, Jr., added: "I feel like we're going to respond well. I feel like we're going to come out and compete. We have no other choice but to do that."

2. Remove the bad taste

Despite the whirlwind of the past week, the Chargers certainly haven't forgotten how Thursday night went.

The lopsided loss included the most points allowed in team history.

And the Bolts said this week that they simply can't wait for kickoff Saturday night.

"I think it's going to be good for us," Tuli Tuipulotu said. "A lot of people are waiting to put the pads back on and go out there and play another team because what we did last week was unacceptable.

"We're excited to go out there, let the anger out and let the frustration out and just go play ball," Tuipulotu added.

Eric Kendricks said: "I'm very anxious to play again. That wasn't us. It's going to sting until we play again."

Buffalo enters Week 16 with an 8-6 record but are currently out of the playoff picture.

The Bolts know they're going to get the Bills best shot in primetime.

"We're hungry, too. Honestly, as soon as I was off that field, I couldn't wait to go practice and get into a routine and get ready for Buffalo," Joshua Kelley said. "They're a great team and they're playing for a playoff spot. For us, we're going to play spoiler and do our best to finish the season off strong."

The Los Angeles Chargers today named Giff Smith Interim Head Coach and JoJo Wooden Interim General Manager for the remainder of the 2023 season.

3. Will the defense look different?

Chargers Defensive Coordinator Derrick Ansley will call plays against the Bills.

Ansley called plays in the Bolts preseason finale, but said the situation this time around is bittersweet.

"Under the circumstance, there's mixed emotions there," Ansley said. "Obviously, we don't want this to be me calling plays in this situation where Brandon [Staley] is no longer here.

"But I am excited about the opportunity to lead our players. It's very similar to what I've been doing. Now, I just get a chance to call the plays on [Saturday]," Ansley added. "I'm excited about that, but definitely am disappointed in the outcome of why I'm calling the plays."

With Ansley in charge, will the Bolts defense look different than it has in the first 14 games?

Both Smith and Ansley said they don't expect major changes but perhaps some minor tweaks here and there.

"We're going to do what our 11 guys out there can do at a high level," Ansley said. "Whatever that looks like, that's what it looks like.

"We have to slow down one of the best guys in the league coming in here [Bills QB Josh Allen]. He's a big engine. Run, hit. He can run you over," Ansley added. "He can throw it past you. He's smart. We have to put together a good plan, which we have, that our guys can go digest and play fast."

Smith added: "There will be some subtle changes, there aren't wholesale changes. We're going to put the best guys out there in the best position to have the opportunity to stop Buffalo and give us a chance to win."

Kendricks said he expects a sound performance from his unit at home.

"The big change is that our former play caller is not here," Kendricks said. "But maybe small changes here and there to minimize confusion and just play fast. That's what our goal is, to play as fast as possible."

4. Jaimes ready for starting role

The Bolts put center Will Clapp on Injured Reserve this week, meaning Brenden Jaimes is now in line to start in Week 16.

It will be Jaimes' first start in the NFL.

"I would say I'm more anxious just to get out there, play a full game and show what I can do," Jaimes said. "More so excitement than anything. It's been a dream of mine to do this and now that it's finally here, I'm super excited for the opportunity.

"I'm blessed to still be able to be here and to do it with the guys I'm doing it with is pretty awesome," Jaimes added.

Jaimes played the final 23 snaps against the Raiders and said that those reps will be beneficial for him Sunday.

"I go in every week preparing mentally as if I was the starter," Jaimes said. "You're always one snap away from being the guy, so every week I prepare as if I was the starter in my preparation mentally and physically.

"My goal is to go in there and have no drop off with the offense," Jaimes added. "That's kind of where my goal is, to have no mental mess ups and to have no drop offs in the offense. Just try to be the leader of the offense now."

Jaimes, a 2021 fifth-round pick, has appeared in 34 career games with the Bolts. And while he'll start at center, he also has previous experience at tackle and guard.

"It really makes me appreciate every position now that I've played pretty much every position on the O-Line," Jaimes said. "Being able to play center, I kind know what everybody is going through. I know when to help who, when to help someone if they have this look or if this look is happening then I need to give help to this guy because it's difficult.

"Just gives me a greater appreciation for everybody who's on the field with me," Jaimes added. "It's funny because I started playing center when I was a little kid and now it's full circle because I'm at the highest-level playing center. Definitely blessed to be in this position and super excited of playing Saturday."

Easton Stick and Chargers Offensive Coordinator Kellen Moore both said they're excited to see how Jaimes perform against Buffalo.

"A versatile player, and you have to be smart to do that. I think that's the biggest thing," Stick said. "He's smart, he understands it. Like all of us, he's excited for his opportunity to get out there and to play.

"He's done a really good job, did a really good job today of leading that group and. He did a good job stepping in the game," Stick added. "That's tough to step in like that and to take control. He did a good job. We're looking forward to it."

Moore added: "It's something that he's waited on for a while here. He's earned this opportunity just from continuing to be patient, continuing to develop as a center. He hopped in there this past game. He'll finish this season off the right way."

5. Davis vying for another TD

Derius Davis is one of six NFL players with a punt return for a score this season.

The Bolts rookie appeared to find the end zone Thursday night for touchdown No. 2, but the score was called back due to a holding penalty.

"I was super frustrated because I had that fumble earlier in the game and I felt like I was trying to make up for that," Davis said. "But it got called back and it's fine. We've got three more opportunities to go out there and put it together."

Davis said this week that he's looking to break that tie atop the league in terms of punt returns for scores.

"You're trying to execute every time you go out there," Davis said. "We have a special group of guys and they do their job well. My goal every time I go out there is to make a play for them."

The Bolts enter Week 16 with the second-ranked special teams unit in terms of DVOA.

Buffalo, meanwhile, ranks 18th in the same stat.

"We've got to make sure we stay focused because we have a job to do," Chargers Special Teams Coordinator Ryan Ficken said. "Buffalo is coming in here and they have a very good unit … one of the top units we'll see all year.

"We want to get back to the basics," Ficken added. "We had two penalties last game and we have to make sure we clean that up."

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