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James, Mack Leading the Way for Bolts Defense 

FTP 10.20

Below are three takeaways from Chargers Offensive Coordinator Joe Lombardi, Chargers Defensive Coordinator Renaldo Hill, Chargers Special Teams Coordinator Ryan Ficken, running back Sony Michel and kicker Taylor Bertolet before Thursday's practice:

Defensive veterans leading the charge

The Chargers took the field on Thursday as they continue preparations for the Seahawks.

The story of Week 6 for the Bolts was the second-half defense, as they shut down the Broncos and held them to only three points in the final two periods and overtime. The unit also held Denver to a season-low 258 total yards.

With a big overhaul of the defense in the offseason, they have had their fair share of flashes through the first six weeks of the season.

Safety Derwin James, Jr. has continued his high-level of play that the team has grown accustomed to, as he leads the team in total tackles (55) and has added a pair of sacks as well. Whether it's close to the line of scrimmage or playing deep, James has been a force wherever he is on the field.

Outside linebacker Khalil Mack has also stepped up in a big way. Leading the team in sacks (6.0) and tackles for loss (7.0), Mack has made his presence known to opposing defensive lines and come up with timely plays.

"That's what you expect from your top players, to step up and perform," said Chargers Defensive Coordinator Renaldo Hill. "Regardless of the situation, those guys play at their best. That's what you expect from those two."

Viewed as leaders on the defensive side, their play has elevated everyone else around them.

"We're going to keep rallying behind those guys and try to take some pressure off of them, but we know that they're going to keep rising to the occasion, as well," Hill said.

While James and Mack have made loud impacts on the defensive side, another veteran, Kyle Van Noy, has provided a lot of value for this team as well.

Lining up at linebacker and also rushing the passer on the edge, Van Noy has shown his versatility all over the field, especially with outside linebacker Joey Bosa out with a groin injury. The team has been able to plug in Van Noy at different spots — something Hill says will continue to happen in order to maximize what he can do.

"I think that's a process, too. You know that you have a guy that can do multiple things and, for us, is still trying to find that groove of where he fits," Hill said. We know that if an injury happens, he can be a plug-and-play guy. We want to be able to highlight the things that he does, as well, being able to express himself on third down, being able to put him behind the ball and be able to plug him, with his size, and be able to get off and separate from blocks."

"It's still a constant process," Hill later added. "I think that that is going to be something that we continue to explore throughout the year, but we do know that he can do all of those things. Each week, we're always going to look at the gameplan and see how we can attack the team."

Bertolet on stepping in for Hopkins again

Earlier in the week, Chargers Head Coach Brandon Staley announced that kicker Dustin Hopkins, who kicked the game-winning field goal in Week 6, would be out two to four weeks with a hamstring strain.

In his place, kicker Taylor Bertolet will serve as the team's kicker until Hopkins returns.

Sunday will be Bertolet's second career NFL game, with the first coming Week 5 against the Browns where he nailed all three of his field goals and extra points. Kicking against Cleveland is something Bertolet said gave him more confidence.

"It definitely gives you some confidence to know you can go into a game and perform like you do on the practice field," Bertolet said. "Having a game under my belt gives me some confidence for sure going into this next game."

Chargers Special Teams Coordinator Ryan Ficken spoke about Bertolet, adding that it will take a team effort to help the new kicker.

"We're looking forward to him and I know he's looking forward to this opportunity again," Ficken said. "As you know, being in Cleveland, not an easy place to kick, so it's nice to get that one under your belt.

"Now, we just have to go ahead and rally behind him and do whatever we can to make sure we can get another W this week," Ficken added.

Bertolet praised long snapper Josh Harris and punter/holder JK Scott for making his job easier and welcoming him. With the kicking operation being spot on, the transition has been easier.

"It's been great. They've been incredibly welcoming to me," Bertolet said. "I'm an outsider coming in trying to help our team out so for them to welcome me here has been incredibly helpful for me and I think our success on the field."

Check out the best shots from the Monday Night Football overtime win over the Broncos in Week 6

Michel earning tough yards on offense

Signed less than two weeks before Week 1, running back Sony Michel has felt more and more comfortable now through six weeks.

With fellow running back Joshua Kelley suffering with a knee injury during Monday's game, Michel saw a bigger workload, getting 30 snaps on offense.

"It's been going," Michel said about the adjustment of joining the Bolts. "[I've] just been getting more comfortable and comfortable every day and just learning.

"I would just say it came from total team execution, total offensive execution and just practice and gaining confidence in what I'm doing," Michel later added about his game on Monday.

Despite his snap count fluctuating throughout the season so far, Michel has approached each game the same way — by staying as prepared as he could be.

"Just have to prepare because you never know," Michel said. "Last week, not really knowing how much I was going to play, but just knowing I was prepared and going in the game with confidence mattered."

The Chargers will have to lean on Michel a bit more when Austin Ekeler is off the field and while Kelley is out. Chargers Offensive Coordinator Joe Lombardi talked about Michel on Thursday, adding that while the numbers aren't eye popping, he's gaining a lot of tough yards.

"I think he's been very reliable. He had some really good short yardage runs that were important," Lombardi said. "

"He's been getting those tough yards," Lombardi later added. "Very reliable guy, protections, always knows what to do. There are certain situations where we really like him."

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