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Bolts Offense Focused on Repeat Success in Run Game

FTP 10.14

Below are three takeaways from Chargers Offensive Coordinator Joe Lombardi, Chargers Defensive Coordinator Renaldo Hill, running back Austin Ekeler, running back Joshua Kelley and tackle Jamaree Salyer's media availability before Friday's practice:

"Each week is a new week" in run game

The Chargers took the practice field Friday before Monday Night Football as they ramp up preparations for their matchup with the division-rival Broncos.

A tale of last week's game was the efficiency in the running game, as the team rushed for a season-high 238 yards in the win over the Browns. Although the offense gained confidence in that area of the game after recent success, they understand that each week is different than the last.

During his Thursday press conference, Chargers Offensive Coordinator Joe Lombardi admitted that while the running game was clicking, things differ from week to week when it comes to the success they might have.

"It was great," Lombardi said. "It makes it so much easier on everyone involved when you run the ball well. It's good.

"It's encouraging, but every week is a new week. It doesn't guarantee anything for the future," Lombardi added.

What this success has brought to the team is confidence as they continue to move forward this season. Still, Lombardi emphasizes the need to continue to work, as every week is different.

"I think confidence is such a big thing in any endeavor, so, hopefully, it builds a little confidence," Lombardi said.

"One thing I've learned in football is that every week is a process and you go through the process and you give everything you can to the planning and the practice and putting thought into it," Lombardi later added. "Again, just because it worked on Sunday doesn't mean it will work this Sunday. We're back to square one every week."

Rookie tackle Jamaree Salyer shares a similar sentiment to Lombardi. He noted accolades achieved in the last game can be celebrated, but then it's time to move on to the next opponent.

"It's kind of like the 24-hour rule. You celebrate for 24 hours then wipe the slate clean, fix what you need to fix, be happy about what you can be happy about then take the next challenge as it comes," Salyer said. "I think we're well past the celebration phase of last week, so onto this week, onto a new challenge and it's a new game plan."

The first three games, the Bolts struggled to move the ball on the ground, as they rushed for a combined 177 yards. Since then, they've put up a 319 rushing yards in the last two games.

Running back Austin Ekeler, who had a career-high 173 yards this past Sunday, knows that while their game plans change from week to week depending on who they're playing, getting game reps as a unit has been one of the most crucial parts of this running game resurgence.

"We've gotten a little flow going," Ekeler said. "We pretty much know our team now, what our strengths are, what our weaknesses are. Might not be necessarily weaknesses, but what's working for us.

"We just tend to stick to those, and it depends on who we playing on defense as well, what they have as well, their strengths. It's just getting in our rhythm and flow," Ekeler added.

Running back Joshua Kelley, who found the end zone in Week 5, added:

"The running game has gotten going," Kelley said. "To be honest, it's credit to the offensive line, tight ends, receivers, they've all really embraced it.

"For me, I'm running with confidence right now," Kelley added. "If I'm getting that ball it's just like, 'Alright, boom, let's cut up.' Stop thinking so much and just play instinctually."

Hill: Bolts defense keying on explosive plays

Past the quarter mark of the season, the Chargers, like the rest of the NFL, continue to fine-tune their teams.

Especially with the Bolts, the overhaul of the defense coming into the year was something that throughout training camp, everyone knew would take time and game reps to get to where they would like to be.

Chargers Defensive Coordinator Renaldo Hill spoke about his defense and where he thinks they stand through five weeks.

"I think that it's still a process. We're still growing, still adding those seven new players to the defense and making sure that we keep fine-tuning every screw in this defense," Hill said. "It's growing, we're learning from our mistakes and we're heading in the right direction."

A big emphasis in the defense so far has been giving up big plays. Since Week 2, the Chargers defense has given up at least one explosive run per game. It is something that Hill realizes but tries to find a positive and hopes to fix as the season moves along.

"You find a silver lining in that it's all fixable," Hill said. "We got hit on a few plays, and everybody would want those back, but we know that it takes a complete unit in order for us to go out and execute, I think that's the one thing that we're finding as player and coach.

"It's important for us to keep going and attacking it out on the practice field," Hill added.

It continues to be a work in progress, as the more time that passes, the more Hill hopes the team can improve in that area. They are far from a finished product.

"The more and more times that we can get reps — whether that's in walk-through, making sure that we're tied in together — I think that those opportunities will happen less," Hill said. "We're going to keep growing. Hopefully, we like the product at the end of the day. It starts this week."

Broncos defense poses "big challenge"

The division-rival Broncos come into SoFi Stadium looking quite different compared to last season.

With a new coaching staff and players, the Chargers are preparing for a team that is a bit different than the one they played last year — similar to the situation they faced in Week 1 with the Raiders. This time though, they have five games worth of film to prepare for Denver.

The Broncos defense was highlighted by Lombardi, as he mentioned that although it may not be completely different than last year, they have made it more complex.

"Probably a little more variation in the personnel groupings they use, which is a big challenge," Lombardi said. "It's almost like you're preparing for three defenses in one with this group. It's a lot like our defense, as far as preparing for that.

"The hard part is there may be plays that you favor versus different personnel groupings that they are throwing in," he added.

Kelley also echoed what Lombardi said, as their personnel groupings have caught the attention of the team.

"They got a lot going on with their scheme. Schematic wise, it's kind of similar to what our defense runs, but they have different players and different personnel groupings," Kelley said. "It's going to be a good matchup. Obviously, we know how great their defense is so I'm excited for it."

Salyer, who will be making his third start at left tackle, talked about what it takes to prepare for an opponent like this.

"It starts with the film, getting on the tape, understanding who they are, what they would like to do," Salyer said. "At some point you get the reps in practice and the reps in walk-through, seeing all the different looks.

"Once you go through that stuff, your kind of ready for what they're going to throw at you," Salyer added. "It's not going to really catch you off guard."

The Chargers have gone up against some of the league's elite rushers in the first five games. On Monday, they will go up against outside linebacker Bradley Chubb, whose ability to line up anywhere on the defensive line makes him disruptive, according to Lombardi.

"It seems like every team has got him, but he's just a hard guy to block. He has the measurables, the speed, the get off, the rush plan," Lombardi said. "The hard thing about him is that he lines up on your right, he lines up on your left.

"You're never really sure where he is, and so it's hard to formulate a really airtight protection plan because you're not sure where he's going to lineup. He's a game-disruptor, for sure," Lombardi added.

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