Over the coming weeks, we'll be checking in with the Chargers' position coaches and coordinators to get the inside scoop. We continue with Running Backs Coach Alfredo Roberts.
Chargers.com:How would you evaluate the way the offseason program has gone to date?
Roberts:Being with the Chargers has been an awesome experience so far. This is an exciting time to be part of the organization with the transition. It's been rewarding. The people in this building have me looking forward to what comes next. It all starts at the top, and Coach (Anthony) Lynn has done a nice job (explaining) how we are part of the next great thing. This is an exciting time to be a part of the franchise.
Chargers.com:You've played and coached in this league for so long, but this is your first time focusing on running backs. How would you describe the experience?
Roberts:I describe it to my wife as comfortably uncomfortable. The good thing is the parts that I wasn't comfortable in I have someone like Coach Lynn, who is one of the best teachers in the league when it comes to that. I told my son I felt like a selfish son of a buck because I get to work under Anthony Lynn as a head football coach. His plate is huge, but he knows running backs so well. He sees all, and that (includes) running backs. There are things where he'll come over and give orders and instructions. And then Offensive Assistant Mark Ridgley has been a key component as well. He knows the guys and the offense for years, so he's been really good. Another exciting part is I get to work with (Offensive Coordinator) Ken Whisenhunt. He has had a lot of success as a head coach and coordinator. I'm processing what they are saying, and really enjoying it.
Chargers.com:You take over a running back group led by a Pro Bowler in Melvin Gordon. What have you seen from them so far?
Roberts:I think we have to start with the most productive guy, and that's Melvin. I'm lucky I get to come in and get year three Melvin. He is still growing as a pro and understanding he isn't at Philip (Rivers') status yet, but going into his third season, he is well respected and established. He works hard and has fun. After watching him practice and move around, I think he can be one of the elite backs in this group. As he learns and grows, he will only get better.
Chargers.com:Now that you get to be around Melvin every day, what is one quality that really stands out?
Roberts:As a coach, you try very hard not to judge anyone until you get to know him. So I didn't really know much about Melvin. I knew he was super productive at Wisconsin. I knew he was a first rounder, and all I could base (my thoughts) on was what I saw on tape. I didn't watch much from his first year, but watched a lot last year, and he had a lot of production. At one point he was leading the league in touchdowns. That's what stands out. Some people have a knack for the end zone, and that is what he has shown. He just finds a way. What I have asked Melvin to really work on is how he finishes; when to cut inside instead of outside. The other day he was getting mad when he made the wrong decision on one play. He sees it when it happens, and is willing to correct it. He has gifts that God gave him in speed, size and flexibility. And he finishes well, but that is something he can work on even more. His game is developing still. Last year he had a better sense of what he can do, and going into his third year, he is getting an even better grasp on what he can be. He's growing.
Chargers.com:Branden Oliver missed all of last year with an Achilles injury suffered in the preseason. He is such a versatile and dynamic weapon out of the backfield. How has he looked this offseason?
Roberts:I actually got to see BO when he came out of college because he had a tryout with the Colts. We were really excited about him there, but it wasn't in our hands and we didn't sign him. He found a good landing spot with the Chargers. So I was familiar with some of his ability when I got here. In 2014 he showed a lot, but then he had the injury in 2015 and last year. He looks good out there. He is very conscientious. You can tell he feels comfortable out there. He has suddenness to him. BO adds another dimension to what we do.
Chargers.com:One player we brought in during free agency was Kenjon Barner. What about him made Kenjon a target to sign?
Roberts:Kenjon has good speed in the open field. He's been very pleasant to coach. From day one, he's had his eyes open and his books open. Kenjon is really bright and really works hard. He understands what he can do, and he is a versatile player. He probably has the skillset of a pass catching back.
Chargers.com:Andre Williams had a really impressive last game of the season a year ago? Where do you see him fitting into the offense?
Roberts:He has a lot of power. He is a strong physical guy who is going to look better in pads than he does now in shorts. I think we'll see more from him when the preseason comes. I'm excited to see what happens with him. He's working extra hard to be a complete back, including catching the ball out of the backfield.
Chargers.com:Another guy fighting for touches is Kenneth Farrow, who took over as the starter last year after Melvin Gordon went down. What's been your initial impression on the second year back out of Houston?
Roberts:He fits into the mold as the others as a very conscientious guy who comes in and works. Kenneth did a nice job of filling in last year when given the chance. He wants to compete. Same with the young kid (Austin) Ekeler. They both are guys who impress because of how much they care and work. They know they have to be productive when they run the ball, block and catch the football.
Chargers.com:You also have a fullback in your room in Derek Watt, who is going into his second year. That is a position that has changed a lot in terms of responsibilities. Why is Derek Watt the right fullback for the Chargers' system?
Roberts:Derek is a nice guy, but he's got an ornery temperament on the field. He's got toughness to him. He's no pushover. I imagine that comes from growing up in the household he did, having to have some ruggedness to him. He's young though and still learning. He can help us in a lot of ways, and there is a certain level of trust there. He can catch it, he can run and obviously, block. Derek is going to be a better player this year than he was last.