Chargers Mailbag - GM Edition with Tom Telesco

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General Manager Tom Telesco invited fans to submit questions earlier this week to be answered by him Thursday at the conclusion of minicamp. Let’s take a look at what results #askTomT yielded.

Q: At what stage during your evaluation of training camp do you come to the decision that a certain position group is going to need help via free agency or trade? – Kyle Stickler, Nipomo

Telesco: We are constantly evaluating the team, but that really accelerates as we get deeper into training camp and we start playing preseason games. Our pro scouts are scouting the other 31 teams throughout the preseason to see if they will have any players that will be released that could help us or any players that could possibly be acquired via trade. 

Q: How are you guys working to improve your offensive line? After all, linemen win games. – Spencer Hafley, Herald

Telesco: Spencer, this has been a popular question. Michael Huston, Thomas White, Ed Mijarez, Clifford Shuster, and Brent Richardson are just some of the others who had similar inquiries. I share some of your thoughts on how our OL played in the NE playoff game. But I also saw how they played for 18 weeks, including a big-time performance in the playoffs versus a tough Baltimore defense. On a macro level, we had a 12-4 record, our QB had a career-high QB rating, and we had the most rushing yards we have had in six years (on the fewest amount of carries). On a micro level, we were sixth in the NFL in points scored, our RB group finished second in the NFL in yards per carry and fifth in the NFL in 20+ yard runs. In pass protection we were in the top 10 in least sacks allowed. None of that could have been accomplished without a productive OL. Are we satisfied and content? No. But when put in perspective, I was very pleased with our OL Coach Pat Meyer and how his group played.  

Q: Why are you the man? Good job! Best GM we ever had, fans appreciate it. – Jason President, Los Angeles

Telesco: I appreciate the sentiment, but I think Bobby Beathard would like to have a word with you. He was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame last year.

Q: Aloha Tom, who do you credit the most for your keen eye of recognizing talent? Or is it just a natural gift lol. Mahalo for your time & making our beloved Bolts a contender again! Bolt up ⚡️ – Keola Brown, Maui

Telesco: Thank you, Keola. It’s less about an eye for talent and more about making decisions with the information provided by our staff. Our scouting department is led by JoJo Wooden, Louis Clark, Kevin Kelly and supported by dozens of others. They do a tremendous job of evaluating talent and investigating backgrounds. Combine their work with our coaches’ evaluations, medical evaluations, data/analytics, psychological testing, interviews, etc. and you have the compilation of enough pure information to make good judgments on players. Not every player performs as anticipated after you sign or draft him, but I like the direction we are headed. 

Q: Hey Tom, what kind of culture changes have you seen take place within the organization since Coach Lynn has taken on the HC job? I haven't seen our team so motivated and focused in years! – Marcos Vazquez, Orange

Telesco: The motivation and focus you see is the culture instilled by Anthony Lynn. He preaches many things, but he heavily emphasizes selflessness, competitiveness and toughness. And those are traits you can see on a daily basis with this team.

Q: Thanks for taking time out of your day to keep all of us Chargers fans informed on the happenings of the team. My question is about positional depth. Do you believe that this 2019 Chargers team is prepared to make a playoff push using depth players? We all know that injuries happen. This is football. It's how the team handles those injuries and prepares for them that brings home a championship. Are we prepared and ready for injuries at key positions more so this year than in the last few seasons? – Chris Hendershot, Annapolis

Telesco: I believe we are prepared depth-wise to handle the injuries that inevitably come during the season, but you don’t really know until the season begins. Anything on paper right now is not relevant. But we also have a coaching staff that makes very smart adjustments based on the players they have. For example, last year Gus Bradley adjusted our defense when we had some injuries at LB. During the season when injuries hit, it is a combined effort between personnel and coaching to come up with the best options for that particular week. 

Q: Congratulations on signing Jerry Tillery. I am excited to have him add pressure in the defense’s interior. What players on defense are looking like they have taken a jump forward from last year? – Mark Scott, Phoenix

Telesco: Two players on defense who have taken big strides this offseason are DT Justin Jones and safety Rayshawn Jenkins

Q: What do you consider your biggest accomplishment so far as the GM? – Briana Jamie, Murrieta

Telesco: Wrestling this mailbag away from Ricky Henne. It took me six years. 

Q: Why not sign a veteran defensive tackle to the team that can be a force? Were you not watching the game against the Patriots? Thanks. – Mike Mazzella, Tallahassee

Telesco: Yes Mike, I was watching the game versus the Patriots. I had a chance to experience it live, and it looked to me the same way it looked to you. As far as adding a DT, yes, it was a goal this offseason and didn’t matter if he was a veteran or rookie. We drafted Jerry Tillery from Notre Dame in the first round. We will play him with veteran Brandon Mebane (who had an excellent season last year), ascending second-year player Justin Jones and veteran versatile DL Damion Square.

Q: Will you be visiting Thunder Alley (Lot 11) this year? – Guillermo Sandoval, Long Beach

Telesco: Count on it. When we were at Qualcomm Stadium, I used to stop by Ralph and Ben Samuel’s group in lot B1 before every game. I’ll make sure I find my way to lot 11 this year. Thanks for the invite.

Q: The players all have a pregame ritual. What is yours? – Nichelle Travis, Lancaster

Telesco: I like to get to the stadium early. I always check in with our head trainer Damon Mitchell to see if there are any last minute medical updates. Then I finalize our 46-man active roster and seven inactive players with Anthony Lynn. The official form is filled out given to our VP of Communications, Josh Rupprecht, and he attends a mandatory meeting 90 minutes before kickoff to submit our inactive list for that day’s game. The meeting is attended by Josh, the Head Referee, the visiting team PR/Communications rep, the NFL Sideline TV Coordinator, a representative of the TV network, the network’s on-field commercial coordinator and an NFL Football Operations representative. After that, I sit in the coaches’ locker room and watch the early NFL games and talk to them about our plan for that day. On a side note, Ken Whisenhunt always beats me to the locker room and is the first one there. I tend to leave him alone, as he is going over his play-call list all the way up until he leaves the locker room for warmups. I watch warmups from the sideline on the field and then head upstairs to a box to watch the game. 

Q: How do you feel about Hunter Henry's health for the upcoming season? Do you think he is 100% or is there is some chance he is not ready to play? – Tyler Lunsford, Philadelphia

Telesco: Hunter finished last season at full-go and played in the New England playoff game. He has been 100% this offseason and has looked tremendous. He is an exciting young player.

Q: There has been a lot of media attention around Melvin Gordon's potential contract extension. What about Philip Rivers? – Kent Goss, Chatsworth

Telesco: I have said plenty of times in the media how much Melvin and Philip mean to this football team. I wouldn’t pay much attention to the media dialogue regarding updates on contract talks. They are both under contract for this year. As a fan, I hope you can have fun and enjoy the moments of this season without worrying about 2020 and beyond – every season is unique, and every game is so important. I can assure you, however, we will be working on all that behind the scenes, as well as on other core players we would like to sign and keep here long term. 

Q: Really excited about watching Justin Jackson...if all goes well in camp for him, will we see a larger role in the offense this season? – Tracy Lucero, Visalia

Telesco: Good scouting, Tracy. Yes, I believe you will see a bigger role from Justin Jackson. He has looked very good this offseason and produced at a high level when called upon during last season. With Melvin Gordon, Austin Ekeler, Detrez Newsome, Troymaine Pope and Justin, we have a productive backfield with complementary styles. And if he gets lucky, maybe Derek Watt will get a couple extra carries to reward him for his blocking and special teams play. 

Q: Couple years ago, you drafted Forest Lamp in an early round as a guard. Two years after injury, where do you see him playing and what is his current positional outlook for 2019? Is he (a) possible starting guard or is he competing for right tackle? – Brian Czerniecki, Tampa

Telesco: It wouldn’t be a mailbag without a Forrest Lamp question, right? You will be happy to know that he has looked great in the offseason program. I am very pleased with where he is right now. And he handled last year like a pro because I know it was not easy on him. He wants to play and contribute. We will see how things play out in training camp, but I suspect you will be seeing a lot more of Forrest. There’s going to be a spirited competition in camp, and it will make our OL better as a whole.

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