Over the coming weeks, we’ll be checking in with the Chargers’ position coaches and coordinators to get the inside scoop. We continue with Wide Receivers Coach Nick Sirianni.
Evaluating the Safeties with DB Coach Ron Milus
Evaluating the Cornerbacks with DB Coach Ron Milus
Evaluating the Tight Ends with TE Coach John McNulty
Evaluating the Running Backs with RB Coach Ollie Wilson
Evaluating the Special Teams with STC Craig Aukerman
Evaluating the Defensive Line with DL Coach Giff Smith
Evaluating the Offense with OC Ken Whisenhunt
Evaluating the Defense with DC John Pagano
*Chargers.com: *You are taking over the position this year after leading the quarterbacks for us in 2015. How much does your time coaching Philip Rivers help in your current position?
*Sirianni: *It benefits me being with the wide receivers having been with the quarterbacks because of the way it all ties into the pass game and knowing exactly what Philip is looking for. Philip is one of the most accurate passers in the league, and he is very particular and detailed. We know exactly what he is looking for. There are times he’ll call out, ‘Hey Nick, remember we did this last year? Have him attack this way.’ There are some differences between coaching quarterbacks and wide receivers, but I think it all ties together.
*Chargers.com: *What is your coaching philosophy when it comes to the wide receivers?
*Sirianni: *If you asked any of the receivers, they’ll tell you there are some things I have very specific talking points on. They will hear me say a lot that they need to beat press man coverage, and you’ve got to catch the ball in a crowd. When guys are in college, there is not as much press man coverage and fewer crowds as far as catching the ball with traffic around them. So they will hear me ask them a lot, ‘How are we going to beat press man-to-man coverage?’ That is what we are going to have to beat to beat Denver, and that is what we are going to have to beat to beat Kansas City and Oakland. And then at practice, you’ll see us working before and after practice catching on the side with me pulling at their arms. And then it’s also about how you get out of your breaks. I’ve probably said 1,000 times since we started that it is all about fundamentals and technique.
*Chargers.com: *Keenan Allen agreed to terms on a contract extension last week. He has had so much success in this league, but what do you think he needs to do to take his game to the next level?
*Sirianni: *Kind of like what I was just saying, with him I think it is that press man-to-man. Now, he was great against press man-to-man last year, but he’ll have to do that against Denver and Kansas City this year. He missed those games last year. So when he goes against those guys, we will need him to excel. And he is driven to. He wants it to be where Philip says, ‘No matter who is guarding Keenan Allen, I’m still going to throw him the ball. It’s man-to- man coverage, he’s my dog out there and I’m throwing him the ball. It doesn’t matter who covers him.’ Now I’m not saying he hasn’t done that, because he certainly has. He just has to do it for the entire year.
*Chargers.com: *With his speed, Travis Benjamin brings something to the table we haven’t had in a long time. Have you noticed that already, and what kind of wrinkles can you add with a guy who runs like that?
*Sirianni: *There’s no doubt that he is ultra-fast. I have never been around a receiver that fast. When I’m at youth football camps I tell the receivers, if you hear nothing else, *run fast. *Dig off the football and run fast. And if you can’t run fast, appear to run fast. Well, he has that down because he is lightning fast. When you are that fast as a wide receiver, it opens things up so much for you and the other receivers (underneath) because defensive backs are scared to get beat deep. They are told, you maybe can make (a big) play, but just don’t get beat for a touchdown deep. Well, everyone around the NFL respects his speed, and he can get in and out of breaks, so he can get open on a wide variety of routes. And he can open things up for other receivers as well.
*Chargers.com: *Stevie Johnson is the oldest vet on the team, and started last season off with a bang before getting hurt. What do you see his role being in 2016?
*Sirianni: *All the guys really respect Stevie, and I respect him. He’s done something that no one else in that room has done – have three 1,000 yard seasons in a row. And he did it when everyone knew about Stevie in Buffalo. When he came in here for a visit last year, I pulled out a teach tape on him called Stevie Johnson releases. He said, ‘You’ve got a teach tape just on me?!’ Stevie brings a very unique thing that I know Keenan (admires), which is how he changes direction and moves off the line of scrimmage. Stevie’s role is to continue being Stevie, because he’s played at a high level for a very long time in the NFL. He’s beat top competition for a very long time, so he brings experience and reliability. When it’s tight corners, he gets open.
*Chargers.com: *Tyrell Williams came on strong at the end of last season. How has his offseason been, and is he taking those next steps?
*Sirianni: *I think he is. Tyrell is very eager to learn, and he’s very eager to improve his game. He’s hungry. He takes every little thing you give him, and I have seen him steadily get better every single game. He’s taken the opportunities he’s gotten, and he’s proven to me he has the abilities you need to beat press man coverage. He catches the ball well, and he’s big and fast. He’s relentless and he can run all day. When a player can do that, he wears a cornerback down. His arrow and game are ascending quickly.
*Chargers.com: *Whenever his number is called, Dontrelle Inman seems to rise to the occasion. How do you view him?
*Sirianni: *Philip trusts Dontrelle. I trust Dontrelle. You can’t overvalue trust. When you have a guy that you can throw in and not miss a beat, that is so valuable. Dontrelle is so steady and I know he is going to be at the right spot and do it the way I ask him to do it. He has worked very hard on his hands, and he will catch a ball in a crowd. I know he is going to work hard and we can rely on him. He knows every position, and his game is also going to continue to ascend because of his work ethic.
*Chargers.com: *Javontee Herndon got his first chance last season midway through the year. What do you need to see from Javontee for him to make the active roster Week 1?
*Sirianni: *More of what he’s been doing. He is another reliable guy. I trust Javontee out there. I texted him the other day to tell him I’ve been impressed with how he’s coming through, and let him know he had a strong (week of) OTAs. But again, it’s about who will beat press man-to-man coverage. We are obsessed with winning this division. Everyone wants to win it, but we’ve got to be obsessed with it. So like with any of these guys, we want to see him go out there and beat press man-to-man coverage. We have good corners out there covering us, so let me see you beat it over and over again, and keep developing your hands. Javontee is a powerful man. He is a strong player, so I am continuously screaming at Javontee to play to his strength, which is his greatest attribute.
*Chargers.com: *While he’s mainly known for his special teams ability, how has Isaiah Burse looked out there during OTAs?
*Sirianni: *He’s done a good job. I think Isaiah brings something to this group that is very unique, and his best skill is what I think is the most important skill for a wide receiver. That’s change of direction skill. You can be really fast, but you have to be able to change directions. You can have all the straight line speed, but if you can’t change directions, it’s hard to play wide receiver. Those DBs change directions really fast. So he has ultra-quick ability to change directions. He is a very quick player, and I know as a quarterback, it’s a very attractive quality to create separation from a defensive back.
*Chargers.com: *Finally, from Torrence Allen returning from injury to undrafted free agents like Dom Williams, DeAndre Reeves and Jamaal Jones, what will they need to do to earn a spot?
*Sirianni: *The first thing a young player needs to show a coach is simply knowing what to do. It’s so important to just know what to do, and how to do it. So know what your assignment is on this particular play, and know how you are going to use your techniques to accomplish that. I think that is how a young player grabs your attention. They do that with their movement skills, how to catch the football and being reliable. So that is what we are looking for.