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5 Takeaways: Bolts Regroup, Turn Page to Titans in Week 2


The Bolts have turned their attention to a Week 2 road game at Tennessee.

Here are five takeaways from Chargers Head Coach Brandon Staley's Monday media availability:

1. Preaching patience

Believe it or not, the Chargers still have 16 games left in the NFL season.

Yes, the Bolts are 0-1 after a close 36-34 loss to Miami in Week 1, but there is still a lengthy journey ahead of Staley's team going forward.

And he believes the Chargers have the right group of players who can bounce back from a season-opening defeat.

"This is a really close group, a group full of outstanding leadership," Staley said. "We all know it was a tough game. My takeaways were that the group knows we laid it on the line.

"It was a really, really tough game and I couldn't ask anything more from an effort standpoint," Staley added. "But from an execution standpoint, we can be a lot better in all three phases of the game. That's where this team is now, you learn so much from this first opportunity."

Here's something that could put things in perspective.

A year ago, the 49ers, Bengals, Jaguars and Cowboys all lost their respective season openers. All four teams went on to make the playoffs, with San Francisco and Cincinnati making it to their respective conference title games.

There were also five teams that won in Week 1 during the 2022 season that did not make the playoffs.

Does it help to win in Week 1? Of course.

But it's not the end of the world, a message Staley hit home about Monday afternoon.

"The buildup between your last game of the previous season and your first one, there's just so much build up to it," Staley said. "The reality is, one way or the other, is that it's just one out of 17.

"My first two seasons, we won the opener and there's that great feeling you get after not playing for so long and to get out there and win it, especially at home," Staley continued. "But we didn't win this one. It was a tight game and we didn't quite finish it.

"What we've got to do is learn from it, put it away and get on to Tennessee," Staley added. "I think this team is mature and we've got outstanding leadership. We've got to take the lessons from yesterday and keep in moving."

The Chargers play their first road game of the 2023 season Sunday against the Titans.

Take a look back at the Chargers 2023 season opener vs the Dolphins in monochrome

2. Kudos to the run game

Again, it was just one game.

But it was a strong start for the Chargers ground game, an area the Bolts emphasized heavily during the 2022 offseason.

That included adding Offensive Coordinator Kellen Moore to the fold and focusing on a rushing attack that multiple players characterized as a "downhill" style this offseason.

The end result Sunday was 234 rushing yards and three scores. Entering Monday Night Football, the Bolts lead the league in rushing yards.

They are also first in EPA per play (0.308), Pro Football Focus' overall rush grade (83.6), rushing yards before contact (88) and 17 runs that went for a first down.

"It was an exceptional performance by the offensive group running the football," Staley said. "To get 40 rushes off was just as key as the rushing total. To have three rushing touchdowns — and I think that both of our backs were exceptional in the game — that's the way that we wanted to play that game, in terms of our blueprint for the game. I thought that our guys did a really good job executing. It's definitely something that we need to build off of."

Austin Ekeler had 117 rushing yards and a score while Joshua Kelley scored and set a career high with 91 rushing yards.

Staley also gave credit to Moore, who kept dialing up runs at the right time and called multiple of them in a row if he felt it was working.

"I think that's one of the reasons I talked to you guys in the offseason and throughout the preseason. He's patient, that's one of his great qualities as a playcaller and I think he did what it took to win the game yesterday," Staley said of Moore. "I thought we had the balance, I thought we had a lot of people touch the ball.

"[We had a] run-pass balance in terms of being efficient and explosive at the same time. We were able to be efficient and explosive," Staley added. "I thought it was a good first game for us operationally. Didn't have any delays or silly timeouts. Good first time out for us."

3. Slater stars in return

Rashawn Slater is back.

The Chargers star left tackle returned to the field Sunday for the first time since suffering a biceps injury in Week 3 of the 2022 season.

And based off metrics from PFF, Slater shined in his return in a big way.

Slater's overall PFF grade of 80.9 ranked third among all tackles while his pass-blocking grade of 88.0 was the fourth-highest mark among players at his position. Slater's run-blocking grade of 72.4, by the way, was 13th.

Staley on Monday praised Slater's play in his first game in nearly a full calendar year.

"I thought Rashawn, gave us a winning performance," Staley said. "[They have] outstanding edge players over there.

"Rashawn is one of our top players and it was good to have him back out there," Staley added.

After the game, Slater understandably didn't want to make too much of his return given the outcomes.

"Surreal, honestly. A lot of anticipation but once you're out there it's kind of just ball," Slater said. "You're kind of on autopilot. It was good.

"Not the outcome we wanted but it's a long season," Slater added.

But it's clear after one game that Slater has picked up right where he left off in the stellar start to his career.

Get an inside look as the Chargers honor two of their all-time great, Charlie Joiner & Kellen Winslow, by officially retiring #18 and #80

4. Improvements on defense

A day later, the focus of Staley's media availability was understandably on the defense.

The Chargers gave up 536 total yards to Miami, including 466 through the air. Tyreek Hill has 200-plus receiving yards while Jaylen Waddle added 78.

"We didn't play the right leverages in a lot of the coverages we had designed to take away those two receivers and we just didn't do a good enough job staying consistently connected in coverage and gave up far too many explosions as a result of it."

Staley said the Dolphins, who are a heavy pre-snap motion team, added a different wrinkle to that element of their attack on Sunday.

Here are some visuals to help explain it.

In the photo below, Hill is crouched down and lined up just off the right side of the offensive line.


When most teams put a player in motion, they send him across the formation and to the other side of the field.

In this case, Hill went out toward the near sideline and then ran his route, essentially giving him a running start, something the league's fastest player surely used to his advantage.


Hill ended up making a reception on this play that gained 29 yards, one of numerous instances where he was helped by pre-snap motion in every which way on the field.

"They're a motion team so they motion every play. That's who they are," Staley said. "It's every part of the field, every down and distance. We were not surprised. I think the character of some of the motions, at least early on, were a little bit different.

"But our guys, quickly we realized it's just a presentation of what they normally do and were able to get that adjusted out on the sideline," Staley added. "They're a tough cover. They were a tough cover last year and were a tough cover this year. As our guys see more of that, we'll adjust better to it."

5. Injury updates

Staley said Ekeler dealt with an ankle injury during the game and his status for Wednesday's practice is "to be determined."

Staley also noted that the team will know more then on Daiyan Henley and Chris Rumph II, both of whom missed Week 1 due to hamstring injuries.

"We're going to know a little bit more later on today and you guys will be able to know Wednesday if there's anything else from the game," Staley said.

Staley added that cornerback J.C. Jackson, who played in his first game back since suffering a serious knee injury in late October, made it through the game fine.

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