Over the coming weeks, we’ll be checking in with the Chargers’ position coaches and coordinators to get the inside scoop. We continue with Defensive Line Coach Giff Smith.
Chargers.com:At this stage in mid-May, what have you seen so far out of the d-line?
Smith:We know we have to be more disruptive up front, and it’s been good. I told (Defensive Coordinator) John Pagano the other day that there is a little more talent here than I thought we had coming off the tape. We are laying the foundation and stacking the bricks. We’ve really, really harped on hand usage, explosiveness, the power to lock out and escapability. We’ve just got to continue to work at it because all of this is good, but none of it really matters until you get to 11 on 11. That is what we talk about in the room. This is good, and it’s laying the foundation. But I don’t want a roller coaster ride. We can’t revert back. I want to keep climbing the hill. It’s a good group of guys and they’re working hard, so I’ve been pleased.
Chargers.com:How would you describe your coaching style out there at practice?
Smith:The game is not complicated. It comes down to pad level, hand placement, the ability to lockout and escapability. The more you can do that, the better. I’m not big on stepping over bags and all that. I believe in explosive power, hard work, put weight on and lock out. It’s a mentality up front. It is a tough man’s game, and we are going to be the toughest guys when we walk on that field. And to do that, we have to practice that way. It’s hard work, but it’s work that will make you better.
Chargers.com:We have to start with the newest member of the defensive line, Joey Bosa. How is he fitting in at defensive end?
Smith:He’s a perfect fit for it. I don’t buy in to all the stuff about scheme fit. We’re not a two-gap defense. We’re a single-gap, attack front. That’s right up Joey’s alley. He’ll be amazed at the different one-on-one situations he has, not only in the pass game but in the run game. I think he’s a natural fit, and he’s going to be the man at the defense end spot. I expect him to take it and do some fantastic things for us.
Chargers.com:What have you seen from Corey Liuget compared to what your expectations may have been when you were first hired in January?
Smith:Corey is a guy I remember evaluating when he came out, and I was high on him. Corey to me has a chance to take his game to the next level. That’s what I’ve talked to him about. For us as a defensive unit and a team to make that jump, he has to take that jump as an individual. And he is hungry for it. I’m encouraged and I’m really excited to see how that plays out. He’s a combination of a lot of different guys I’ve coached from Marcel Dareus to Kyle Williams to Jurell Casey; he’s a little mixture of all of them. For a guy who has been in the league all the years that he has, I think he still has a lot of upside left to tap.
Chargers.com:Has Brandon Mebane been the leader you hoped for?
Smith:Oh yeah. I didn’t get a chance to talk with Brandon during the process of signing him because I was on the road at pro days. When I got back, we got a chance to sit down and talk. One of the things I told him is I didn’t need him to sit back and feel his way through it. Where we are at on the defensive line, we have to have a bell cow. He has a Super Bowl ring and has been a top performer, and I told him I need him to be the guy. And that’s what he’s done. He’s been first in every drill and been exactly what I think we needed to add to this unit up front.
Chargers.com:Darius Philon showed flashes last year. He is only 22. What have you seen from him, and what do you expect out of him heading into his second season?
Smith:His skillset is pretty good. He has really good hips, explosive power, long arms and a big butt. He can do a lot of good things for us. He is someone who is intriguing. Hopefully we can develop him, and I think he can be a really good player in this league. I’m excited to see him develop. He’s a good guy to keep an eye on as we move forward.
Chargers.com:Where do you see Sean Lissemore playing this year? He is someone who provides a lot of versatility up front.
Smith:Lissemore has position flexibility for us like you said, and that is valuable. He is a tough, smart guy. He is someone who can give us a lot from different spots. If we are only five linemen in a game, he can help us a lot in that way. He is more athletic than people give him credit for, and he’s done well so far this offseason. He’s really pushed himself.
Chargers.com:Tenny Palepoi missed all of last year, but he had a nice role as a rookie in 2014. What are your thoughts on Tenny?
Smith:I remember when Tenny came out. He is more athletic than I thought he was. Tenny is going to compete to get snaps, and I think he is going to push some people. He is another guy with Darius and Lissemore like you mentioned, so it is going to be a great competition to watch.
Chargers.com:What do you want to see out of Ryan Carrethers?
Smith:If he can play like he’s done these past few weeks, with the explosive takeoff and using his core strength, I think he will surprise some people. He can’t revert back, but has to keep building. This is going to be a big offseason for him to see if he can take the leap.
Chargers.com:Damion Square has been here since 2014, but he finally saw the field last year. How do you see him fitting in?
Smith:There is a lot of competition, and he is definitely in the mix. Square has done a good job. He is smart, and has a really good punch to lock out. The beauty of it is there is competition, and only a few spots. Like I tell them all, if you want to be here in the fall, you have to stand out. It all comes back to tape. What you put on tape is what you are.
Chargers.com:Finally, what was it you liked about Carlos Wray to sign him as an undrafted free agent?
Smith:He really is smart. He has really good quickness for a big man, and has nice, long arms. He has some intriguing qualities, and we’re going to give him a chance to show us what he can do.