Below are three takeaways from Corey Linsley's press conference on Monday as the Bolts begin Phase Two of their offseason program.
How Zion Johnson fits with the line
On the Monday after the draft, the Chargers began Phase Two of their offseason training, marking the third week the Bolts have been back together at the team facility. Veteran center Corey Linsley took to the podium for the first time since the end of the 2021 season to talk about the Chargers' 2022 draft class, his second year in L.A. and more.
First up, Linsley was asked about the Chargers drafting Boston College offensive lineman Zion Johnson with their first round selection and shared his initial thoughts on Johnson. While Linsley said he hasn't had the chance to meet the rookie, he's heard great things of what Johnson brings both on and off the field.
"From what everybody is saying, he's a great dude," Linsley said. "I texted him, 'Congrats, enjoy it.' He's excited to be a part of the group now. All positive — I mean, what else would it be? But, from everybody that I've talked to, people that know him, they have all raved about him; the kind of person that he is and, obviously, the kind of football player."
Linsley talked about what it meant for the Chargers to choose an offensive lineman with the 17th overall pick along with Georgia offensive lineman Jamaree Salyer in the sixth round. Johnson and Salyer join a Bolts offensive line that has 'come so far' from a season ago, according to Linsley.
"Honestly, I feel like our group is so tight," Linsley said of the o-line room. "It's great to have another guy in the group. I feel like he is going to mesh well with the guys we have in here. We're excited to have him. We're excited to have [OL] Jamaree [Salyer]. We're excited to have all of the guys on board. However it shakes out, it is what it is. Again, I just feel like our group has come so far from where we were last year, just in terms of how tight we are now. We're just excited to bring everybody on board."
Former opponents turned teammates
Linsley also talked about the additions the Chargers made during the first wave of free agency in Chargers new OLB Khalil Mack and defensive lineman Sebastian Joseph-Day. Linsley talked about playing against Mack when the two used to face off twice a year in the NFC North, Linsley with Green Bay and Mack in Chicago. He talked about the potential Mack and OLB Joey Bosa have playing together and the excitement he has with Mack on his side now.
"The thing about both of them is that they can do it all," Linsley said. "I guess you can call them pass-rush specialists, but it's not like they're only coming on the field on third down just for third down. They're great football players; they play great in the run, they play great in the pass, they're great at diagnosing stuff. There's really not a whole lot of weakness to either of their games. Just being able to have those two complete football players om the edge, that's huge for us. Obviously, playing against Khalil Mack, I was not happy when he got traded to the Bears — that was not what we wanted at the Packers. That just kind of speaks to the player that he is. Extremely excited to have him on our side."
Linsley also has experience playing against new defensive lineman Sebastian Joseph-Day when the Packers and Rams played each other during the 2020 playoffs. When it came time to prep for the Rams defense, Joseph-Day stood out when Linsley turned on the film.
"It was kind of surprising," Linsley said. "I was watching film — and he wasn't a household name back then — and as I kept watching film, he kept popping out, and I was like, 'Man, I haven't really heard of this guy yet.' We hadn't played the Rams in a few years. As I was watching more and more film of them, I was like, 'Man, this guy is a good player. He's taking to everybody.' He's really patient. He has a great center of gravity, great balance. He's real strong. He's everything you want in a nose guard and I was happy to see that we picked him up, for sure."
Heading into year two on the Chargers
Linsley also talked about preparing for his eighth season in the NFL and second season with the Chargers. He talked about how the pieces are coming together on the offensive line and how much their communication has improved.
"I feel like we have the pieces now," Linsley said. "I felt like we did a pretty good job last year, but there's a lot of room for improvement, from my game and everybody's game. Being able to take that next step this year, solidifying our O-line, now, we know each other's calls, we know what we're talking about, we can read each other's minds. Moving forward, Zion [Johnson] is going to be a huge part of that. Getting him in here and working from Day One, it's going to be great. I feel like the more time that we can put in talking, on the field and off of the field, it's just going to make the football team better."
Along with new players, the Chargers have also added new coaches to the staff this offseason. One of those includes new offensive line coach Brendan Nugent. Linsley talked about how the transition has gone with Nugent taking over for former offensive line coach Frank Smith who is now the Miami Dolphins offensive coordinator.
"He seems like a really good dude," Linsley said of Nugent. "He's been knowledgeable in the meeting room and stuff. I've been talking to him a little bit. We have only had one meeting today with him, but I've been texting with him every now and then. He's part of the equation, too. [Assistant Offensive Line Coach] Shaun Sarrett is back. We already know Shaun, but Nuge is part of the equation, where we have to get to know, him and he has to get to know us — know how we communicate, how we learn — and figure out the best way to coach us, and, obviously, us receive his coaching and learn from what he can bring to our game."
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