Below are three takeaways from Chargers Offensive Coordinator Joe Lombardi, Chargers Defensive Coordinator Renaldo Hill, safety Derwin James, Jr. and linebacker Drue Tranquill from Thursday's media sessions:
James adds new accolade to impressive season
Chargers safety Derwin James, Jr. is playing perhaps the best football of his career.
On Thursday, the two-time Pro Bowler was named the AFC Defensive Player of the Month for November — the first such award for James in his career.
James has made a strong case for one of the best safeties in the league this season once again, as his dominant month of November saw him record 37 tackles, two sacks, an interception and a pair of forced fumbles. He's the only defender in the league to have a sack, a pick and a forced fumble in November.
"He's doing the job of six other players," Chargers Head Coach Brandon Staley said about James on Wednesday. "If you just said that one player is doing that job, you would have an expectation, but he is doing the job of six other players. That is what makes him so valuable. Mentally, there is a huge tax in understanding what to do and how to do it."
"He is like that LeBron James-type of player where he can just do everything," Staley added.
James is currently at the century mark in tackles, the most by a defensive back in the league and fifth overall in the NFL.
Coming off of arguably his best game of the season against Arizona, James credits winning the award and his elite-level play this year to his maturity as both a player, and a person.
"I feel like I'm older, more mature," James said on Thursday. "I'm not just running around, trying to find stuff. I know where the equipment is, I know everybody in the building.
"I know all the players. It's like, I'm older now, so I feel more [comfortable]," James added.
James is likely on his way to another Pro Bowl, as he is the strong safety leading vote-getter in the Pro Bowl according to the second returns released earlier this week.
As eye popping as James' numbers and production have been, there's one area that constantly gets brought up by coaches and teammates that you can't put on paper that has made him into one of the premiere players in the NFL.
"I would say people don't get to see my leadership," James said. "Being able to elevate the guys around me."
Allen's impact clear in return to action
Over the last couple of weeks, the offense has seen the impact that wide receiver Keenan Allen brings.
Allen only played a combined 45 snaps in the first 10 weeks of the season due to a hamstring injury and was on what was supposed to be a pitch count in his Week 11 return.
"It's been huge," Chargers Offensive Coordinator Joe Lombardi said. "Obviously, he is one of the premier receivers in the league, so having him on the field is big."
Sunday against Arizona marked the first time all season that Allen saw a complete return to action, playing 89 percent of the offensive snaps.
Lombardi talked about Allen's full return and what it means to the offensive production to have him back in a complete capacity.
"I think the first week back, he was back, but you weren't exactly sure how healthy he was, and you felt a little better last week," Lombardi said. "I think we're confident that he is full-go now.
"Having the player is a big deal, and just having the personality and the confidence in the huddle — the veteran presence — it's big on a lot of levels," Lombardi added.
Allen has caught 10 passes for 143 yards since Week 11, but his presence on the field is worth something more than yards — best encapsulated by the Chargers late two-point conversion against the Cardinals.
The offensive production with Allen back is something that gives the team confidence heading into these last six games.
"There's a lot of production that he brings to this offense that, when he is missing, you feel it," Lombardi said. "Every week, it's like, 'Hey, we think he is going to [play], but there is a pitch count.' There are all of these factors that go into it during the week, and you are trying to do the math in your head like, 'Alright, how much of Keenan [Allen] are we getting?'
"After the last two weeks, I think we're pretty confident we got the full package now, so that's good," Lombardi added.
Check out the best photos of the Chargers Thursday practice at Hoag Performance Center
Round 2 with the Raiders
The Chargers took the field on Thursday for practice as they prepare to take on the Raiders for a second time this year.
But the team's enter this matchup much differently than they did in Week 1.
Despite both teams having faced adversity throughout the season, the Chargers enter Sunday's contest knowing that no matter what's happened since Week 1, division games will always be hard fought.
"Any time you play any team in the division, especially the Raiders, Broncos, you know what type of game it's going to be," James said.
"They know who we is, we know who they is for sure," James added.
Facing a divisional opponent the second time around is different compared to a new opponent, as both sides are more familiar with one another.
According to Chargers linebacker Drue Tranquill, despite the familiarity with them, they know what kind of game to expect.
"I think things simplify a little bit. I think teams know each other so well that it's like, you do what you do, and you do it really well," Tranquill said. "You don't try to make it too complicated.
"We certainly expect it to be a physical game," Tranquill added. "It's a meaningful game and we got a lot to play for, so we're excited."
With the Chargers traveling to Las Vegas for the first time since Week 18 of last season, are there any leftover emotions heading into Sunday?
Chargers Defensive Coordinator Renaldo Hill points out that with the turnover on the defense, it's hard for the entire unit to have those emotions since they didn't experience it.
What they're focused on is showing their improvement from their Week 1 contest.
"It's kind of hard for some of our guys to realize it because we just have so many new guys a part of the defense," Hill said. "For those guys, they didn't experience it the same way that the guys who have been here experienced it."
"We just want to treat it as such, a new year, a new opportunity," Hill added. "We're a much better team than the team that we showed in Week 1. We just want to put that on display this week."
Bolt Up for 2023!
Secure your 2023 Season Ticket Memberships today! Click here to learn more.