Below are three takeaways from Tom Telesco's and Brandon Staley's press conferences following the conclusion of the third round of the draft on Friday night.
Brings a 'rare' and 'unique' skill set to L.A.
After selecting an offensive player in the first round in offensive lineman Zion Johnson, the Bolts went defense in the third round by selecting Baylor safety JT Woods. Following day two of the NFL Draft, general manager Tom Telesco and head coach Brandon Staley broke down their third round selection and discussed what Woods brings to Los Angeles. Staley talked about the speed and 'rare' skill that Woods brings to the Bolts.
"JT has a lot of rare DB stuff," Staley said. "He's six-foot-two-plus, 195 [pounds]. He runs 4.3 [40-yard-dash]. He had a 10'8" broad [jump], 39.5" vertical [jump]. Those are rare DB numbers. Then, he led the nation in interceptions. He had six interceptions. He returned a couple for touchdowns. He was a multi-year starter on that team. He ran track at Baylor. He was really sharp in the interview process. He can really run the show, which is something that we really value back there at safety, or just in our secondary, in general."
Telesco, who said the team wasn't specifically targeting a safety with the 79th overall pick but he was a player the team "really liked." Telesco shared how Woods fits in with the Chargers' safety room.
"He's a unique player" Telesco said. "Like [S] Nas [Nasir Adderley], like [S] Derwin [James Jr.], he's a safety with a lot of cover ability, with his length and his speed…he's long and he is fast — like, legitimately fast, football fast. He has really good ball skills, turns the ball over, plays aggressive, really good feel for the game. He's a really interesting player."
Woods' potential paired with Derwin James
At six-foot-two, 195 pounds Woods size is very similar to his new teammate and one of the Bolts leaders on defense in safety Derwin James. Staley explained how joining a defensive backs group led by James, who is also a six-foot-two safety, will set him up perfectly to fit in at the next level.
"We think that he's going to get a lot better," Staley said. "Then, he's going to be with one of the top secondary players in the league every day in Derwin James. Then, teaming up with [CB] J.C. [Jackson], [CB] Asante [Samuel Jr.], [S] Nas [Nasir Adderley], Vato [CB Michael Davis], there are a lot of quality guys that he is going to be able to learn from."
Telesco talked about how Woods gives the Bolts defense more flexibility when it comes to what personnel is on the field on gamedays.
"When we're in five DB [personnel], six DB, it can be any combination," Telesco said. "— It's not just necessarily three corners and two safeties or four corners with two safeties, you can go with three safeties. The fact is that we have some of these guys that can really cover, and that's what JT can do."
Turnover ability for the 'heartbreak kid'
Leading into the 2019 season at Baylor, Woods earned the nickname the heartbreak kid or HBK for short because of his ability to break the hearts of opposing quarterbacks. Woods was a turnover machine in 2021 recording six interceptions, tied for the most in college football and the most in the Big 12. Staley discussed the potential Woods has to create turnovers for the Bolts next year.
"We feel like that's why it's important to get secondary players who can get you the ball," Staley said. "Because we feel like people are going to be sped up and you want people back there who can catch a mistake and make plays back there. We really feel like he can do that. With his range, and then his size and his concept trigger, he can really get us the football. That's what he did for Baylor and that's what we are going to hope that he can do for us."
Telesco went into more detail on the traits that Woods has that allow him to be a ball hawk in the secondary.
"When you see him, you'll see his middle of the field [skillset]," Telesco said. "He has really good vision and eyes. He breaks on the ball quickly, especially going back. He has really big-time speed. Our safeties have to be able to cover, which all of our guys do."
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