Below are three takeaways from Monday's press conferences with Brandon Staley, Justin Jackson and Asante Samuel Jr.
Road to the AFC Wild Card begins vs. Denver
With two games left in the regular season for the Chargers, on Monday running back Justin Jackson talked about how crucial it is to put all focus on beating the Denver Broncos this weekend. If the Bolts are able to win the remainder of their games, they have a chance at 10-7 to get into the playoffs as one of the three AFC Wild Card teams.
"We have Denver this week, obviously, a very worthy opponent," Jackson said. They're a team that we felt like we should have beat last time. We have to execute better this time around and make sure that we're on our P's and Q's. The playoffs start this Sunday, we have to come with that energy and go out there and get a win at our home stadium. That will be really important for us."
Jackson also talked about what the key is to get back-to-back wins to close out the regular season.
"We have a playoff berth on the line, so we have to stay together — which I know that we will because I have a lot of confidence in the guys in the locker room, a lot of love for the guys in this locker room," he said. "We're going to go out there and play with that confidence no matter who's out there on Sunday."
Justin Jackson's emergence
With running back Austin Ekeler out against the Houston Texans due to being on the Reserve/COVID-19 list, the Chargers called on Jackson to step up as the Bolts' lead back. The fourth year running back stepped up in a big way for the second-straight week by putting up a career day in Houston. Jackson totaled 162 scrimmage yards and set career highs with two touchdowns, eight receptions and 98 receiving yards, according to Chargers Communications.
On Monday, Jackson talked about how his mindset stays the same heading into games. Whether he's the first or third running back on the depth chart, according to Jackson, he is going to lay it all on the line.
"Whenever I get my opportunities, I'm going to go out there and play," Jackson said. "That's all it comes down to. First back, second back, third back, I don't think about that stuff; I just go out there and play. When I get my opportunities, when I'm out there on the field, at that moment in time, you are the starting back. That's how I look at it. I just go out there and play."
Jackson gave credit to the Chargers offensive line, which got back rookie left tackle Rashawn Slater after missing one game but was without starting center Corey Linsley. Jackson also talked about how important the Bolts run game will be for success against their next two opponents.
"I think that we're in a really good rhythm right now in the run game," he said. "I love the way that those guys are playing up front. Even without one of the best centers in the league, we were still able to go out there and play really, really well, so I'm really proud of those guys. I love running behind those guys. We have to continue that for the rest of the season because that's going to be a big part of our success."
Asante Samuel Jr.'s improvements
After missing four games due to his second concussion of the season, the Bolts got rookie cornerback Asante Samuel Jr. back in their secondary against the Texans.
Samuel Jr., who got off to a hot start this season with two interceptions by Week 3, talked about how he has improved his game throughout the season.
"Feeling more comfortable with the game," Samuel Jr. said. "I won the Rookie of the Week [following Week 3], but I still felt like I didn't play a good game that game. I knew that I hadn't reached my full potential, I wasn't even close to it at first. I'm still trying to get there. It's still a climb. I'm still trying to adjust. I'm still a rookie, at the end of the day, so I haven't seen anything. Day-by-day, it's coming to me more. It's definitely getting better, day-by-day."
Samuel Jr. explained the game against the Texans taught him that 'on any given Sunday, you have to bring it,' especially with two corners added to the secondary within the last few weeks in Essang Bassey and Davontae Harris.
Head coach Brandon Staley talked about how crucial it is to develop continuity in within the secondary and the defense as a whole in order to reach their true potential. He also discussed what it's meant for him to see the coaching staff and players stay tight.
"It's been a challenging year and I'm proud of the way our coaching staff and our players have stayed connected," Staley said. "But it has been challenging, and we're still on that quest to find it. We're going to need to because there's a lot of challenges headed our way right now. We know that we can navigate it together and that's exactly what we're going to do. I know that we have the right man to do it."
Check out the best shots from the Chargers Week 16 visit to Houston to play the Texans.
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