Below are three takeaways from Chargers Head Coach Brandon Staley, quarterback Justin Herbert, cornerback J.C. Jackson and safety Derwin James, Jr. following their media availability on Wednesday:
Jackson ready for return
The Chargers released their first injury report of the season Wednesday afternoon.
J.C. Jackson was not listed on it, another good sign for the Bolts cornerback in his return from a torn patellar tendon.
"Mentally and physically, I'm feeling good," Jackson said Wednesday in the Chargers locker room.
He later added: "I'm not putting any limit on my knee. I'm ready."
Chargers Head Coach Brandon Staley said Jackson's role for Sunday is "to be determined" but credited the player for his immense work ethic in recent months.
"He's practiced well and we'll see how it goes in the game," Staley said. "He's looked like himself."
Jackson said he has worked hard to recover from the injury and spent nearly the entire offseason rehabbing at the team facility.
"Me being out there now, it shows the organization and the team that I want to play football," Jackson said. "I had a terrible injury last season. But even the doctors have said I'm way ahead of schedule. I'm doing things at my pace, not their pace.
"That's me showing everyone that I'm here to play football. I'm not here for anything else," Jackson added.
Jackson endured an up-and-down 2022 season with the Chargers after joining the team as a free agent last offseason.
A frustrating season culminated in a serious knee injury in Week 7, but Jackson said Wednesday that in a much different spot than he was a year ago.
"I feel different. I feel better after the injury than I did before the injury. The year I took off, it gave me time to work on my game, work on myself," Jackson said. "I was working on things outside of my knee that will help me be a better player."
Sunday will mark Jackson's first game in nearly 11 months. But he's not about to get caught up in the emotions of his return.
Instead he'll simply be focused on the task at hand.
"I'm going to be thinking about my job, what I have to do," Jackson said when asked about potential pregame emptions. "Making plays, that's what I'm going to be thinking about. Just locking the receivers down and doing my job, not trying to do too much."
Staley on Bolts 2023 captains
The Chargers announced their nine season-long captains for the upcoming season earlier today — four on offense, four on defense and one on special teams.
The list includes quarterback Justin Herbert, running back Austin Ekeler, wide receiver Keenan Allen, center Corey Linsely, outside linebacker Khalil Mack, defensive lineman Sebastian Joseph-Day, linebacker Eric Kendricks, safety Derwin James, Jr. and long snapper Josh Harris.
Captains were voted on by the team, as they will don the "C" on their chest for the 2023 season.
Staley had high praise for the elected captains and the team as a whole, as he believes the leadership qualities in this group stretch farther than just the nine selected.
"This has been a great group to coach," Staley said. "We had nine captains, it could've been 15 to 16, 17, 18 captains. We have that many guys that have that type of leadership qualities.
Staley continued: "If you looked at our vote, there was so many people that were worthy of that mantle. I think this is a group that really cares about each other. I think when you take a look at the group it's a diverse group, but I think it goes beyond just those nine guys.
"This group has a lot of leadership characteristics and I think there's a lot of young guys that we have who are eventually going to become captains in the NFL," Staley added. "It's a great sign for us going forward and real credit to our organization for drafting and onboarding the right guys."
The lone special teams captain was the long snapper Harris, who earned the honor for the first time in his 12-year career.
Harris, who's entering his second season in the powder blues and is the leader of the special teams unit, was thankful for the selection by his peers and noted how this represents not just himself, but the team as a whole.
"I was humbled to hear that news, but at the same time this was definitely a group thing," Harris said during Wednesday's locker room media availability. "This is a group effort, we're all in this thing together and definitely not a 'me' thing but a 'we' thing.
"Whether that's in the specialist room or in special teams drills, meetings, whatever it is, we all have a role to play on the team," Harris added. "I think everybody has put in a lot of really good work to put our best foot forward and I know that's what everyone is going to do."
Eight out of the nine captains have spent at least a season on the Chargers — and the one who wasn't has made a major impact from the moment he joined the roster this offseason.
This is not Kendricks' first selection as a captain, as he was voted as one multiple times in Minnesota. However, the veteran linebacker has made his presence felt on the field and as a leader in just a short time.
"I think he has had a quick impact here," Staley said about Kendricks. "Any time you're a veteran player that has accomplished a lot someplace else, that transition, I think people minimize how tough it is. A lot of it is just going into a brand new place and how you fit in.
"The person you were, can I be that person here? He's just very authentic, he's a very authentic player," Staley added. "I think that that is the type of leader that all of us respect. He has not changed who he is, but he has adapted and fit into this group, in the same way that I think you've seen some of the other guys that we've brought from other places, like Khalil Mack, Sebastian [Joseph-Day], some of these guys who were captains in their first year. He has done all of that. You interview our guys, our coaches, he has been fantastic for us. We're excited to go compete."
Check out the best photos of the Chargers from Monday at Hoag Performance Center.
Putting last year in the past
The matchup against the Dolphins a year ago was one of the Chargers' most impressive wins of the season.
On offense, Herbert and Co. had one of their best days through the air with a 2022 season-high 367 yards through the air. Even with multiple starters on the offensive line out of the game, the offense was able to neutralize the Miami front during the Week 14 primetime matchup.
The emphasis for the Bolts offense remains the same this time around, as they must have their full focus on the Dolphins' impressive front.
"Their front seven is very athletic. They've got about as good a front seven as it gets," Herbert said. "And they've got some cover guys that can do really well in the back half of the field.
"They're a complete defense and are going to require all of our attention," Herbert added.
That game last season also saw a breakout performance by the defense, holding the explosive Miami offense to just 219 total yards and breaking up six passes as a defense.
James, who did not play against the Dolphins last season, credits the success the defense saw last season against Miami to the preparation leading up to the game — but that is all in the past, as the team must now focus to the new season.
"It starts in practice with the preparation," James said. "Those guys were prepared to play by the time the game came.
"That was last season. This season is different," James added. "We have to come out and be ready to play this year."
The preparation for the season opener has included watching film of variety of games aside from the one last season, as the mystery factor of Week 1 remains.
With new personnel, coaches and more, the Chargers are expecting a very different team than the one they clashed with last year.
"This game has a life of its own, and this matchup will be a lot different than the last one," Staley said.
"You can watch it, but the teams are going to be vastly different," Staley later added when asked about watching last season's game. "Once we played them after that game, the next stretch for them, including the playoff game, they were a different team. They have a different team now in all three phases, new coaches. It'll be a different matchup."
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