Below are three takeaways from Wednesday's press conference with head coach Brandon Staley, Andre Roberts, and Austin Ekeler.
New returner on deck
On Wednesday, newly signed return specialist Andre Roberts spoke to the media for the first time as a Bolt. Roberts talked about what he brings to the Chargers roster and why joining the Bolts is 'a breath of fresh air' in his 12th season in the NFL.
He explained that coming to the Bolts during the Chargers' bye week was a big advantage to give his body time to rest and better understand his role on the team and his new teammates.
"This is the first time I've joined a team in the middle of the season," he said. "But I have been to a lot of new teams from year to year. It's just getting to know guys letting them get to know you a little bit about your family, about where you're from and how you play the game. You know you just gravitate towards different guys and that's just how you do it."
Roberts also talked about the key to making a career as a returner in the NFL, crediting being "a little crazy" and running hard and fast as reasons why he's been so good at his profession. Roberts, who will be the new return man for punts and kickoffs for the Bolts, talked about the different mindsets a returner needs to have when returning a punt versus a kickoff.
"Punt return, it's about the guys in front, especially the guys on the outside blocking the gunners," he said. "If they can get those guys stopped, you have a lot more time and then it's kind of your job to make everybody else miss. Hopefully it's not everybody else but as a returner, that's what you want to do. Kick return you just want to hit it downhill fast and trust your blocks because sometime when the blocks aren't there you might get hit but you might make somebody miss just because you're running hard and trying to hit that hole."
Change at kicker
The Chargers made another big move this week for their special teams unit by bringing in eight-year NFL kicker Dustin Hopkins. While in Washington, Hopkins made 92% of his extra points and went 84% from field goal range.
Staley talked about the decision behind brining in Hopkins and waiving Tristian Vizcaino.
"With his experience, his productivity, we just felt like this was good timing for us and for him." Staley said. "At the same time, we still believe in Tristan Vizcaino. We're trying to keep him on our team. We still believe in him as a player and we're going to continue to coach him, but we felt like with where we're at this season, we felt like Dustin would give us a lift and it would also allow us time to continue to develop and coach Tristan."
Staley reiterated his belief in Vizcaino, explaining that he would like to sign him to the practice squad in order to further develop him as a kicker. In the end for Staley, it came down to production on gameday.
"We felt like he had a really good workout," Staley said. "We felt like with his experiences, being a starting NFL kicker for six seasons, and being a guy that has kicked in playoff games, that that would be an advantage for us. We're looking for production from that position."
While Austin Ekeler has made a name for himself in the Bolts offense, the RB2 spot has largely been a competition between backs Justin Jackson, Larry Rountree III, and Joshua Kelley.
The latter three have alternated being active on gameday, and Staley said that remains to be a 'game-to-game' decision.
As of now it will take everyone to help the run game until that clear RB2 appears, according to Staley.
"I think it's going to be a group approach," Staley said. "I think that's what's expressed itself so far is that we're going to need all three of those guys behind Austin. I think that Austin has had a really good season I think that until a guy emerges as like, 'Hey, that's going to be our second back,' then we have to continue to let the competition play out and try to get those guys doing the right jobs for us, which I think we are. Then, hopefully, those guys will continue to develop and grow."
Regardless of the competition, Ekeler said the performance on Sunday is what matters most.
"In the end, I'm just hoping one of them makes a bunch of great plays because that's what we're looking for," Ekeler said. "We're looking for someone that makes plays, comes out, and it's like, 'Man, this guy's got it going on.' I'm looking for that, too, because I'm reminded of myself and how I just kept working and working."
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