Below are three takeaways from Chargers Head Coach Brandon Staley and offensive lineman Jamaree Salyer from Wednesday's media sessions:
Salyer continues to shine in rookie season
It doesn't feel like that long ago when rookie offensive lineman Jamaree Salyer was preparing to take his first NFL snaps at left tackle.
Now 11 games later, the 2022 sixth-round pick has taken the opportunity and ran with it, as he has held it down at one of the most important positions in football.
"I feel like it's had its up-and-down points," Salyer said on Wednesday about his experience as a starter so far. "I try to take it all as a learning experience.
"Every day, every rep, every game is a learning experience so I can keep developing," Salyer added.
Salyer stepped in to a spot occupied by Rashawn Slater, an All-Pro caliber tackle, and provided some stability on Justin Herbert's blindside.
Despite working mainly at guard leading up to the season, Salyer's mindset and approach has been one of the keys for the rookie being one of the team's bright spots so far according to Chargers Head Coach Brandon Staley.
"Jamaree has been a real bright spot for our team," Staley said. "He's been one of those guys that we're sure glad we drafted. He's got a lot of the make-up that allows you to have the season that we're having right now.
"When your All-Pro left tackle goes down, you're able to put a rookie in there who's ready for his opportunity," Staley added. "He's got outstanding make-up."
Salyer had familiarity with playing left tackle during his time at Georgia, so the position wasn't completely new to him. Still, playing where he did and against the talent he did was some of the things Staley pointed to when making the decision pre-draft — and why he has been able to play the way that he has so far.
"He played in one of the top programs in all of college football," Staley said. "Blocking against those guys in practice and competing against them every single week, we really felt like that was a big reason why you drafted him.
"He played left tackle in college, so it wasn't that big of a deal for him from a transition standpoint, from a positional standpoint, but he's really tough, he's really smart," Staley added.
His experience at Georgia also allowed him to be apart of some big games as well, including the College Football Playoff and other national stages. As the team enters games that are big for playoff purposes, his mindset remains almost the same — every game is a big game.
"I think mindset-wise, a lot of it is kind of similar just from a going out and getting it done standpoint," Salyer said.
"Just from the beginning, every moment was a big moment," Salyer later added. "I know from a playoff standpoint, NFL can be a thin line. I just got to make sure I go out there and don't let the team down."
Salyer has allowed just four sacks and has been called for just three penalties all season. According to analytics website Pro Football Focus, Salyer also has an overall grade this season is 71.0.
Salyer's rookie campaign still has more football remaining, but what he's shown so far since stepping into the starting spot has given the team stability and a chance to continue competing despite the injuries.
"You see around the league, a lot of times you can get cleaned out on the O-line, it makes it difficult to compete because of how good these defensive fronts are," Staley said. "He's been a real bright spot for our football team, and I can't say enough about how he's played for us this year."
Staley fired up about 'healthy' sideline exchange
It was just a little squabble between family members.
Late in the fourth quarter against the Titans, cameras caught Sebastian Joseph-Day and Drue Tranquill exchanging words on the Bolts sideline.
Both had plenty to say before teammates stepped in and separated the two before play continued.
Staley's reaction? He loved it.
In fact, Staley said he was actually fired up to hear the incident took place.
"I look at it as extremely healthy. Like, a really great sign," Staley said. "I used to be able to be able to go back with them and see that all unfold. Now I can't because I'm watching special teams and offense.
"But I was made aware of it on the headset. Being able to see it, just so excited to see that. Two people that care," Staley continued. "If you knew the backstory, the things the fans don't see — they maybe think it's one thing and it's really not — that's one of those things that was happening there at that point in time.
"When you see people getting heated, there's always a story behind it," Staley added. "It brought us close together and we were able to laugh about it in front of the team. I just think you can't have enough passion in football."
Staley deferred the backstory to the players, but did so with a wide smile on his face.
And whatever the exchange was about, it's clear the Bolts defense is displaying passion on and off the field.
The Chargers have allowed just 31 total points in back-to-back games, both wins that have catapulted the to an 8-6 record and in the No. 6 seed.
Check out the best photos of the Chargers Thursday practice at Hoag Performance Center
James returns to practice
For the first time in over two weeks, one of the leaders of the team was back on the practice field.
Derwin James, Jr., who has missed the last two games with a quad injury, practiced in a limited capacity on Thursday. In terms of status for the game however, Staley and the team will know more as the week progresses.
"He's progressing well," Staley said. "It was good to get him back out there."
"Hopefully, he will have a good week of practice, then see where it goes and be ready to play," Staley later added.
James is one of the leaders of the defense and the team, and his return will surely provide a boost to a unit that has played as good as they have all season in the least two games without him.
And while James wasn't on the field for those two games, he still made his presence felt behind the scenes.
"He's one of the captains of our team, one of the top players in the league," Staley said. "I certainly think that he is one of the faces of our franchise. It's going to be great to have him back.
"I thought that he really lifted our team while he was away," Staley added. "I thought that he did a lot of things behind the scenes to help that group play well, and I thought that it was important that we played well without him."
As Staley mentioned, playing as well as they did without him was certainly encouraging, as the defense saw multiple offensive weapons over the last two games. Bringing him back into this defense can be huge with a couple of games left in the regular season — both on the field and off of it.
"Since he has been playing on this team, I think that it was the first time that we have really played at a high level without him out there," Staley said. "To get him back and be able to integrate him into our defense, it's just going to make us that much stronger.
"His leadership, what he does for his teammates, how he affects his teammates, that will be big, as well," Staley added. "We're going to need all of his experience down the stretch here."
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