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How Jim Harbaugh Views the Bolts as Mandatory Minicamp Begins

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Chargers Head Coach Jim Harbaugh took the podium Tuesday at Hoag Performance Center during Day 1 of mandatory minicamp practices.

Below are three takeaways from Harbaugh's media availability Tuesday morning:

Where the team stands

Chargers Head Coach Jim Harbaugh summed up what the offseason program has been like so far in the only way he can.

"It's like the first coat of paint, second coat of paint, we're at like the third or fourth coat of paint right now," Harbaugh said. "Feels good that we're getting better at football."

The Bolts offseason hit another major offseason milestone with the start of mandatory minicamp Tuesday morning at Hoag Performance Center.

With a total of three practices this week, it is the final step before the team gets a break until the start of training camp.

Harbaugh has been encouraged with how the offseason has gone so far in every aspect, as he hopes to see much more of the same with these minicamp practices heading into the break.

"Just another coat of paint," Harbaugh said. "Another good week of football, just taking advantage of every minute, every hour. Every day we got a chance to get better at football. That's really the entirety of it.

"Guys are going to get some much-needed recovery, get themselves the family time, I'm sure they'll continue to train," Harbaugh added. "Get regrouped, refreshed and ready for training camp."

Training camp will bring the beginning of padded practices and a better overall assessment heading into the season.

Still though, Harbaugh believes he has a good idea of where the team currently stands even before the pads come on in late July.

"I think I have a pretty good grasp of what can be seen now in the offseason," Harbaugh said. "But there's definitely positions that require the pads to be on to really have a true sense."

He later added: "I think we're really trending toward having our best and healthiest team going into training camp, which was the goal. The original stated goal of the offseason, OTAs, minicamps, get our healthiest and best team to training camp. Happy to say we're trending in that direction."

This time of year might not include anything full speed but it's just as valuable in terms of building the relationships and improving individually and as a team.

And those are just some of the Head Coach's favorite parts about going through the offseason process.

"The relationships, the rapport that's built on a team," Harbaugh said. "There's a tremendous thing about just, 'Why are we here'. To get better at football and to watch that process go on every day.

Harbaugh later added: "Just an opportunity for a day in football. Got health in one day, a chance to be better today than we were yesterday, be better tomorrow than we were today. That's the most exciting thing."

Year 1 for Harbaugh on the Bolts continues to move along — with the expectations continuing to remain the same as when he began.

"My expectations, they're high," Harbaugh said. "If you don't like high expectations, then you probably don't like to compete. But the expectations are to make it a great day.

"My mood will always depend on how the football practice went," Harbaugh added. "And I've been in a good mood. That's the expectation today, make it a great day."

Starting OL separating themselves

It's been well covered how important the Bolts offensive line will be to what the team is trying to accomplish under Harbaugh.

Even after drafting tackle Joe Alt at No. 5 overall, the goal has remained the same — to find field the team's best five offensive linemen.

And there's been a group of five that has really set themselves apart as their best pairing at this point of the offseason according to the Head Coach.

"I think it's on track to be a top tier offensive line in the NFL," Harbaugh said. "Rashawn [Slater], Zion [Johnson], Bradley Bozeman, probably right now Trey Pipkins and Joe Alt. Those five have really separated themselves."

Harbaugh has been impressed with the group and the way they have responded to the coaching staff, as he believes this could form into one of the best units in the NFL.

"I think it has a chance to be a really top tier offensive line," Harbaugh said. "It's just doing everything right. You can really see the coaching… You can see it through the technique, when you watch the tape, I see the same thing in the offensive line."

With Alt slotting in at right tackle, it's been Pipkins who has been lined up at right guard next to him during the team drills up to this point.

Despite only playing tackle during his time in the league, the Head Coach has been impressed with the way he's kicked inside.

"Extremely capable of doing it," Harbaugh said about Pipkins. "He's an outstanding player, he's an outstanding tackle and he's an outstanding guard."

Training camp still remains to sort out how the line will look in Week 1 but for Harbaugh, it's crucial to have the best five linemen out there as the Bolts will prepare for some talented players on the opposite side of the ball.

And so far, it's heading in the right direction.

"The idea of getting to our best five at all times and playing that, it may shake out in what the rotation is but you need five really good ones, five best you have, playing as one," Harbaugh said. "Pretty much every team we play, they have really good edge rushers on both sides.

"They have interior rushers that are good on both sides. Not having a weak link is critical," Harbaugh said. "I think we're trending to really having a top to bottom outstanding offensive line."

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Defense coming together

The defense has had their flashes early throughout OTAs and even in Day 1 of mandatory minicamp.

With Defensive Coordinator Jesse Minter at the helm — and some new veteran and rookie additions sprinkled in as well — there comes a natural adjustment period in his new scheme.

Still, Harbaugh has been thoroughly impressed with how the entire defense has been throughout the process.

"The defense is really coming together, I notice it day after day," Harbaugh said. "It's been a real bright spot. The way they bought in, the mix of veterans and young players.

"I definitely think we got a starting 13, what we call it on defense, right now," Harbaugh added. "You can see it through the technique, the way they're communicating, the way they're playing has been outstanding."

Harbaugh specifically expressed his excitement for a couple of positions on the defensive side of the ball as well.

The Head Coach mentioned that despite not knowing where the interior of the defensive line stood after joining the Bolts, it's a position that has become a real strong point on the team.

"Our defensive line, [I] didn't know where that was exactly when I first got here, but it's a strength," Harbaugh said. "It's a strength for us, really excited about it.

He later added: "I'm really excited about our interior defensive line. Poona [Ford], Scotty [Matlock], Morgan Fox, [Otito Ogbonnia]. It's coming together really nice."

And in the backend of the defense, Harbaugh can't be more confident with the starting safeties of Derwin James, Jr., and Alohi Gilman.

"I don't think any team has two better safeties," Harbaugh said. "We have two really great safeties."

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