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Chargers Mailbag: Buzz Around the Bolts & Tuipulotu's Potential Impact


Welcome to an offseason edition of the Chargers Mailbag!

Send in submissions for the Mailbag here on Twitter or by sending me an email.

Off we go…

Honestly, it's one of the quietest times during the NFL calendar.

Nearly everyone who works in an NFL front office— whether that's executives, coaches, staff, etc. — takes a vacation at some point because of the season-long grind that looms in late July.

Many people won't get a day off until the season is over, which might not be until February.

Personally, I'm trying to spend as much time as possible with my wife and daughter before I'm pulled away to late nights, road trips and one weekend off in a five-plus month span.

As for the players, the majority of them get away from the facility to relax and perhaps take a trip somewhere.

But it's also a time for them to work out on their own and be ready to go for when training camp rolls around. Nobody wants them to come in out of shape and erase the progress that was made from offseason workouts.

In short, players can use the time between now and late July however they want. Pretty much all of them put it to good use and get ready for the upcoming season.

A great question from Scott, but one I'm not fully equipped to answer.

I actually started (remotely) with the Chargers last June while I was still in Minnesota. I moved out here in mid-July before camp and hit the ground running.

So, I didn't actually witness any offseason practices from a year ago.

I can, however, offer a pair of insights that I've gleaned from being around the team this offseason that may have been different from a year ago.

The first is that Justin Herbert appears to be more aggressive in looking for explosive passing plays. That storyline was actually my biggest takeaway from the Bolts offseason program, as a healthy Herbert displayed his special arm talent by going deep in Kellen Moore's new-look offense.

We'll have to see if that carries over to training camp and the preseason, but it's a strong early sign that the Chargers offense could be among the league's most potent offenses in 2023.

The other observation is that the Chargers have gotten much less fanfare than they did a year ago.

Remember last offseason when the team traded for Khalil Mack and signed J.C. Jackson, Sebastian Joseph-Day and Gerald Everett (among others) in free agency?

Nearly all of those players are still here, and are hungry to prove they are a better team than the one that took the field in 2022.

Chargers Head Coach Brandon Staley was asked about the lessened buzz surrounding his team at minicamp and said he's more than fine with flying under the radar a bit.

"I know the team that we have. The players that were talked about in that way last year, they're still all on our team," Staley said. "We've added even more pieces.

"We are confident in who we are and we're just confident in the work that's ahead and that we have the guys that are capable of doing it," Staley added. "We're excited to get to training camp. But I love coaching this group. I know this group is really good."

Staley exuded a quiet confidence, and a demeanor that was also modeled by his players.

There may be less buzz around the Bolts right now, but the Chargers are aiming to change that narrative once we get deep into the 2023 season.

Staley was asked this exact question on the first day of minicamp about Palmer, who worked off to the side most of the offseason.

His answer?

"If any of our guys aren't out there, it's just for something minor in nature," Staley said. "You'll get to see him at training camp."

Is it great for players to get as many reps as possible in the spring? Of course.

But making sure everyone is fully healthy for training camp is a key goal, too.

Palmer is expected to be out there for camp and will be a big piece in a stacked wide receiver room.

We need to get Dalvin Cook. Bring him here, it can be great for the offense. (John via email)

A two-part question here, both about the running back position.

To begin, this is not the space for me to make predictions on which players the Chargers should or shouldn't add to their roster.

There is no doubt that Dalvin Cook's resumé speaks for itself and that he has been one of the league's top backs in recent seasons.

He'll likely sign with another team before the season starts, but again, you won't find a prediction here on which one.

I do know the Bolts like their running back room, which is led by Austin Ekeler, and features a pair of youngsters in Joshua Kelley and Isaiah Spiller who could carve out key roles in the backfield this year.

As for the second part of this topic, rotations are usually determined by the coaching staff, including the head coach, coordinator and position coach.

If a player has been on a hot streak, perhaps the game plan is to get him more carries as the weeks go along.

But in-game performance — both good and bad — also play a part, too. A red-hot back will likely keep getting fed the ball while one who's dealing with fumbling problems is likely going to be on the sideline.

In the Chargers case, Ekeler is likely going to have a similar role in Moore's offense that he'd held in previous seasons: a do-it-all running back who will average almost 20 touches per game and is one of the league's top scorers.

The fascinating battle will be behind him, as Kelley and Spiller both bring different elements to the offense. We'll see which one can claim the No. 2 role in camp and the preseason.

Derius Davis, come on down.

The rookie fourth-round pick is going to have the first crack at holding both the kickoff and punt returner roles this season.

Davis was the main returner from what we saw in practice this offseason but will certainly have to earn and retain that responsibility in the coming months before Week 1.

The hope is that Davis can replicate the success he had in college, where he had six total returns for touchdowns at TCU, including five on punts.

No, as of Thursday morning, Chargers second-round pick Tuli Tuipulotu was the only member of the Bolts seven-man draft class to remain unsigned.

My concern level is at zero percent.

Rookie contracts can sometimes be delayed over different language and minute details. I fully expect Tuipulotu to sign his deal before training camp.

Tuipulotu could have a pivotal role on defense this season, as he is expected to challenge Chris Rumph II for the third edge rusher spot behind Mack and Joey Bosa.

Tuipulotu tallied the most sacks in college football last season with 13.5 sacks and was second with 22 total tackles for loss. He was also unanimous All-American selection and was named 2022 Pat Tillman Defensive Player of the Year award given to the best defensive player in the Pac-12 Conference.

If Tuipulotu can provide that sort of juice behind Bosa and Mack, the Chargers defense could be getting after opposing quarterbacks on a regular basis this season.

That will do it for this edition of the Mailbag.

As always, you can find me on Twitter at @EricLSmith and submit your questions for the Chargers Mailbag.

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