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Chargers Mailbag: Pre-Combine Questions, 1st-Round Options & Indy Food Recs 


Welcome to the Chargers Mailbag! I'm Senior Writer Eric Smith, and I answer questions from the Bolt Fam each month during the offseason.

We're doing a special edition of the Mailbag today that focuses solely on new Chargers Offensive Coordinator Kellen Moore.

Send in submissions for the Mailbag here on Twitter or by sending me an email.

Off we go…

With the Combine coming up, what is the main goal for the Chargers in Indianapolis? (Alex via email)

The Combine is one of the most-anticipated events of the offseason for a variety of reasons.

On a more casual level, it's a chance for people to catch up with friends and colleagues around the league that they don't get to see during the season.

But there's certainly an important work element to the week in Indianapolis, too.

Up until this point, teams have scouted players primarily on film for the past few months and maybe even for the past few years.

This is the time to get an up-close look at them in a variety of areas: on-field drills, in-person interviews and medical evaluations.

All of those aspects are simply puzzle pieces that help a team determine if they would consider drafting a player at some point in late April.

The main goal for the Bolts should be to take advantage of the time they have with prospects and get a feel for whether or not they would be a fit in powder blue.

Is the Combine the complete determining if a player will get drafted by a certain team? No.

But if a prospect has a strong week in Indianapolis and makes a good impression on a team, it could certainly start the path for that to happen.

This is tricky because while every team uses analytics in some form or another, they also all likely view it differently on how crucial analytics are.

Some teams are known for going heavy on it while others might take a more traditional, film-heavy approach.

As for the Bolts, I'll let JoJo Wooden, the Chargers Director of Player Personnel, explain it.

"It's a piece of the pie. It's not the end-all, be-all. But sometimes it just reaffirms what you may have seen on tape," Wooden said. "For example, let's you're not sure about a guy's hands. Well, the analytics tell me his drop rate isn't where it needs to be. Maybe there's something to it.

"Or maybe you wonder if a guy can't block speed rushers? What's his pressure rate? You see the information for yourself and say, 'OK, that's good to know,'" Wooden said. "You put it in your memory bank."

I'll have a story coming on Monday from a nearly 20-minute chat with Wooden ahead of the Combine. There's lots of great info in it, including this part on analytics.

Hmmm. Maybe.

But only if the Chargers are really in love with a running back that is available.

Bijan Robinson of Texas seems like a fantastic player and is likely going to be a first-round pick. Yet because he's a running back, he might not go as high as his talent level shows.

The league has placed a premium on a handful of positions (quarterback, tackle, edge rusher and cornerback) in recent years.

Running back isn't included in that group, as there have been just 12 total running backs taken in the first round in the past 10 drafts. That means, on average, roughly one player at that position is going in the first round.

As I've written already on this offseason, the Bolts should do as much as they can to continue to load up with skill position players around Justin Herbert.

And while running back is included in that, it might not be the top priority.

Austin Ekeler, who wasn't even drafted, has proven the past two seasons that he is a touchdown machine. Joshua Kelley carved out a role for himself as the No. 2 back last year and there is still a lot of potential to see what Isaiah Spiller can do in Year 2.

Taking a running back in the first round feels like a luxury pick. Perhaps the Chargers do that, but I'd lean toward them focusing on a different position if they go offense in the first round.

I'll break this answer down into two parts: restructures and ERFA signings.

With restructures, sometimes they happen and it doesn't become public unless the news is leaked. Most teams don't announce that type of thing as they would a signing or other roster move.

And I'm not going to speculate on who on the roster, if anyone, could potentially restructure their contract. That's up to the player and the Chargers front office.

As for Exclusive rights free agent (ERFAs), those announcements will likely come before free agency begins March 15.

A quick refresher that an ERFA is any player with fewer than three accrued seasons and an expired contract. If his original team offers him a one-year contract at the league minimum (based on his credited seasons), the player cannot negotiate with other teams.

The Chargers have five ERFAs right now in Michael Bandy, Cameron Dicker, Kemon Hall, Forrest Merrill and Foster Sarell.

Be patient, news on them could come in the next few weeks.

In the meantime, here's a list of all 26 Chargers players slated to be free agents this offseason.

The Chargers are in an ideal position in that they have their franchise quarterback in Herbert, a guy who is expected to be the face of the franchise for the foreseeable future.

But with Chase Daniel and Easton Stick both scheduled to be free agents this offseason, the Chargers will have to make some sort of move behind Herbert.

That could mean bringing back both, or one of, Daniel and Stick.

It could mean adding a cheaper veteran backup to fill that role, which is what Daniel was the past two seasons.

Or it could mean drafting a young player and having him help Herbert, which was the role Stick played in recent years.

Herbert has talked extensively about how both Daniel and Stick helped him prepare for games in his first few years in the league. But now that Herbert is going into Year 4, perhaps he doesn't need as much help, which could mean a rookie quarterback behind him.

It's an interesting debate and one of many fascinating offseason storylines for the Bolts.

I love Combine week. As mentioned above, it's a chance for the entire league to converge on one spot for a week … something that rarely happens given everyone's schedule.

And one of the best parts of the Combine is the food. Dinner is the big meal at the Combine since breakfast and lunch are usually on the go while working.

I'm partial to St. Elmo's (or Harry and Izzy's, its sister restaurant) which has incredible steaks and shrimp cocktail. But that's an obvious answer since it's one of the most popular places in the city.

I'm a fan of Nada and Bakersfield when it comes to Mexican food, and Bazbeaux has excellent pizza.

Those are usually my go-to spots when at the Combine, and I try to hit most of them since I'm only in town for a few days.

All in all, Indianapolis is a pretty solid food city and I always enjoy my time there.

That will do it for this edition of the Mailbag.

As always, you can find me on Twitter at @EricLSmith and submit your questions for the Chargers Mailbag.

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