Below are three takeaways from Tuesday and Wednesday's press conferences with head coach Brandon Staley, Justin Herbert, Joey Bosa, Austin Ekeler and Khalil Mack as the Bolts wrapped up their two-day minicamp.
Ekeler returns to practice, Herbert talks building trust in the offseason
After the Bolts concluded OTAs last week, the team held a two-day mandatory minicamp on Tuesday and Wednesday to wrap up the early portion of their offseason program. Before the team breaks for a little over a month, several star players took to the podium to recap their time at the team's minicamp and how they're shaping up during the early phases of the offseason.
Austin Ekeler picked up right where he left off as the team's lead running back during 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 drills. As No. 30 heads into year six of his career, he talked about the opportunity to grow off the field and how he's looking for his fellow running backs to take on a bigger role at the No. 2 spot in 2022.
"I want these guys to come challenge me," Ekeler said. "Like, let's go. Bring it. Come on. Come earn some reps. That's what I want it to be. That's how their mindset it. My mindset is that no one is going to be able to out-do me out here. I'm going to be the most efficient on the field. They're going to want me on the field all the time, but I want you to come and earn. That's the same as it was for me, right? I got an opportunity and I started making plays here and there. They were like, 'Oh, maybe Austin can play a little bit.' It's the same thing that I want to see from these guys."
One of those players who has the opportunity to step up is rookie running back Isaiah Spiller. Ekeler talked about what's stood out about meeting Spiller earlier this week.
"One thing that has impressed me is him in the meeting room these couple of days," he said. "We have a little thing where we go through our scripts before we go out to practice. He's vocal, he's in there. He's showing that he knows what his job is, things like that. He's still making mistakes. He's still learning, but as a rookie, it's a lot of time that you need to put in for the repetitions and just seeing it."
Quarterback Justin Herbert also spoke at the podium and talked about his love for football, film study habits, and where he feels the offense is at compared to a season ago. Herbert gave credit to all the veteran players who were in attendance during voluntary workouts.
"I thought it was great because everyone's committed to this team, and everyone trusts each other, believes in each other," Herbert said. "To have everyone show up like that — and it is optional, no one has to be here. But for them to commit to come and get better, you know, we had [WR] Keenan Allen, [WR] Mike Williams, [OLB] Joey Bosa, they all showed up. I think that means a lot to our team, a lot to the coaching staff because we believe in them like they believe in us. We can play pretty good football, and it's all about how we execute going forward. I'm really looking forward to it."
The live 7-on-7 drills featured players like cornerback Bryce Callahan guarding wide receiver Keenan Allen, cornerback J.C. Jackson on Mike Williams and rookie safety JT Woods mixing in on the Bolts secondary. Herbert talked about how beneficial those competitive drills have been during this point of the offseason.
"A ton," Herbert said. "I think the best thing for us this year was to have those live 7-on-7 reps. Having that film and being able to watch that over the next couple of weeks, it's going to be huge. Last year, we didn't really have that … For us, I think that's huge. Definitely a lot of film to watch."
Bosa on Mack: 'Having a guy like that on the other side is going to be really fun'
The Chargers' revamped defense has been the talk of the town after adding talent like Kyle Van Noy, J.C. Jackson, Sebastian Joseph-Day, and Khalil Mack.
After Tuesday's practice, the Chargers' new OLB duo of Joey Bosa and Mack took to the podium to talk about working together during the offseason.
Bosa, who said he doesn't spend a lot of time on social media, explained he heard the news Mack was joining the Chargers from his brother, San Francisco 49ers defensive end, Nick. Bosa explained he wasn't sure if the news was real or not, but then went straight into his competitive mode and thought, 'Ok, let's workout now.'
Bosa talked about what it's been like to take the field alongside Mack over the last few weeks.
"It's amazing," Bosa said. "Just to have another guy like that to lean on, to look at ... Just getting to know him, he's a really nice guy. I was talking to Giff [Smith] about how he reminds me of [former Chargers DL Brandon] Mebane a little bit; his temperament, he's a chill dude. He's great to talk to. Along with that, he's obviously an unbelievable player, so having a guy like that on the other side is going to be really fun."
Mack spoke after Tuesday's practice as well for the first time since his introductory press conference to talk about how his first offseason with the Chargers and going and what he's learned so far about his fellow outside linebacker.
"He's very smart," Mack said of Bosa. "He's a smart rusher. He thinks about a lot of things. Sometimes, he probably gets too far in his head because he knows so much. He has so much knowledge about the game. It's going to be fun to kind of break down film together, watch each other and figure this thing out together."
Mack also talked about what it has been like getting to know Van Noy and what he brings to not only the position, but the entire team.
"Kyle is a cool dude. A champion. A two-time champion. You can tell in his work ethic, how smart he is and how bright he is. Everybody talks about his time in New England and how it was playing up that way. Just having that disciplined mindset and bringing it into the locker room, making sure everybody knows what it takes to get to that level and being a championship-caliber team."
Staley likes the 'focus and detail' at practice, gave insight into Van Noy's role
Head coach Brandon Staley spoke to the media following practice on both Tuesday and Wednesday. On Tuesday, Staley talked about the team's perfect attendance at minicamp and how he liked the energy and 'focus and detail' out on the field. He also focused on the defense during that day's presser and talked about the new additions of Mack and Van Noy.
While Mack didn't participate in the full-speed 7-on-7 drills, Staley explained he doesn't need to see full-speed reps in order to see No. 52's confidence out on the practice field.
"You can tell by when he gets into his stance, it doesn't need to go full-speed for you to be able to tell if a player knows it or not," Staley said. "I can tell when Khalil is confident, when he gets into that familiar stance that I know all too well. That's what this spring has been about is, to get him into a comfort zone so that in training camp he can really go and improve like I know that he will."
Staley gave some insight into where he sees Van Noy fitting in the defensive scheme as he lined up as both an inside and outside linebacker during minicamp drills. Staley also talked about his excitement to see Van Noy in full pads during training camp at the end of July.
"It'll be a position that's specifically tailored for him," he mentioned. "It's not a position that he hasn't performed before. We're going to try and take advantage of and try to leverage his experiences within our defense. He does bring that versatility to play on the edge or behind the football. He's been a Green Dot before. We're going to try and utilize all those experiences and skillsets to our advantage. I think we're training him the right way. He's providing us a lot from a play-making standpoint, from a leadership standpoint. I'm really excited to join up with him in training camp where his real gifts are going to come to life, which is his toughness, his physicality, his discipline. Those things will really come to life when we get pads on."
After Wednesday's practice, Staley talked about accomplishing the goals he and the coaching staff set during this point of the offseason program.
"[It was a] great finish. We had some fun out there today. I like the focus and the detail. I thought there was really good competition today out there. I like the vibe out there. I think guys we're serious about getting out there and having a good day of practice. We had good meetings this morning. Then, you kind of create some morale and know that there's a lot of work to do before we come back. Very happy with our players, our coaches, our organization."
The Bolts finished minicamp with some fun competition that you usually don't see on a football practice field. First off, Mack and center Corey Linsley tested their quarterback skills as they tried to hit a moving target on one of the team's golf carts. Mack and Linsley both hit one target each resulting in a tie for that contest. Next up offensive lineman Matt Feiler took on defensive lineman Breiden Fehoko in a closest to the pin contest with their wedges.
"I saw [G] Matt Feiler at the golf outing and he's got a really clean stroke, so I thought he would take [DL Breiden] Fehoko down," Staley said. "But Fehoko had some finesse today on the 58-degree wedge and was able to take him down. Then, we had [C] Corey [Linsley] go against [OLB] Khalil [Mack] on a quarterback challenge. It was fun."
The final event was a catching contest between the top five defensive players and the top five offensive players with the JUGS machine cranked up close to 80 mph, according to Staley. While it was all done in jest, Staley admits there's still business in mind with the friendly competition.
"I want our secondary to catch more passes than anybody in pro sports, because that's what the money is on defense, it's in the deep part of the field. We've been shooting these JUGS at them pretty hard at a bunch of different angles."
The team now takes a summer break until rookies and veterans report back at the end of July to prepare for training camp.
Staley's offseason standouts so far:
Wide reciever Jalen Guyton:
"I think [WR] Jalen Guyton was fantastic in the offseason. I think that this guy made a lot of big plays for us in the spring. He came in, physically, just in great shape. He's moving great. I thought that he was able to move around. He really did a nice job on special teams. We kind of challenged him to be a factor in the kicking game. I think he's looked really good out there."
Safety Nasir Adderley:
"I think that [S] Nasir Adderley has had, I would say, the same impact on defense. [S] Derwin [James Jr.] didn't go full speed in the 7-on-7, but I think Nas really showed up. He was our most productive guy in the spring in the secondary. I think that those two guys, for sure, kind of stood out to me and have prepared well. They're in great shape, physically and mentally. They've been sharp. I thought that they both had quality springs."
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