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Why Rashawn Slater Welcomes Daily Challenge from Khalil Mack & Joey Bosa

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Below are three takeaways from Chargers Defensive Coordinator Derrick Ansley, offensive tackle Rashawn Slater and defensive lineman Sebastian Joseph-Day's media availability on Tuesday:

Slater looking to be 'best version' in Year 3

Rashawn Slater has reminded plenty early in camp why he can't be overlooked as one of the best left tackles in football.

The third-year left tackle has been competing at a high level thus far, especially since the pads came on Monday. And Tuesday was no different, as Slater faced off against some of the Bolts' best pass rushers in team drills and in 1-on-1 drills during another intense practice.

Slater's 2022 season that was cut short by a torn biceps was a tough blow for a Chargers team that battled injuries. His return this year remains one of the team's top storylines as he looks to pick off where he left off both last season and as a rookie.

But even with the accolades and success he saw as a rookie, Slater believes his improvement is far from over and playing at an All-Pro caliber level was just the beginning.

"I definitely want to be like the best version of myself," Slater said. "I think I've improved as a player since then, just in the way that I see the game and in my technique. I definitely think there was a lot to improve upon that year.

"I don't anticipate taking any steps back, that's for sure," Slater added. "The nice thing about this is that it healed up really well, so it shouldn't be an issue."

And in terms of the injury he suffered last season?

Slater says there are no mental hurdles to get over. It's all been in the rearview mirror for a while now.

"No," Slater said. "Very early on, I was thinking about it. But by the time it started feeling better, I've shaken all that a long time ago."

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

As Slater looks to build on his game and improve, he's been able to do so with some of the league's best in outside linebackers Khalil Mack and Joey Bosa.

The tackle has battled both during 1-on-1 sessions with pads, as the results have gone back and forth.

But that's what you expect when you face some of the league's best, and Slater spoke about his appreciation for being able to face two players of the caliber of Bosa and Mack.

"I take away a lot from those like. Joey and Khalil, they're so smart in the way they play off of O-linemen," Slater said about the duo. "Every training camp it's like, if you have just one little mistake in your technique here, they're going to find a way to exploit that. They really keep you honest.

"The margin for error is so small, I think it really teaches you quickly what you're doing wrong and what you need to fix because once they see something, it's over," Slater added. "They take advantage of it so well."

The training camp battles between Slater and the pass rushing duo will continue to ramp up as camp moves along — and so will the picking of brains between some of the league's best that continue to look and improve.

"We spend a lot of time, especially in the afternoon walkthrough when we have a little more time in between plays, we'll have little conversations about hand placement, timing, stuff like that," Slater said. "I think we get a lot out of it on the field and in our conversations."

Bolts eye run defense in pads

The padded practices have taken the competition level up a notch.

And for the defensive line, this has been the start to what are important practices to improve in run defense, an area where the team was inconsistent at in 2022.

Even though padded practices doesn't mean full tackling like you would see in games, the defensive line can take a lot out of it according to defensive lineman Sebastian Joseph-Day — including valuable aspects that will be needed come game day.

"I think, this was something that I was taught. The enemy of run defense is space, right? So I think the biggest thing is closing down that space," Joseph-Day said. "It truly takes everyone. The run defense takes everyone from the corners to the safeties, to the linebackers, to the D-Line. It takes everyone.

"Just being able to minimize that space, closing that space down in areas where they're trying to run it and make it really hard by shrinking those areas, right? That is the enemy of offense running," Joseph-Day added. "That's the enemy, space being closed. That is the enemy of run defense, space. Closing it down. Closing it down fast and being able to react fast and play fast."

These aspects will continue to be important through the rest of camp and during the season, as the team has emphasized the importance of improving in the run defense.

How the Chargers are practicing so far is how Joseph-Day wants the team to play as well, as he believes these practices are helping everyone improve their game.

"Just play rugged," Joseph-Day said. "That's what I feel like we're harping on this camp. It's been very physical. It's been very fun. We're getting better. We're getting better.

"Jamaree [Salyer], Zion [Johnson] are competing their butts off," Joseph-Day added. "They're doing a great job. It's fun going against them every single day. "I tell them every practice, I shake their hand [and say], 'Brother, thank you for making me better.'"

Lots of defensive energy

The term "energy" has been a word that has been used a lot to describe the Bolts' training camp practices so far — and it's for good reason.

The examples appear in each practice, as every phase of the game has seen high-level competition.

Chargers Defensive Coordinator Derrick Ansley tends to agree as well on the defensive side of the football, as he assessed the defense and how they have performed so far.

"I think that the energy has been really good," Ansley said. "The fundamentals has been good. The toughness has been good.

"We're working through some schematics there, but I thought the guys had a really good pace," Ansley added. "I think they have digested the first two days of pads very well."

The defensive side of the football has been flying around, making hard for the offense and vice versa. The back and forth is something that has been praised by both sides.

But still, Ansley emphasized the importance of making sure that energy continues to be used to produce the competition and improve.

"From a defensive perspective, there's a fine line between being too animated and being a professional, as well," Ansley said. "We want to make sure that we have total respect for each other, which we do."

"We're all teammates, we're all in this thing together. Everybody loves each other," Ansley later added. "That's just competitive football. But you always want to make sure that you keep the professional brand intact and move on to the next point."

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