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How Asante Samuel, Jr., is Progressing Entering Year 3

FTP 08.02

Below are three takeaways from Chargers Head Coach Brandon Staley, wide receiver Mike Williams and cornerback Asante Samuel, Jr.'s media availability on Wednesday:

Samuel details secondary cohesion

It's been hard to miss Asante Samuel, Jr., so far in camp.

The cornerback has been everywhere through the first week of Chargers Training Camp, including Wednesday when he sealed the win for the defense during the two-minute drill near the end of practice.

"I'm just trying to get better and make plays for this team," Samuel said following Wednesday's practice.

"I'm feeling good. I feel like our team is getting better each and every day," Samuel later added. "We're just competing really hard. We're making each other better."

Samuel has found his way to the football and has done exactly that during camp, swatting away passes and playing great coverage thus far. He continues to develop and improve as he now enters his third season in the NFL.

Samuel has also shown off his versatility at both inside and outside cornerback — an area where Chargers Head Coach Brandon Staley has seen a lot of improvement from the third-year player.

"Asante in his first two years, he has started every single game of his pro career," Staley said. "There has not been one game that he has been active for that he has not been a starter. He has earned that. He has gotten better and better both years.

"Going into this training camp, we've been able to see the versatility that we know that he has, but because of our depth and quality, we feel like we can put him in there more," Staley added. "He's really improved inside because it's a position that's difficult to master, especially the way we play. We put a lot on that position. It's not an easy position to play for us. It's a feature position in our defense.

Staley continued: "He's playing, from a technique standpoint, a lot better because he's in there a lot more. I think you've seen, throughout these practices, him making plays outside and inside. He has to cover the tough guys in both places. He's also done a good job in run support. He just needs to keep improving."

Take a look back at the first week of Chargers Training Camp 2023 in monochrome

It's not just Samuel making the plays in the secondary however.

The secondary unit as a whole have had their battles with the offense throughout camp and have had their moments. A lot of them are returning members from last season, so the bond and familiarity with each other and the defense has been on display at different times, including Wednesday.

Samuel praised the cohesion of the secondary unit, as they all continue to fight and play for the bigger picture.

"We definitely are familiar with each other. It's kind of like a brotherhood," Samuel said. "We're setting the culture here. Everybody just wants to see everybody do well. Just come out here, and when you're working with somebody and a lot of people every day, you kind of build chemistry with them along the way.

"There's going to be ups and downs, but at the end of the day, we all wear Chargers gear," Samuel added. "That's what we do it for, the Chargers."

Back and forth they go

The defense got the upper hand during Wednesday's closed practice.

The unit was able to stall out the Chargers offense at times, especially during the final few periods of practice, leading to offensive players having to do pushups for coming up just short.

It was another chapter in what's been a high-energy, back-and-forth training camp thus far for the Bolts.

Energy is something Staley has mentioned after the first few practices and it's been evident, with or without pads. The Chargers Head Coach has seen the back and forth between the offense and defense so far and praised both units for keeping the competitive level high.

"Every single day it's been like that," Staley said. "It's been healthy back-and-forth. Yesterday, the offense had a really good day. Today, I thought the defense responded. We went through a lot of good situations today — two-minute, red zone."

"Every time we've gone out for practice, both sides have competed well," Staley later added. "Who wins the day has been kind of back and forth, but you're seeing the playmaking and you're seeing the execution. Today, we have some really good situations, too."

Wednesday's practice saw the players take the field in shells, but the previous two days featured padded practices — and the first chance for the team to practice with contact.

A couple of key aspects that stood out to Staley during the padded practices including tackling, an area where the team has emphasized so far during camp.

"I felt the physicality and I felt the tackling, the aggressiveness from the secondary, where you see the trigger, and then the finish that you're looking for," Staley said. "We have gotten off to a good start.

"As you guys know, [tackling] hasn't been nearly good enough, been poor both years, so it's been a big emphasis for us," Staley added.

The intense and competitive the practices are a good thing to Staley, but he continues to remind the team about the importance of not letting it go too far.

"That's what we talked about, you want to go right to the line, and you don't want to go past that," Staley said. "That's the tough part of sports that a lot of people don't understand. We want that competition. We want that edge on our football team. We want the guys that are going to compete."

Going deep down the field

Count Mike Williams as another fan of the Chargers offense so far in camp.

The veteran wide receiver, who is now entering his seventh season in the powder blue, has made his fair share of the big plays he's accustomed to.

And Williams has seen the same from the rest of the offense so far, as he likes what he's seen from the group early on.

"A lot of explosive plays," Williams said. "What we were looking for, getting down the field with the size and the speed that we have and the guys in our room, the running back room, tight end room.

"A lot of explosive plays, making his reads quick; going from the first option, second option check downs. Everything is looking good," Williams added.

With new Chargers Offensive Coordinator Kellen Moore, Williams knows that the offense wants to take advantage of one of quarterback Justin Herbert's biggest traits — his arm talent.

"With his arm strength, he's probably one of the strongest throwers in this league," Williams said. "We want to use it to the best of our advantage, get us down the field.

"Make big plays, big plays get the offense going, defense going and put points on the board," Williams added.

There's a long way to go between now and the start of the regular season. The flashes have been there for the Bolts offense so far, but the defense has also gotten the better of them at times, which is something Williams said is just how camp goes.

As Williams explained, the biggest thing that will come from all of this is overall improvement of the team.

"I feel like we had a lot of explosive plays the first few practices we've been out here," Williams said. "Defense had a pretty good day today but we're going to show up this weekend and we will compete.

"That's why we show up; some days they might get us, we'll get them," Williams added. "That just comes with having two good sides of the ball."

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