Below are three takeaways from Thursday's press conferences with Keenan Allen, Joe Lombardi and Renaldo Hill.
Herbert closing in on Chargers' single season TD record
Chargers quarterback and newly minted Pro Bowler, Justin Herbert, continues to break NFL records in his sophomore campaign with a chance to break several more on Sunday. Herbert needs two touchdown passes to put his total to 35, enough to break Phillip Rivers' record of passing touchdowns in a single season in franchise history, which he set during the 2008 season with 34.
On Thursday, offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi talked about what it's been like to coach a 'special talent' in Herbert and what it would mean for No. 10 to break that record on Sunday.
"He's just such a special talent and player," Lombardi said. "I think, hopefully with two games left, that's a record that falls for him, in his favor. I'm sure regardless of who's coaching here, that guy is going to set a lot of records over the course of his career. I'm happy to be a part of it, but the credit belongs to the guys on the field. Justin would say, 'Hey, it's the guys around me that are helping me,' but he's a special talent, for sure. He's going to be successful regardless of who's standing at this podium."
Veteran wide receiver Keenan Allen is close to a record himself, needing nine catches to get to 105 catches on the season which would break the franchise record for receptions in a season that he set in 2019 with 104. Allen, who has experience catching touchdowns from both Rivers and Herbert, talked about what has stood out to him most about Herbert after almost two seasons of working together.
"His composure in the pocket," Allen said. "The way that he is able to relax and make throws, under pressure, into tight windows. The touchdowns that I've had the past few weeks, they've been in really tight windows. Him being able to stand in there, make those throws and get to the second and third read and get through his progressions, it's been pretty good."
Getting off to a fast start against Denver
When the Chargers played the Denver Broncos in Week 12, the Bolts went into halftime down 14-7 on the road and were unable to pull off the comeback.
Getting off to a fast start will be key in this Week 17 rematch. Lombardi emphasized the importance of starting out fast this weekend and how the Bolts will be able to accomplish that this time around.
"I think it's moving the football," Lombardi said. "You form a game plan with runs that you hope work and passes that you hope work, and have the right calls for the right situations. It's just executing, moving the ball and scoring points early. I don't think it's necessarily different than any other week. You always want to start fast ... It's moving the ball, scoring points and hopefully touchdowns when you get down to the red zone."
Allen, who led the team with 85 receiving yards in Week 12 against the Broncos, talked about what the Bolts have focused on this week in practice heading into Sunday.
"Just being able to execute, being able to stay on the field, not go backward when we're on a good drive," Allen said. "Not have drops. Not have fumbles, interceptions, whatever the case may be. We just have to be able to put up points."
On Thursday, the Bolts activated wide receiver Mike Williams from the Reserve/COVID-19 list. Allen talked about how important it will to be for the Bolts offense to get Williams back.
"Major," he said. "I've been saying all year that he's our guy. He's going to get us the big points, the major points that we've been missing. It would be great to have him back."
Getting Derwin James back this week
Whether it's safety, leader, signal-caller or motivator, Derwin James Jr. wears a lot of hats for the Chargers. Unfortunately for the powder blues, James has been nursing a hamstring injury that forced him to exit the Kansas City Chiefs game early and while he suited up for the Chargers' game against the Houston Texans last Sunday, he never saw game action.
This week, James has practiced in a limited capacity on Wednesday and Thursday, hopefully a positive sign for his full return Sunday.
Chargers defensive coordinator Renaldo Hill talked about how crucial it is to have James out there to run the Bolts defense on gamedays.
"It's definitely hard to replace when Derwin's not out there," Hill said. "He's obviously the vocal leader, as well as the alpha guy in the huddle. His presence was definitely missed last week. When that happens, you're so used to going through the whole season and having him there, it's kind of like, 'Who's the next guy to step up and take that on?' It's hard to replace a guy like that. That's what he brings. He brings that presence. He's that vocal leader. I think he has a good sense of when things aren't going right and when he does need to pick those guys up. It definitely expresses itself when he's in there and it is definitely felt when he's not in there."
Hill also went into to detail as to what makes James such a great player and how he is able to communicate to all levels of the defense, not just the secondary, in the heat of the moment.
"He's so in tune with the gameplan," he said. "He's a force at every level, so he can communicate to the guys up front things that they may need checks on or anticipate. Same thing at the linebacker level. Then, in the back end, he can communicate what they're doing on those down-and-distances, just trying to help everybody at each level because he is so in tune with the gameplan. He plays at all three levels. I think that's something that you definitely miss when he's not in the ballgame."
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