The last couple days of training camp for the Bolts are ending on a spirited note as the team held their first of two joint practices against the San Francisco 49ers on Thursday.
Ask Chargers head coach Brandon Staley what the vibe was like, and he'll tell you it was a "pro atmosphere."
"I felt like this was the perfect environment for us," Staley said. "I'm thankful for the Niners, to [49ers General Manager] John [Lynch] and [Head Coach] Kyle [Shanahan]. I felt like there was a lot of good competition out there today. In all three phases of the game, I felt that the operation was clean. I felt that there was a lot of respect, which is important in these competitive settings. You want to make sure everyone respects each other, respects the game. I felt that was on display, too. I'm proud of that, and I felt like it was an even match today. That's what we're after."
"I feel like we came out here and competed," mentioned Derwin James. "There was a lot of energy on both sides, but I feel like we got better today."
For the starters who won't see action in the final two preseason games, Thursday and Friday will serve as enough of a trial run to get ready for when it counts Week 1.
Keenan Allen is one of those players who won't see the field until Sept. 12 but believes this type of practice environment can help a team's development.
"Don't get me wrong, the practices are important for the mistakes," Allen said. "We practiced against the 49ers, but we get to make mistakes against the 49ers that don't matter, so you get to tune those mistakes up, come out here tomorrow and play them again — sharpen those mistakes and play them on Sunday. It's about getting ready for Week 1. So keep practicing, keep building. Every day matters."
For James, this was his first time going up against a different team since 2019. He called Thursday "big" for him and the fast tempo was key.
"I played against [49ers TE George] Kittle, one of the best tight ends in the league," James said of his day. "Their offense is one of the best in the league. Seeing the looks from them only helped me get better."
So with Thursday in the books, the Chargers will have one final joint practice with the Niners before the Bolts break camp.
Staley said he's excited to see another competitive day.
"I think you get your feet on the ground while facing a different team," the head coach mentioned. "You get used to their style. Their defense is a lot different than our defense; their offense is a lot different than our offense. You get a feel for that different change of pace. We're going to go over a lot more different situations tomorrow, so you're playing even more field zones, more situations. We're excited to have another crack at it against these guys tomorrow."
Odds & Ends
Asante Samuel Jr. made his first pick of camp on Thursday with a diving interception.
Keenan Allen discussed Joshua Palmer and how he feels Palmer is "further along" than he was when he was a rookie: "Josh is doing a very good job, with as young as he is and how he's able to run routes. He's aggressive, he's friendly with the quarterbacks, and he's precise. That's a good thing from a rookie … He's polished. You can tell he's polished and knows what to do. He obviously knows releases, he knows leverage. He just knows how to run routes already."
Brandon Staley on what he saw from Derwin James on Thursday: "He looks like how he looks every time — in command. The energy, his technique; I think he's hitting the sweet spot too. He's running the show out there for us and all that comes with that. Now, he's measuring himself against a really good opponent. We're talking that [49ers] offensive line, [49ers TE George] Kittle, their backs, [49ers WRs] Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk. That's a really good group of guys over there. Their two quarterbacks are outstanding. I feel like Derwin was able to measure himself because this was a game environment today. There may not have been a stadium of 80,000, but what was between the white lines today was like a game. That's what we were after."
Take a look at some of the best photos from the first day of joint practices with the San Francisco 49ers at Chargers Training Camp 2021.
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