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Salyer Savors 'Special Moment' After 1st NFL start


The Chargers are 2-2 after four games.

Here are five takeaways from Monday's media sessions:

1. Salyer recaps NFL debut

You only get to experience your first NFL start once, and Jamaree Salyer made sure he made the most of it.

The Chargers rookie was thrust into action in Houston after Pro Bowler Rashawn Slater suffered a torn biceps in Week 3.

Salyer didn't flinch, helping keep Justin Herbert clean as the offense racked up 34 points and 419 yards of total offense.

On Monday, Salyer recapped his debut.

"It was a special moment for me, obviously, just having my mom be there and having my high school coach be there," Salyer said.

"It was a very special moment for me because we talked about this a lot — that the moment will come and just being ready for it, no matter how it shows up. It just so happened to show up at left tackle," Salyer continued. "It was a special moment for me. For me, the thing I felt the most is just appreciative that the coach and the people in this organization believed in me, my teammates.

"They expressed that to me before the game. The main thing they were saying is, 'We believe in you. Don't worry about it. You're here because we believe in you.' That meant a lot to me," Salyer added. "It made me want to play to the best of my ability. I was very blessed to have that belief from my teammates."

Salyer, a 2022 sixth-round pick out of Georgia, then backed up that belief by posting a strong all-around outing in his debut.

According to analytics website Pro Football Focus, Salyer had an overall grade of 78.6, which was the fifth-best of any Chargers player from Week 4.

But his pass blocking skills were top notch, as PFF gave him a 90.4 grade there, the highest mark of anyone on the Bolts offense. PFF also noted he did not allow a pressure in 40 pass-blocking snaps.

Take a look at Herbert's first touchdown pass of the day, an 18-yard strike to Gerald Everett.

Salyer, and the rest of his teammates, gave Herbert one of the cleanest pockets you'll ever see.

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Chargers Head Coach Brandon Staley said Salyer, who starred at Georgia, didn't look out of place on Sunday.

"Poised, strong, assignment-sound. I stand behind what I said about room for improvement," Staley said. "Good to get him out there and experience the game with his teammates. He's a work-in-progress.

"We have to make sure that we continue to work at his game and get him in that comfort zone," Staley added. "I thought that his teammates helped him get into a good rhythm. I felt like he finished the game playing well and giving us a chance to close that game out there on that last drive."

Salyer on Monday said that he was eager to get back to work and correct his mistakes while building off a solid performance.

"I kind of knew that I played a decent game, but just kind of getting back into the swing of things," said Salyer, who mostly spent time at guard in training camp and the preseason. "There are things I have to fix. Things that are just different.

"Obviously, I didn't get a lot of reps in practice at left tackle, so it just means I kind of had to learn on the fly and some of those mistakes kind of showed up in the game," Salyer added. "I just want to keep harping and fixing on those and keep sharpening the axe and becoming the best player I can be."

Salyer's debut ended on a high note, however, and not just because the Chargers moved to 2-2 with a double-digit road win.

The rookie also received a game ball for how he fared in his NFL debut.

"[The] equipment [stuff] has it right now," Salyer said. "They are getting the inscription put on it and stuff like that.

"Maybe I'll frame it," Salyer added. "Put it in a glass frame and let my mom keep it."

Take a look back at the Chargers Week 4 win over the Texans in monochrome

2. The illusion of complexity

It's well-known that Staley is close with Vikings Head Coach Kevin O'Connell, as the two spent time together with the Rams before they each had a chance to lead their own teams.

When O'Connell was hired by Minnesota in February, he quickly used the term "illusion of complexity" in his press conferences. That was another way of saying that he wanted to try and confuse defenses by making things look complex, even if the offense was running a fairly simple play.

Well, the Chargers did just that Sunday, even if Staley humorously had an issue with O'Connell getting credit for that phrase.

"I don't know if Kevin O'Connell invented that saying," Staley said with a laugh. "He's one of my best friends and I'm extremely confident that that didn't come from him. He got a big win the other day in London, so I'm happy for him."

Staley then turned more serious when describing what that term means to him.

"What you want to try and do is keep your core plays in every plan, and make sure that you give the defense something really tough to look at, to adjust to," Staley said. "You can, maybe, run similar concepts, but forcing the defense to defend them because you forced them to adjust a different way.

"That's something that good offenses and defenses do, they run their core plays, but they force you to adjust so that, maybe, you're not as prepared for that play," Staley added.

Let's go back to a pair of late fourth-quarter scenarios from Sunday.

On fourth-and-2 at their own 45-yard line, the Chargers faked a handoff to Austin Ekeler before Herbert hit him in the flat for a 21-yard gain. First down, Bolts.

Later on the drive from the 14-yard line, the Chargers ran a similar-looking play that also involved Herbert hitting Ekeler in the flat. Touchdown, Bolts.

On the first play, DeAndre Carter motioned left toward the end of the right side of the formation (very bottom of screen), drawing defenders with him to clear space for Ekeler.

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But on the touchdown pass, Carter was already in that position. This time, wide receiver Joshua Palmer — who had been split out to the left on the previous play — motioned all the way over to that spot from the far right side of the formation.

Screen Shot 2022-10-03 at 4.00.37 PM

Essentially, the Chargers ran the same play, but just dialed it up differently before the snap.

Otherwise known as … the illusion of complexity.

"I thought it was a good design by [Chargers Offensive Coordinator] Joe [Lombardi] and our offensive staff," Staley said. "Certainly, timely football calls, in terms of the timing that you activate those calls, I think timing is of the essence.

"I thought that those were called at really good times, as you can see, in terms of the result," Staley added. "We got the coverages that we were hoping for, the adjustments that we were hoping for. Our guys executed really well."

3. Williams finds himself wide open

Mike Williams has been a big play machine over the past few years.

In fact, he leads the NFL with a dozen 40-plus yard completions between two players since the 2020 season, as he's found a solid connection with Herbert.

(And it's no surprise that Herbert leads the NFL with 29 completions of at least 40 yards in the same timeframe).

On Sunday in Houston, Williams had seven catches for 120 yards to lead the Chargers in both categories. He explained what he saw from Houston's defense.

"They were playing a lot of Cover 2, so we were just trying to find the holes in the zones and catch the ball while running," Williams said. "That was the main thing. Just be patient, find the spots in the zones and make some yards after the catch."

That mindset was as obvious as ever in the second quarter when Williams had a 50-yard catch-and-run that was the longest play of the day for the Bolts offense.

Herbert and Williams took advantage of the acres of open field.

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"Somebody busted the coverage on defense, obviously, because I was so wide open," Williams said. "I caught the ball and just tried to score a touchdown."

What went through Williams' head when he saw nothing but green grass around him?

"Hope the quarterback sees me," Williams said with a laugh. "If Justin sees me at that moment, it's going to be a big play. That's the main thing.

"If somebody falls or you're running scot-free, you just hope the quarterback sees you," Williams said.

4. Fox making a difference on the inside

In the locker room after Sunday's game, Morgan Fox and I chatted about the benefit of having a strong interior pass rush.

"Oh it's huge, you know Khalil [Mack] is going to demand a lot of attention," Fox said. "Kyle [Van Noy], Chris [Rumph II] they demand a lot of attention out there [on the edge], so we have to do our part when teams start trying to get to them.

"So we have to do our part inside, push the pocket, win some rushes and affect the game the best we can," Fox added.

Fox was certainly part of that equation Sunday, as PFF had him with an overall grade of 80.8, the third-best of any Charger in Houston.

Fox's pass rush grade was even better at 84.1, as he was credited with five pressures and three hurries in 23 pass rushes against the Texans.

Staley got descriptive when asked Monday about Fox's impact.

"Like he always plays; tough, rugged, ball-playing Jesse, versatile, motor, play-maker," Staley said. "He can play better, he will tell you that he can play better, but he was very effective yesterday in the game.

"I thought that our front seven played really well yesterday," Staley added." I thought that we rushed really well together and Foxy did a really nice job for us."

Wait, what's a ball-playing Jesse?

"Just a phrase that is endearing," Staley said with a smile. "It's a good thing, a good description. It's a good thing to be called that."

5. A handful of injury updates

Unlike a week ago, the Chargers got out of Houston relatively unscathed.

Staley said cornerback J.C. Jackson, who has played in two games and missed two with an ankle issue, came away "in good shape."

There was also a good report on center Corey Linsley, who missed Week 3 with a knee injury.

"Positive from the game," Staley said. "Normal soreness, but no setback, per se. Positive for us."

Wide receiver Keenan Allen is still "day-to-day" with a hamstring injury, and the hope is that tight end Donald Parham, Jr., is able to make his season debut in Week 5.

Staley also noted that Slater could return in three months or so from his biceps surgery, but that is still to be determined.

"If you know Rashawn, he'll do his best to get there," Staley said.

As for Joey Bosa, Staley gave an approximation on his return after undergoing groin surgery last week.

"The groin timeline is somewhere in that six-to-, perhaps, on the high side, ten [weeks]," Staley said.

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