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Why Brandon Staley is Encouraged After Chargers Minicamp

FTP 06.14

Below are three takeaways from Chargers Head Coach Brandon Staley, quarterback Justin Herbert and more during Wednesday's media availability:

Bolts wrap up minicamp

The Chargers offseason program has come and went.

The Bolts wrapped up their mandatory minicamp practices Wednesday, as the team will now be off for the next five weeks before they regroup for training camp in late July.

"It was a really good two days," Chargers Head Coach Brandon Staley said Wednesday. "This group has come in and really practiced well and competed well.

"The level has been high both days," Staley added. "Now, we're excited for training camp."

Quarterback Justin Herbert echoed his head coach's sentiment, as the group was able to get in some good work to build on throughout the offseason.

"It went by really fast, but I thought we got a lot of good work out there," Herbert said. "Had a lot of guys come out this offseason. I thought that was huge for us to be able to work together and grow together."

A pair of high-level practices this week saw them through a number of drills, including the 7-on-7 and special teams work. Practices went back and forth between the offense and defense, with each having their moments.

But aside from the good competition the Bolts put on, Staley also praised the attendance of the team that will allow them to get better heading into the season.

"I was just really appreciative of the entire offseason. The attendance was fantastic, and that says so much about the leadership of our team," Staley said. "We just appreciate it because we know how the NFL is in the offseason.

"To have everybody here, I feel like it allows us to improve a lot more, to kind of set the culture of our team, the direction of our team," Staley added. "Now, we're ready for training camp. Very thankful for the guys."

The Bolts will put on the pads a few days into training camp — the first time they will do so this season. Not only will it amp up the competition a little bit more, but Staley noted it will be a better way to evaluate player performance.

Still, the value of the offseason program is immense as it helps prepare the players in order to evaluate them that much better.

"I think it's definitely more teaching and learning than evaluating," Staley said. "I don't think you can truly evaluate NFL players until you see them in pads because that's how the game is played. I think more of the evaluation is going to take place when there's pads on.

"What we're trying to do is use the springtime so that when we get to training camp, all of these guys know what to do and how to do it. That way, we can evaluate them," Staley added. "So it's spend the springtime, from a teaching perspective, to get these guys to have an opportunity to compete.

"That's why we organized practice the way we do for the young guys, so that they have enough time-on-task with the reps so that they can actually play the game, where their experience doesn't hold them back. We try and get them as much work in the springtime so that they can go be their best in training camp."

The Bolts now have about five weeks before they return for training camp and as much as Herbert feels like he'll get the itch to return to the field soon, he knows whenever the team returns they will be ready to go full steam ahead.

"Probably tomorrow, yeah," Herbert said with a laugh.

"We'll enjoy the little bit of time that we get off and continue to get our bodies right. I know all of these guys are going to take care of business when they go home," Herbert added. "As soon as July 25th comes around, I know they'll be ready to go."

Ekeler talks role in Moore's offense

Coming off another big year in 2022, running back Austin Ekeler is ready for whatever new Chargers Offensive Coordinator Kellen Moore may bring.

The veteran back got his first glimpse of the new play caller during the last couple days as the offseason program came to a close and got some work in with the offense during the drills.

Ekeler has been a touchdown machine, scoring 38 touchdowns over the last two regular seasons. In 2022, he also set a Chargers single-season record with 107 receptions and set a personal-best with 1,637 yards from scrimmage.

Now with a new offensive coordinator in Moore, Ekeler is approaching his role in the offense the same way he has his entire career.

"My role is the same every year, for me in my perspective because I still have my same mindset as I did when I was younger," Ekeler said. "I have everything to come out here and prove. I tell these guys — I told them when I got in here the first day, 'It's your guys' job to come and take my job.

"It's my job to show why you shouldn't be able to take my job and why I should still be No. 1," Ekeler added. "I want you to push me like that. I want to feel the presence of you. I want us to come out here and compete.' When we do that, especially in our running back room, it continues to push and heighten ourselves."

Ekeler now looks to build on his back-to-back big seasons in his seventh year with the Bolts and continue to grow as a player in this new offense.

"For me, it's continue to build into that role," Ekeler said. "Continue to be a leader because at this point, how do you want to plug me in? I can be all over the field, but now, can I pull more out of this team to bring us together?

"To be a leader. To actually make us more consistent when it matters down at the end of the season," Ekeler added. "That's the new role that I see myself playing more into, as far as growing off of last year to this year."

Check out the best photos from Day 1 of Chargers Mini-Camp 2023

Williams ready to go deep

Wide receiver Mike Williams got on the field during both minicamp practices and did what he does best — make contested catches down the field.

The Bolts receiver is now entering his seventh season with the team and made his presence felt over the last two days getting in on the action in 7-on-7 drills, including this contested catch during Tuesday's practice.

"It's been good," Williams said about minicamp. "I've been training, putting in some work before this, so I was ready. It's been a good two days. We got some good work in."

The quarterback-wide receiver connection was in full effect over the last couple of days, and Herbert spoke how important Williams is to the team.

"It's huge. He's such a special player," Herbert said. "Any chance you have him out there, whether it's a go ball, whether it's an intermediate route, you know he's going to find a way to be open and he's going to catch the ball. He's going to come down with it.

"It's always a pleasure to have him out there," Herbert added.

Williams has been with the team during the workout portion of the offseason program, and continues to get himself familiarized with the new offense Kellen Moore has brought in.

The veteran wide receiver praised Moore and his offense, as the early portion has showed him how versatile he has been with maximizing every weapon.

"I love it," Williams said about Moore's offense. "He's moving everybody around, putting everybody in different positions, using everybody's strengths.

"We're looking forward to building this, getting together with the quarterbacks and coming into training camp, getting this thing rolling," Williams added.

Even though it's just been practices in helmets and shorts, the topic of pushing the ball down the field has been brought up thus far as the offense has had their number of big plays during the offseason program.

But how would the offense look if the Chargers push the ball down field more this year? Williams kept it simple.

"It's going to look good," Williams said with a laugh.

Williams' deep ball prowess is well-known so it's not a surprise he would be a fan.

According to Pro Football Focus, he ranks second among all wide receivers since 2018 with a deep target rate of 25.8 percent among players with at least 400 targets in that time.

If in fact the Bolts do take more shots, Williams is ready to continue and make the plays he's made throughout his career thus far.

"I like that. That's what I do," Williams said. "That's how I've kind of made my name in this league, by going and getting the deep ball. I think that is going to look good if we are able to do that."

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