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3 Observations: Samuel Shines in Bolts 1st OTA Practice


The Chargers have kicked off Organized Team Activities, otherwise known as OTAs.

The Bolts practiced for nearly two hours Monday at Hoag Performance Center in helmets and shorts.

OTAs mark the start of Phase Three in the voluntary offseason program. Phase Three consists of a maximum of 10 OTA practices where teams can run 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 drills. Live contact is not allowed.

Here are three observations from the Chargers first OTA practice:

1. Samuel leads way on defense

Don't sleep on a big season from Asante Samuel, Jr.

The Chargers cornerback is entering his fourth season with the Bolts after being a 2021 second-round pick out of Florida State.

The 24-year-old got off to a noticeably strong start in OTAs by tallying an interception and multiple pass breakups in Monday's session.

Samuel lined up with the first-team defense against the non-starting offense in team drills. He was targeted on the first play and nearly had a takeaway before getting an interception on the next play.

Samuel later added another pass breakup along the sideline and also nearly had another interception toward the end of practice.

Samuel's big day highlighted multiple takeaways from the Chargers defense.

In addition to Samuel's interception, cornerback Kristian Fulton also snagged one while safety AJ Finley came away with a pick on a tipped pass.

Linebacker Nick Niemann also forced a fumble that was recovered by defensive lineman Poona Ford for the unit's fourth takeaway of the session.

While the Samuel and the defense shined, Justin Herbert's group was solid throughout the day.

The biggest takeaway was Herbert's ability to spread the ball around, as he connected with double-digit pass catchers Monday. Rookie Ladd McConkey showed off the quickness that made him a second-round pick as he hauled in multiple passes from Herbert.

2. A look at the O-line

While Monday brought plenty of excitement with the first day of OTAs, it's also worth remembering that the Bolts have nearly four months until they play an actual regular-season game.

The Week 1 season opener against the Raiders is 100-plus days away, meaning a lot can and will change between now and then.

With that in mind, here is how the Bolts rolled out their offensive line combinations on Monday afternoon.

The top unit consisted of nearly all returning starters, with left tackle Rashawn Slater next to left guard Zion Johnson. Newcomer Bradley Bozeman was at center with Jamaree Salyer (guard) and Trey Pipkins III (tackle) on the right side.

Joe Alt, the No. 5 pick in the 2024 NFL Draft, was with the second unit at right tackle. The rest of that group, from left to right, consisted of: Foster Sarell, Jordan McFadden, Brenden Jaimes and Karsen Barnhart.

The final unit featured, from left to right, was made up of: Tyler McLellan, Willis Patrick, Bucky Williams, Brent Laing and Tyler Smith.

3. Bosa, Mack get their work in

As mentioned above, the majority of the offseason program — including OTA practices — are voluntary.

Still, it was notable that Joey Bosa and Khalil Mack were in attendance and practicing Monday afternoon.

Mack is coming off a 17.0-sack season while Bosa is hoping for better injury luck after he was limited to just nine games in 2024.

The duo did work in team drills that also featured second-year edge rusher Tuli Tuipulotu at times, a package the Bolts deployed with great success a season ago.

And while Monday's practice was obviously not in pads or at full speed, Mack did go up against Alt at times to give the rookie plenty of good looks as he adjusts to life in the NFL.

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