Below are three takeaways from Chargers Head Coach Brandon Staley, safety Derwin James, Jr., and running back Austin Ekeler's media availability on Tuesday.
James: The defense is 'built to win and close out games'
Against the Las Vegas Raiders, Chargers safety Derwin James, Jr., made his impact felt across the field Sunday afternoon.
James registered a sack lined up as an edge rusher next to OLB Khalil Mack and defended both wide receiver Davante Adams and tight end Darren Waller, all while wearing the 'green dot' as the defender who relays the play call to the rest of the defense.
This week, the Chargers had little time to celebrate their Week 1 win as they now turn their full focus on facing their second straight AFC West rival in the Kansas City Chiefs. As the Bolts prepare for their first primetime game of the season, James now faces the challenge of defending the quarterback-tight end duo of Patrick Mahomes and Travis Kelce on Thursday night.
James explained on Tuesday why the Chargers defense is ready to go as they prepare for an AFC West battle under the spotlight of Thursday Night Football.
"I feel we built the defense to win games and close out games," James said. "Being able to go to KC, we want to come out as a defense and play hard."
While James is familiar with the Chiefs offense, this will be the first time he faces them without Tyreek Hill. Despite Hill out of the mix on offense, James said the defense can't forget about the new weapons on offense in wide receivers JuJu Smith-Schuster and Marquez Valdes-Scantling.
"They still have guys that can get down the field if you're not careful with Mecole [Hardman] and [Marquez] Valdes-Scantling, so we have to play it straight," James said.
James, who's no stranger to Mahomes' playmaking ability and his ability to extend plays, explained what the Bolts defense needs to do in order to have success on Thursday Night.
"Making sure we keep him in the pocket and cover the guys we need to cover…cover the guys up and not allow them to be wide-open guys. And rushing right," James said.
Chargers 'mindful' of Ekeler's usage
Chargers running back Austin Ekeler totaled 33 snaps on offense against the Raiders, which was 49 percent of the offensive snaps Sunday afternoon.
Staley detailed the reasoning behind the decrease in snaps for Ekeler, and why the coaching staff is taking a 'mindful' approach to the number of snaps Ekeler gets.
"Thinking about the long game and try to utilize all three of those backs to really force the defense to defend different types of people," Staley said. "We felt like Austin was really shouldering that load by himself last year and we want to be mindful of how that position is."
Ekeler talked about the importance of having consistency in the run game and being 'locked in' on Thursday night now with a game under their belt.
"We just brought Sony [Michel], he's been around about a week and a half. We have [Joshua Kelley] who's getting in the mix as well so that's just how it played out that week. I don't know if it'll be the same this week or a little bit different," Ekeler said. "I know I have to get myself more efficient in the run game or I'm probably going to lose reps there.
"That's how this goes," Ekeler added. "Make sure I'm locked in and make sure I taking advantage of the reps that we get."
Staley added how much value Ekeler adds to the offense and how important it is to keep Ekeler fresh throughout the course of a 17-game season.
"That's an attrition position," he said. "And he's such a valuable player for our football team, a captain of our football team.
"We want to be always thinking about the long game. It was really good to feature all three backs. I think we needed all three of those backs in order to win that game on Sunday," Staley added.
Carter is 'coach's dream' for Staley
During the offseason, the Bolts added veteran return specialist and wide receiver DeAndre Carter, mainly because of his abilities on special teams. As training camp was in full swing back in August, Carter emerged as a go-to target for the Bolts three quarterbacks on the roster and became one one of the standouts throughout camp.
In the Bolts season opener against the Raiders, Carter's number was called on when veteran wide receiver Keenan Allen exited the game with a hamstring injury. Carter did more than fill in for Allen as he hauled in a 23-yard touchdown pass from Justin Herbert at the end of the first half, proving that he's much more than a return man for the Bolts.
"I don't know if we knew that he was going to be this type of impactful receiver," Staley said on the emergence of Carter. "I think that's been a pleasant surprise for us.
"We felt like he was a quality return man, which was the first reason why we wanted to join up with him, but then, I think, we quickly saw in the springtime that he was going to be a lot more than that," Staley added. "When I think of Dre, I think of a football player, I think of a guy that can do a lot of things well. He's done a nice job for us."
Staley had high praise for Carter as he went into more detail on what he brings to the organization.
"He's a coach's dream. My mom used to say that as a teacher ... a teacher's dream. That is kind of how DeAndre is," Staley said. "He is such a hard worker. He's so unselfish. He does so many different things from a role standpoint.
"I think he works extremely hard no matter what he's doing throughout the day, whether it's in a meeting, in a lift out at the walk-through, out at practice, and he's a good player," Staley added. "When you put all that together, we're very fortunate to have him, and he's done a really good job for us."
If Allen is unable to play Thursday night in Kansas City, Carter's number will be called on again to step up as one of the top targets for Herbert as the Bolts look to improve to 2-0 on the season.
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