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Bolts Emphasizing 3rd-Down Success Against Falcons


Below are three takeaways from Chargers Offensive Coordinator Joe Lombardi, Chargers Defensive Coordinator Renaldo Hill and left tackle Jamaree Salyer from Thursday's media sessions.

Bolts focused on 3rd downs

Coming out of the bye week, the Bolts are making third downs a focal point on both sides of the ball.

Both Chargers Offensive Coordinator Joe Lombardi and Chargers Defensive Coordinator Renaldo Hill emphasized areas on that down where the team can be better in the final 10 games.

Offensively, the Bolts are tied for 13th overall with a third-down success rate of 40.57 percent. Atlanta's defense ranks 30th at 47.06 percent.

Lombardi said Thursday that the bye week was spent focused on situational football, which includes moving the chains on the crucial down.

"I think we have had a little bit of shuffling guys in and out. Like I've said before, each group that you have based on the defense you're facing, it's just finding that right formula," Lombardi said of the offense's third-down performance. "Some of it is better planning, better play-calling, better execution. Everyone just picking it up a little bit."

And while the Chargers have endured some injuries on that side of the ball, Lombardi wasn't about to make any excuses there.

"I think everything has something to do with it. I do think that we do have enough talent to be better," Lombardi said. "It's just everyone coming together, working a little harder and being a little better."

Defensively, the Bolts are 17th overall with a third-down success rate of 40.96 percent. Atlanta's offense ranks 6th at 44.94 percent.

Hill said the Bolts defensive staff certainly looked at how they can be better on third downs, but added they key is to get the Falcons into third-and-long situations.

Atlanta has faced a whopping 24 different scenarios of third-and-10 or more, converting just six of them. Quarterback Marcus Mariota has thrown two of his six interceptions this season on such plays.

"That reflection in the bye week is also looking at what gave us success in the past," Hill said. "I don't want to reveal what [Head Coach Brandon] Staley and I have done in the past that was successful, but it's more like looking back at some of that stuff, seeing if we have been doing those things in this situation. That's another way to get better, seeing what our calls are, seeing how we can help our players.

"We know Atlanta has been in a lot of those situations this year, third-and-11-plus, so we have to make sure that we're on board," Hill added. "They've already capitalized on those opportunities and we have to do the same."

An emphasis on the run defense

Hill noted that the Chargers also spent a good amount of time trying to find ways to improve their run defense.

The Bolts are giving up a league-worst 5.70 yards per play, and rank 27th in the league by allowing 137.6 rushing yards per game.

"We just wanted to make sure that we went back and looked over those first seven weeks of the season," Hill said. "Obviously, the run game, we wanted to address that.

"We really tried to assess the week by looking at those areas and just trying to attack it, get back to our fundamentals and make sure that we're all seeing it the same way," Hill later added.

Hill revealed the Chargers actually tweaked their usual meeting cadence, getting the entire defense together for certain topics instead of meeting solely by position.

"I think the biggest thing we did this week is that we made sure that everybody was in the same room when we were talking about the run game," Hill said. "So that everybody can go through each call, make sure that we can adjust and make sure that each level knows where the responsibility lies.

"I think that was important, hearing it from one voice and making sure that we were all on the same page and we are all hearing the same message," Hill said. "I think that is a good start. We obviously have to do the things out on the practice field and make sure that it's registering to our guys."

The Falcons run game ranks fifth in the league with 158.1 yards per game.

Salyer welcomes Atlanta homecoming

Jamaree Salyer had a big smile on his face Thursday in the locker room.

"I feel pretty good," Salyer said. "Feel refreshed after being able to go back and see my family and my people back home in Atlanta. It's good to be back, just refreshing to get away for a bit."

Wait, Atlanta?

Yes, Salyer went home to Atlanta during the bye week and will head there again this weekend when the Bolts face the Falcons.

The left tackle said he'll have a large contingent of family and friends on hand for the game.

"Everybody wants tickets, everybody wants to come to the game," Salyer said with a laugh.

Salyer knows Mercedes-Benz Stadium well, having played in the SEC title game twice at the venue, as well as the Peach Bowl after the 2020 season.

"It's a stadium I'm familiar with, I've played there before in the SEC Championship a couple times," Salyer said. "But I'm excited to go back and be a pro. To be able to play the Falcons at their home, that's something I never really imagined but it's pretty cool."

Salyer, who has started four straight games in Rashawn Slater's absence, received praise from Lombardi on Thursday for his run blocking.

"He's so strong. Once he gets his hands on you, you end up getting moved," Lombardi said. "A little bit like we talked about [G] Zion [Johnson]. He's a sticky blocker.

"Once he gets on, usually good things are happening," Lombardi added. "For young guys, I think the biggest challenge is just hitting movement and handling games and all of those things, but just one-on-one in a phone booth, that guy is strong and effective."

Salyer said Thursday he's feeling more comfortable as the season goes by, but is always working to improve his craft.

"I think I've done some good things, but there's also things I want to get better at," Salyer said. "That's what is important to me, just keep getting better and give us a chance to win every week.

"A lot of people in this organization told me they believe in me, so I don't want to let them down," Salyer added.

Check out the best photos of the Chargers Thursday practice at Hoag Performance Center

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