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A Conversation With: Chargers Defensive Coordinator Jesse Minter

Minter Convo With

Jesse Minter is already hard at work. recently chatted with new Chargers Defensive Coordinator to get his thoughts on joining the Bolts, early expectations for the Chargers 2024 defense and learning from his dad.

Here's our 1-on-1 conversation with Minter:

Welcome to the Chargers! How exciting has your first month or so been with the Bolts?

"It's been great. First of all, it's a wonderful opportunity for me and my family to be here. Definitely shout out to the Spanos Family and Coach [Harbaugh] and Joe Hortiz and all the people that helped get me here. But it's been really good. The first part was really getting the staff situated, which we feel really good about the defensive staff that we currently have. Certainly a lot of familiarity with me, most of them, but a few new faces. Then we've kind of dove into our personnel, the players that we have returning here. We've certainly done some things in the college evals and the free agent evals. And we're trying to put together a defense — a playbook and a defense — that we feel will best suit us to have success here. Trying to study teams in our division, other teams around the league, stuff that we've done at previous places that some of us have been. It's been a lot going on but certainly feel good about where we're at and the progress that we've made up to this point."

Before we get too much into the Chargers, what are you most proud about your time at Michigan?

"Most proud I would say of just how the players took ownership of what we thought it was going to take to play really good defense. I like to think of it as like there's 50/50 of importance to play good defense. I think it's 50 percent what you play and 50 percent how you play. What you play is, you're always trying to evolve, you're always trying to find better ways to do things. But I think you have to really create an identity of how you play to where when the other team gets off the bus or the plane to play against you, they know from watching you what they're in for. I think those guys really took to that identity this year, even a lot more so than the previous season there in Michigan. What I'm most proud of is just the consistency and the identity that we created that really, really showed for 15 straight weeks this year."

You obviously have to have a strong connection with Coach Harbaugh. Why do you guys work well together?

"You know, I think philosophically of what we want the defense to look like. When I first got with him, it was like, 'Ok, what do you want the defense to look like?' He's been a quarterback and an offensive coach a lot of his career, but he's had really successful defenses as a head coach. It was really just, 'Tell me what you want it to look like.' Then work it to make that come to life. He has a lot of trust in me, we can communicate well together. I do think the culture that he creates — from a physical standpoint, from a toughness standpoint, how we play the game complimentary — helps build a good defense. I think it's really just like the culture that he instills that allows you to play tough, physical, hard-nosed defense. It's really been that way everywhere that he's been."

Chargers fans are fired up to have you here. What would you tell them are the core principles of your defense?

"No. 1, we want to have standards for how we play. I go back to the how we play versus what we play. Particularly in this first year, you know we need to have a really high standards of what we want the defense to look like, how we want to play physical, how we want to attack the football, how we want to attack the opposing offenses with through various things. Sometimes that's coverage, sometimes that's pressure, a combination of both. But we want to be a group that trust each other, that plays together, that has an 11-on-1 mentality as we're lining up to play against another team. It's the ultimate team defense that is built around its best players. Try to maximize our best players ability while at the same time having a defense flexible enough that, no matter who we play, we can take away their weapons, what they do best. We attack the ball, we attack the quarterback. At the same time, schematically, having enough answers and I think that's what's allowed us to have success against multitude of different offenses over the years.

That last point leads me to my next question because that multiplicity is something that people have talked about a lot with you. You can game plan each week to stop the run or the pass or both. How much do you have to have that?

"I think it's a prerequisite to play good defense these days. Offensively, when you really look at it, there's probably across like five or six main plates across the NFL that coordinators eat off of. A lot of them are predicated on the run game, some on the pass game, some on obviously both. Some on play action, some on quick game. And so, I think you have to have a defense that's capable of lining up against all those different styles, figuring out what can slow those teams down. Whatever their identity is, you certainly want to try to take away what they do best and make them do other things against you. I think having a really flexible, learnable defense is really important. We will really try to conceptually teach guys what we're trying to do. We don't want guys to memorize play calls. We want to understand concepts of how we're trying to play people. That allows you as you go to create the versatility, to move a guy around. Once they understand exactly what we're trying to do, then you can create all this stuff that looks a lot more multiple — hopefully to other people than it actually is to our guys."

The Los Angeles Chargers today named Jesse Minter defensive coordinator.

That sounds like you're describing a little bit of a role for Derwin James, Jr. How do you envision him thriving in your defense?

"I'm really, really excited about Derwin and. I've gotten a chance to get to know him a little bit, just an unbelievable person, unbelievable leader. The type of mindset that we want to have here on defense is really kind of how he plays already. I'm excited just to sort of try to try to unleash Derwin. No. 1, put him in positions to best utilize his skills and — he can do a lot of stuff — but I also think there's a fine line. Like, 'Let's try to maximize Derwin and allow him to do the things that he's really, really good at as much as possible.' Sometimes you can get a guy like that and you can almost do too much with him and move him around too much. I want him to understand the concepts of the defense so that there's certainly times that we can maximize his skillset. I think he can really affect the game in a lot of ways. He's a dynamic blitzer, he's dynamic close to the ball. An elite cover guy, particularly on tight ends. And then he's a physical presence over the middle of the field at the safety position. We want to put him in a position to use his strengths and do all that stuff to the best of his ability But really just most excited about his leadership skills, his eagerness. I feel like he stopped by my office every day the first couple of weeks I was here. He just wanted to talk and wanted to kind of get to know me and what we were trying to build. I like it to look at it as a partnership with these guys. Now we're in this thing together, we're building this thing together. Really excited about Derwin and the capabilities he has."

Let's switch to a young guy in Tuli Tuipulotu. What have you seen on tape from him?

"I think his last year, we might have had one team that we were watching where there was some crossover film of USC. The cool thing about him is he's a guy in college that they moved all over the place — off the ball, up on the edge, they even had him played out in space a little bit. You look at how he played his rookie year and I thought he stepped in and played really well for a rookie. Didn't look like a rookie, didn't feel like a rookie when you were watching him. He plays with the toughness and the physicality that we certainly want our guys to play with."

Take a look back at the best photos of Derwin James, Jr.'s 2023 campaign

You've been in the NFL before, but as you come back now, how much do you embrace the challenge of the weekly gauntlet of AFC quarterbacks?

"Love it. There's no other place you'd rather be. To become the best, you want to go through the best and beat the best. I feel like we got a great quarterback here, too, that gives us a chance in those type of matchup games. But as we really kind of evolved the defense and try to build the defense late in my tenure in Baltimore, it was to be able to defend these types of teams and these types of quarterbacks. I feel like at Michigan, same type of deal where you were trying to build the defense to beat Ohio State and Washington and these lethal passing attacks. I look at it as a tremendous opportunity. Excited about the challenge, excited about those matchup games no matter who it is. But there's certainly those guys that, as you look at the schedule, you get excited to get a chance to defend those guys and go against them."

Your dad is on staff with you after you were together at Michigan. What do you cherish working with him?

"Fortunately for us, I feel like he kind of was in my shoes at one time. He was a longtime college coordinator, became a head coach, went back to being a coordinator, was a position coach in the NFL. He's at that point now where he's kind of in the twilight of his career at 68. But absolutely love having him around. The wisdom that he brings — not only for me but the other coaches — and the experience of seeing everything having been through most of these things himself. And I have three kids so they get a chance to see grandpa as much as possible, which is really cool. It was really cool having him at Michigan, particularly with what we were able to accomplish there and kind of share that together."

Final question for you. Players will be back in the building in a month. What's your first message to them going to be?

"Just really looking forward to working with the guys. No. 1, we just want to be really crystal clear in our standards that we're trying to uphold. Set how we operate in the meeting room, how we operate on the practice field. Just set really high standards for ourselves. To me, when you have high standards, your expectations will naturally raise because you really feel like you're working and getting better. It's hard to go the other way. It's hard to have expectations first and then try to figure out where the standards are. We want to set really high standards with the guys. But at the same time, we want to be really clear and consistent, be good teachers. Most of all, it's a relationship business and our success is going to be based on our ability to connect with the guys to get them to trust us, to get them to buy into what we're trying to do. Particularly early, it's a lot of, 'Hey, let's get to know each other, let's share our experiences, let's build this thing together.' Talk through all the different concepts of defense that we're trying to create here — and do it together — so that by the time we roll the ball out there in September, this is our defense. This isn't my defense or the coach's defense, this is ours and we did this thing together."

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