Few pundits can speak on the Los Angeles Chargers better than Daniel Jeremiah.
Afterall, the NFL Media Analyst spends his Sundays in the fall as the Bolts' radio color analyst.
Well on Wednesday, Daniel Jeremiah was out at Hoag Performance Center doing a little self-proclaimed "double duty." He joined NFLN's Andrew Siciliano and Steve Wyche for "Inside Minicamp Live" and additionally, got a quick preview of the 2019 Chargers before they convene at Jack Hammett Sports Complex for training camp in six weeks.
I had a chance to catch up with DJ about the Chargers including his breakdown of the offense, defense and what this team needs to do to take the next step in 2019.
The Return of 86
Well technically, Hunter Henry did play in the Divisional Round of the playoffs but 2019 marks the official regular season return of number 86. Ask Jeremiah what he thinks of the Chargers offense, and he'll list the deep running back and wide receiver corps. But when it comes to tight ends, Jeremiah truly believes Henry's return is the X-factor to take last year's 11th-ranked total offense to new heights in 2019:
"Hunter Henry is a good place to start. You have the depth in the backfield. I know you lose Tyrell Williams, but there's still plenty of talent there at that wide receiver position. With Keenan and Mike (Williams) coming back, and I'm anxious to how Artavis Scott fits in (because) he was doing well last year before he got injured. But Hunter Henry is the one; that is the major addition. You're talking about a top-five-caliber tight end in the NFL. The complement with him and Virgil, because they both can be more than competent in the run game. And then to be able to flex Hunter out and do a lot of different things with him, it's going to provide (Offensive Coordinator) Ken Whisenhunt with a lot of options, and you know he loves tight ends! He'll have a big year."
Defensive Depth is Key
With two seasons under the tutelage of Defensive Coordinator Gus Bradley, the Chargers defense is starting to fully take shape in his vision. He turned the unit into a top-10 total defense a year ago, and mentioned this year may already be his fastest defense yet. With that said, Jeremiah admits he's intrigued by this unit in 2019. That's why he chimed in with what they need to improve on, what position battle should be a good one to watch come training camp and, ultimately, why the depth they have will pay dividends:
"Eliminating some of the big plays. That's something that Gus Bradley is always focusing on (and) being able to tackle in space. We'll see who emerges in that free safety job. Rayshawn Jenkins seems like he's had a very nice offseason. And then we'll see when (Nasir) Adderley gets out there, what he can do. So, they'll have some options. I think tackling is going to be big, but also, having depth at the linebacker position. Tip your cap. To go into the postseason and beat a Baltimore Ravens team with no linebackers on the field was incredible. I thought Tom Telesco did a beautiful job of really adding a lot of depth, not just in free agency, but also in the draft to give this team options. Stay healthy, and cover and tackle on the back end."
Goals for 2019
The Chargers have posted two-straight winning seasons under Head Coach Anthony Lynn, and 2018 saw the squad making the playoffs for the first time since 2013. Additionally, their 12-4 record was their best since 2009, and tied for the best record in the AFC. So, as good as this team was last season, how can they be even better in 2019? Let Jeremiah take it from here:
"What feels different is the overall depth of this team, and it gets you excited…. You start with a quarterback and a pass rush, that's where I begin. There's not many better (quarterbacks) in the NFL right now than Philip Rivers. He's just so consistent; you know exactly what you're getting from him. And then you look at that pass rush, with the waves of players the Chargers can throw at you. Twelve wins is where the bar was set last year, and unfortunately, 12 wins doesn't win you the division. You've got to set your sights even higher than that, and I think that's where the goal needs to be."
Get an up-close look at some of the top practice photos as the team takes the field for the final day of minicamp.