Below are three takeaways from Chargers Head Coach Brandon Staley, safety Derwin James, Jr. and center Corey Linsley from Tuesday's media sessions:
Chargers leaning on both veteran players and coaches
The Bolts have worked all season to get to this point.
As the team prepares to travel to Jacksonville, another season will begin on Saturday. Chargers Head Coach Brandon Staley knows the magnitude of these games, as he's been a part of three different coaching staffs that made it to the playoffs.
However, this will be Staley's first experience as the head coach, something that is "special" for the second-year head coach.
"I've experienced being in the playoffs before at the other places that I've been," Staley said. "That is certainly the case when you make it to the playoffs; it's the very best players, the very best teams, the very best coaches, the very best organizations.
"That's where you find out a lot about where you are. We're excited that we're here. Like I said, it's just the beginning," Staley added.
With a lot of younger players on the roster, the playoff experience within the team is mixed. Younger players like quarterback Justin Herbert, left tackle Jamaree Salyer will be among those making their playoff debuts. Others like safety Derwin James, Jr., outside linebacker Joey Bosa will be playing in the playoffs for just the second time.
Despite the mixed bag when it comes to experience of some, the players Staley and the Chargers have brought in have been with that in mind — big-game experience in not only the NFL, but college.
"We've taken guys from really, really successful college programs, too," Staley said. "In the last two drafts, we've taken people who are very, very accomplished and have been in the big-time atmospheres and have played at the highest levels of college football."
"Then, just leaning on the experience of the leaders on this football team," Staley later added. "You follow the examples of others that are really impactful. That is why we were really intentional about onboarding the veteran players that we've been able to onboard in the last two years, so that they could provide that leadership to the younger guys."
Take a look back at the Chargers Week 18 regular season finals against the Broncos in monochrome
Playoff games are different.
From the speed to the details, everything is magnified in the playoffs. Center Corey Linsley hopes he can be a source of help for his teammates given that he has 11 playoff games under his belt — one of the most on the team.
"It's going to be the fastest game we've played in," Linsley said. "It's the best teams and they're the best for a reason, because they capitalize on other people's mistakes, they don't screw up a lot. You can't beat yourself.
"Hopefully I can part some knowledge, otherwise," Linsley added. "It is another game, but it's not another game, there's really no tomorrow."
The experience on the defense side is just as rich, as someone like linebacker Kyle Van Noy has seen a lot of playoff games. A two-time Super Bowl Champion, Van Noy is one of the biggest mentors to some of the younger players on the roster ahead of the playoffs.
"Definitely, especially a guy like Kyle Van Noy, he's been there deep in the playoffs," James said. "He's a guy that especially mentors a lot of the young guys that haven't been in this situation. Like I said, the whole team is excited to be in."
For some, Saturday will be a first-time experience, while for others it will just be another experience.
No matter which it is, the team was built around having both players and coaches with big game experience. Having the ability to lean on other players and coaches is something Staley says is important and can bring the best out of everyone and hopes that it can lead them into Saturday night in Jacksonville.
"That type of experience, where it's your brothers that have gone through it — it's always the most impactful, the players who have gone through it," Staley said. "I think that we have a really good combination on our coaching staff of guys who have been in Super Bowls and guys that have been in the NFL Playoffs, National Championship Games in college.
"You lean on all of that experience. Our players know that," Staley added. "Since we've gotten here, we've had that type of atmosphere, where you can really trust the people that you're around and bring out the best in one another."
Check out the best shots as the Chargers wrapped up their regular season slate in Denver against the Broncos
Staley: Williams day-to-day with back injury
The Chargers got good news on the injury front Tuesday when the team designated Rashawn Slater to return from Injured Reserve.
Slater will not play Saturday against Jacksonville in the Wild Card round of the playoffs, and Staley said it remains to be seen if Slater could return if the Bolts advance in the postseason.
"I think we're going to take advantage of the window," Staley said. "We're going to take it day-to-day but he's progressing well enough to get out on the football field.
"Just having him out there and practice is going to be great to see," Staley added. "Where he goes from there is day-to-day."
Staley also gave an update on Mike Williams, who suffered a back injury in the regular-season finale in Denver.
"Mike is going through treatment right now," Staley said. "We're having a walk-through, so we'll give you guys the injury report, but he is going to be doing treatment today. He is going to be day-to-day as the rest of the week goes on."
Staley said he expects Williams to practice at some point this week and was asked if the wide receiver could play Saturday night even if he does not practice.
"I think that is fair to say," Staley said. "We expect him to practice at some point this week. In what capacity? That's to be determined."
In other injury news, Staley said Bryce Callahan and Kenneth Murray, Jr., will practice this week. Callahan did not play Sunday while Murray left in the first half with a neck injury.
Finally, Staley noted that Joey Bosa "will be full [participation] in practice this week" with a groin.
Staley noted that Bosa's placement on the Injury Report is similar to Justin Herbert's status a week ago, when the quarterback was on it with a left shoulder but was full all week.
"Kind of like Justin last week — how you list a guy on the report, but they're full [participation]," Staley added. "That's just the nature of it. He is going to be on the injury report with a groin, but he will be full [participation] in practice Thursday."
Bolts ready for Round 2 against Jacksonville
Each game during Wild Card Weekend shares something unique — all 12 teams will face an opponent that they saw during the season.
For the Chargers, they will get Round 2 with the Jaguars, this time in Jacksonville. The two squads met back in Week 3, a game that the Jaguars won by a comfortable margin after pulling away in the second half.
"They've done a nice job offensively this year," Staley said about the Jaguars. "They've onboarded a lot of quality players in free agency and drafted some guys. I feel like they're really solid, all the way around — skill players, being able to run the football, throw the football. They take care of it.
"Trevor [Lawrence] has really had an outstanding season, and we knew that in the first game," Staley later added. "He played a really good game against us. He has done a really nice job of leading that team down the stretch to help get them in the playoffs. They're a very complete offense. They're balanced, well-coached. They definitely have our full respect."
An NFL season goes by fast, but looking back to Week 3 can feel like an eternity. This time around, the matchup will look different — as one would expect after more than three months.
Wide receiver Keenan Allen and center Corey Linsley were inactive for that game and the Bolts also lost Bosa, Slater and wide receiver Jalen Guyton during the game. Herbert was also playing his first game with fractured rib cartilage.
It was a huge game injury-wise that would eventually shape the team into what they are now.
Still, Linsley and the Chargers know that although the Jaguars were a really good team at the time, they continue to be dangerous and show some of the same characteristics that led them to success early in the year against them.
"This team is a really good team, we knew they were a really good team in Week 3," Linsley said. "I don't even remember what their record was at that point, but we all saw what we saw on film.
"Not to say they haven't made changes as well and evolved, cause obviously they've gone on a pretty good win streak right here the last half of the season, but their style and their attitude really hasn't changed at all," Linsley added. "They're still playing fast and physical, that's kind of their mantra and they've stuck to it."
The Bolts will still be able to take away certain things from the early season meeting, but they know that, like themselves, the Jags also got better since then.
"It definitely helps, we got film on them," James said. "But like I said, [Trevor Lawrence] got better throughout the season just like we got better as a defense. It's going to be a great game."
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