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Final Thoughts: How the Chargers Can Win in Week 1


The wait is nearly over.

The Chargers begin their 2023 season Sunday at home against the Dolphins. Kickoff is 1:25 p.m. (PT) from SoFi Stadium.

Here are five final thoughts ahead of Week 1:

1. Welcome to Week 1

The journey begins here.

The Chargers begin their 64th season of professional football Sunday with a clear goal in mind.

"Make sure that we do everything at a Super Bowl standard," Chargers Head Coach Brandon Staley said this week.

As with every other year, there are a few characteristics that define Week 1.

First, of course, is the excitement. There's also anticipation, too.

"The first game of the season, it comes with jitters and all that," Joshua Kelley said. "It's like, 'Alright, we're about to finally play.' But we're ready."

There's also a chance to get started off on the right foot and put the way the 2022 playoffs ended behind you.

"I'm just looking to start the season fresh, that was last season," Derwin James, Jr. said. "I'm trying to come out to this season and get rid of that feeling. Focus on this season."

But Week 1 is also just that — one of 17 regular-season games the Bolts will play this year.

"Week 1 is exciting for everyone. You're finally to the real thing, I think for everyone — players, coaches, fans," said Chargers Offensive Coordinator Kellen Moore, who will make his Bolts debut in that role. "Anyone associated with this thing, it's finally here and so there's a lot of excitement.

"I think, perspective-wise, it's one game. You do have to view that from that standpoint," Moore continued. "There's an element of coming out of training camp and we just want to play really clean football.

"It's the first time for some guys getting out there on the field in that setting," Moore added. "It's different than practice, different than a preseason game, even. You're really emphasizing just the clean operation and just being able to play execution football."

After months and months of anticipation, it's time for Chargers football.

"There's always a sense of urgency to win," Joey Bosa said. "We all just want to make the most of this team that we have. I think everyone knows how talented we are.

"There's been a lot of talk on that in all the years I've been here and we've never been able to truly deliver on our potential," Bosa continued. "But I think we have something special."

"Of course there's urgency," Bosa later added. "Is it any more than it has been? I'm not sure about that because we always want to win. But we're trying to take it one game at a time and end up in a good place."

2. Herbert in Year 4

Welcome to Year 4 of the Justin Herbert era.

That era, by the way, still has a long way to go since the Chargers quarterback signed a multi-year contract extension in July.

But now it's time for Herbert to showcase his skill in Moore's new offense, one that could implement more of a downfield passing attack than we saw a year ago.

"Justin has been fantastic," Staley said. "I think the energy that he has played with each day in practice, through training camp and through the preparation, and just, I think, the way that he affects everybody in the organization, you just see the comfort that he has within this team and his role within the team, and that's what you want.

"He has continued to improve every year that I've been with him," Staley added. "Knowing those close to him, going a long way back, that's one of the secrets is how much it means to him. He is going to make the adjustments. He is going to make the improvements. He's been fantastic for us. We're all excited to see him play."

Moore added: "Justin has just had a phenomenal offseason. I think just the way he's led this group, handled all of the development that goes on during a training camp. He's been phenomenal. We're really excited."

Herbert, for his part, said he's simply excited that football is back and always relishes the chance to be on the field.

And while the potential is there for his unit, Herbert said this week that the offense needs to continue to put in the work.

"I think there is still a lot of room for improvement for us," Herbert said. "Things we can fix, things we can get better at.

"I like the way we're going. I think everyone has picked up the offense fairly quickly, especially during OTAs," Herbert added. "To have all of those guys out there, to have the offensive line like we do, we're just trying to move the ball as best we can to score touchdowns in the red zone."

Herbert's Week 1 challenge includes Dolphins Defensive Coordinator Vic Fangio, who is in his first year in that role but was previously the Broncos head coach and the defensive coordinator with the Bears.

"Just watch as much film as we can, whether that's from Denver from a couple years ago, whether that's Miami in the preseason," Herbert said. "Whatever we can get the feel for their defense and how they play — they're really well-coached.

"They have a lot of athletic guys on that side of the ball," Herbert added. "It will be a tough task, but I'm looking forward to the opportunity."

Staley knows Fangio well, as the 65-year-old is a mentor of sorts to him.

"He's an outstanding coach, one of the top coaches in the game," Staley said. "They're going to be different than how he has been in the past, too.

"You take a look at what he has done in different places and that's a snapshot of it. He has a new group of players," Staley added. "We'll have to make adjustments throughout the game."

3. Slowing down Miami's speed

It was nine months ago that the Chargers secondary slowed down Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle.

The duo combined to average 11 catches and 180 yards per game in 2022. Against the Bolts, that figure was just six combined catches for 112 yards.

The Chargers said this week they will once again be on high alert when that duo is on the field.

"Every play, you have to respect that this play could go a long way," Staley said. "They have that impact that few do in the NFL, where every play, a big play could happen.

"They have that type of ability in the deep part of the field, in Level 2 and Level 1. They can do a lot with the football," Staley added. "Their year last year, as a tandem, was as good as anybody in the game. We have a lot of respect for them."

James added: "It's hard to simulate the speed that they have. We have guys on our team that have been giving us great looks. It's been good for the defense."

The Bolts defense was without Derwin James, Jr. and Sebastian Joseph-Day last year, plus fellow starter Bryce Callahan.

The defense still managed to disrupt the timing of quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, who completed just 10 passes in 28 attempts.

The Chargers managed to stifle the Dolphins back then, but doing so again will once again be a stiff challenge.

"If you consider yourself one of the best, why not go against the best?," James said.

The Los Angeles Chargers will retire numbers of Pro Football Hall of Fame Receiver Charlie Joiner and Pro Football Hall of Fame Tight End Kellen Winslow at Season Opener against Dolphins on September 10th.

4. Salyer's new spot

Can the Chargers run the ball more effectively this season?

Week 1 offers a good test for a Chargers ground game that has been in the spotlight all offseason.

"I think it's one part of our offense," Moore said last week. "The fun part is how we've built it with the combination of what was in place, some things from Dallas, some things that maybe we've studied around the league.

"I'm really excited about where we're going with it. I'm really excited that we'll be able to utilize a lot of different players, a lot of different personnel," Moore added. "Hopefully, we take advantage of it."

The Bolts offensive line will play a key part in the success of that phase, as the unit features five familiar faces up front.

Keep an eye on Jamaree Salyer, who played left tackle in place of Rashawn Slater a year ago but has now moved to right guard.

That's a position Salyer played 108 snaps at in college at Georgia, and he said this week that his comfort level continues to rise slotted between Corey Linsley and Trey Pipkins III.

"I felt like it went well," Salyer said of training camp. "It was some growing pains, for sure. Just figuring things out, working on the cohesion between me, Corey and Pip. It's been well, I was pleased with it."

Salyer said he believes the potential of this group is high.

"I think we can be as good as we want to be," Salyer said. "We just have to show up to work every day, make sure practice is good and make sure the work we do during the week shows up on gameday."

Week 1 offers a chance to see Salyer in a new spot, and to get an early assessment of the Chargers on offense.

"I'm excited about where this team can go, excited about what this team can accomplish up front, on the offense and as a team as a whole," Salyer said. "I feel like we have a good test coming out the gate, a good test for us to kind of see where we are.

"I feel like we had a good camp and I feel like we're heading in a good direction, so excited to build on it," Salyer added.

5. An eye on Derius Davis

The Bolts will have a handful of rookies make their NFL debuts in Week 1.

Herbert offered some advice for them:

"Let's have fun. To play free, to play fast. To enjoy the environment. Go do what you've always done. Go make plays. Never let the moment be too big for you."

Derius Davis is among that group, as the 2023 fourth-round pick is expected to step in as the Chargers punt and kickoff returner right away.

Davis said this week that he's eager to see what the environment is like at SoFi Stadium for a regular-season game compared to one in the preseason.

"The jitters haven't kicked in yet, but I'm assuming probably Saturday night getting prepared," Davis said. "But I feel like with preparation, it's going to come easier. I know there will probably be adversity throughout the game.

"But like I said, doing preparation and overcoming adversity, I'm just excited for that first game in front of SoFi for a regular season game," Davis added. "There's going to be a lot of energy so I'm just ready to go out there and ball."

Davis had six total special teams touchdowns in TCU and added one in the preseason on an 89-yard punt return for a score.

And while Davis is one of multiple rookies who will see the field against Miami, he might have the largest role given his duties as a returner.

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