Below are three takeaways from Chargers Head Coach Brandon Staley, wide receiver Keenan Allen and outside linebacker Khalil Mack's media availability on Thursday:
Chargers 'commend' great 1st day of joint practices
The Bolts got some good work in Thursday in their first of two joint practices with the Saints.
For the starting offense and defense the practice was their first, and possibly only, chance to lineup against another opponent before Week 1 — and they made sure to take advantage of it.
Both teams practiced for about two hours, having major battles in 1-on-1 drills and other team periods throughout the morning in Costa Mesa.
"[Saints Head Coach] Dennis Allen and their group was just really good to work with today," Chargers Head Coach Brandon Staley said. "Their coaching staff, I just commend them. This is a great work day.
"I think both sides of the ball on both teams, and the kicking game, we got better today," Staley added. "That's the whole goal of these things."
It was high-level competition on both sides, as the Chargers look to take full advantage of the reps against a talented Saints team.
"You can paint the whole field," Staley said about the value of joint practices. "You can get all of the time and score [situations] that you want, and at the right tempo and the right pace.
"When you work with a good team like New Orleans, you're going to feel really good about where you were after two days," Staley added.
Having the starters in the joint practices differs from playing them in the preseason, something Chargers wide receiver Keenan Allen noted, due to the nature and control of the practices and the ability to work in game-like situations.
"In a preseason game, you're only going two series, maybe a quarter," Allen said. "Today we played a damn near full game, so to speak. We had situational out of it, too. It's a little bit better."
For a lot of the veterans, these joint practices are some of the only work against a different opponent before the regular season. And with the regular season just over three weeks away, the value increases.
Which is why for players, like veteran outside linebacker Khalil Mack, putting the best showing possible is important when going against the opponent in this environment.
"Just going against somebody else other than your teammate," Mack said. "Working on things, whether it's schematically or whether it's against different players — tight ends, tackle, quarterback — knowing that you're going to get different things.
"Just putting your best work against their best and going to work, it's always a good day," Mack added.
The Bolts will host the Saints for one more practice on Friday before their preseason game on Sunday.
Keeping the pressure on
The Chargers defensive line brought the heat during the team drills with New Orleans.
Whether it was on the edge or on the interior, the Bolts made their presence felt and even rushed a couple of throws, keeping the offense on their toes.
Mack was in the midst of it all as well off the edge, forcing some throwaways and being a big part in the defense's lone turnover of the morning. Mack used his strength to get pressure on Saints quarterback Derek Carr, leading to a Derwin James, Jr. interception.
That was just one play, but Mack is not surprised by the amount of heat the Bolts defense put on today.
"That's what we expect," Mack said. "We expect that day-in and day-out, whether it's our offense or any other offense. We want to affect the quarterback."
Staley liked the work from Mack and the rest of those along the defensive line, praising the team's performance against a talented Saints offense that has quite a few weapons.
"It seemed that way. We'll have to check the film," Staley said. "It was just good to go against a quality opponent.
"I have a lot of respect for the Saints, for [Saints QB] Derek [Carr] and that skill group of guys — [Saints WR] Michael Thomas, [Saints WR Chris] Olave, [Saints RB Alvin] Kamara, that group of guys," Staley added. "The line has been together a lot. It was a good test for us today and I thought that we got good work on both sides of the ball."
Mack wasn't the only one in on the pressure Thursday, however.
Fellow outside linebacker Joey Bosa had a standout day as well, rushing the right side of the Saints line and rushing the passer effectively, as well as being strong in the run.
The tandem of Mack and Bosa was sharp once again, as Staley praised the two for setting the standard of the group throughout training camp.
"Khalil is going to play well, no matter who's playing with him," Staley said. "But when you put Joey Bosa on the other side, and Joey's rolling like he rolls, you're going to feel all the playmaking, and vice-versa.
"It's the same for Joey," Staley added. "When you have Khalil Mack on the other side, it's going to really help their overall performance. Khalil sets a high standard for that edge group, and you're seeing the impact that he and Joey have had, I think, as leaders."
The play of Mack and Bosa throughout every practice, including today, is something that Staley believes is part of the reason for the high-level plays from other players in their position group given their extensive experience.
"Those six guys behind them have had really quality camps because they're just soaking up all that knowledge from those two guys," Staley said. "Those two guys have been very consistent for us. They had a good day out there today."
Allen on Gates Induction to Chargers HOF
The Chargers Hall of Fame is adding another big member this fall.
On Wednesday, it was announced that former tight end Antonio Gates, and one of the best ever at the position, will be the 41st member inducted into the Chargers Hall of Fame.
Gates, the all-time leader in touchdowns (116) and multi-touchdown games (21) by a tight end, was surprised with the news during a Chargers team meeting, as he was overcome with emotion.
And in the room was former teammate Keenan Allen, who spoke about the news of Gates' induction.
"That was big time," Allen said. "I couldn't say more about the person he was in the locker room for us, and to me. Obviously, one of my mentors, my big bro."
Allen played alongside Gates for six seasons — from when he entered the league in 2013 to Gates' final season in 2018.
Aside from the number of accolades and numbers Gates racked up throughout his 16 seasons in the powder blues, what sticks out to Allen in their time together was how much the tight end helped him grow as a player.
"He taught me a lot of things on and off the field," Allen said. "We hung out a lot. In the locker room, we were always together, so being around him helped me grow, too."
Gates is the Bolts all-time leader in career receptions (955), receiving yards (11,841) and touchdown catches (116) and second all-time in regular season games played (220). He will be inducted in a ceremony that will take place during the Week 14 matchup against the Broncos.
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