Anthony Lynn has asked his Chargers veterans to accept a role he once excelled at during his latter days as a running back for the Denver Broncos: player-coach.
“I coached a lot of guys that came in to replace me,” Lynn said.
According to Lynn, that selflessness was on display Monday as nearly 90 players took the practice field at Hoag Performance Center for the first day of organized team activities (OTAs). The head coach said he believes L.A.’s newcomers will learn more and develop faster through the guidance of their veteran teammates – even more so than the coaches.
“Our players – like I said today – they were doing an outstanding job of pulling guys aside and just coaching them up on how we practice and how we do things,” Lynn said. “That’s where I like to see it come from because at the end of the day, we’re going to go as far as they take us.”
When asked what the youngest Chargers can learn better from the vets than from the coaches, Lynn was matter of fact.
“Everything,” he said. “How to be a pro, our concepts. They speak their language. I’m 50 years old.”
The Bolts are back on the field for the first day of Phase 3 of OTA workouts - check out the sights.
In two years, running back Austin Ekeler has gone from wide-eyed rookie to reputable resource. In Lynn’s first season as head coach in 2017, Ekeler entered training camp as the sixth-string running back who wore No. 3 on his jersey.
The 24-year-old is now an established, core veteran with new teammates now asking him for advice. During OTAs, especially as a younger player, Ekeler explained how the mental side of the game takes precedence over the physical.
“Studying is definitely the biggest thing right now just because right here we don't have pads on,” he said. “You're not going to be blowing anyone up or making huge plays like that. It's more a technique thing right now. Sure, you want to be playing fast, obviously, but you can't play fast.
“I remember, if I just had OTAs or minicamp, I wouldn't have made the team. I was all over the place.”
Pro Bowl defensive end Joey Bosa thought back to how helpful veterans like Melvin Ingram and former defensive tackle Corey Liuget were when he was a younger player. It’s something he expects to pay forward to the new guys.
“Anything they have to ask me, I’m open,” Bosa said.
Both Bosa and Ekeler are entering the prime of their careers. Some Chargers may only have a handful of years left.
Lynn praised those vets for tutoring the rookies knowing they'll ultimately be competing with them for a roster spot. It’s part of being a professional. It could also end up being the reason why the 2019 Chargers play meaningful football next winter.
“Our coaches do a heck of a job preparing with these guys and meeting with these guys, and we're there for them with any type of advice, but I still go back to, ‘We’ll coach the players to coach the rookies.’” Lynn said. “That's just what I believe in."
WRs an early position group to watch
With so many players on the field during OTAs, Lynn said he focused his efforts on watching the individual drills. Among the several position groups he’s monitoring is the wide receivers.
With Tyrell Williams departing for the Oakland Raiders via free agency, Lynn is looking to see who emerges behind the trio of Keenan Allen, Mike Williams and Travis Benjamin. The head coach mentioned Artavis Scott “and a bunch of guys that have been around one or two years,” which includes second-year wide receiver Dylan Cantrell.
Outside of the wideouts, tight end Hunter Henry is a big-play pass catcher that Los Angeles was without during the 2018 regular season. After sustaining an ACL injury last offseason, Henry was back at it on Monday working with the first unit.
“I don't think Hunter is thinking about what happened to him last year,” Lynn said. “He had a lot of time to think about that. He's 100 percent. He's back on the field. He looked good today. It's just good to see him running around with that first unit."
Bradley gives a pair of rookies high marks
During OTAs – especially on the first day – it may be difficult for rookies to gauge the tempo at which to practice.
Lynn said safety Nasir Adderley was a standout on Monday, but the compliment came with a caveat: Slow down the pace in an effort to protect your teammates.
Defensive Coordinator Gus Bradley praised Adderley for how quickly he’s grasped things. The team's newest linebacker from Notre Dame also caught his eye.
“I would say, overall, Drue Tranquill — I thought he really showed up,” Bradley said. “He's calling the whole defense. His intellect is sharp. Not only being able to line up, but also able to execute the techniques. Sometimes you can call it and get lined up, but to also where we say, 'That's exactly how we taught it.' I thought he picked up on it pretty quickly."
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