Below are four takeaways from head coach Brandon Staley's press conference on Monday as he talked about his goals for the offseason, the Bolts revamped defense, the competition at right tackle and more following the first team practice of OTAs.
Year two as the Chargers head coach
Monday marked the first day of OTAs (Organized Team Activities) at the Chargers' facility, giving the chance for returning players, rookies and new free agent additions to go through an offseason practice together.
Following the team's first practice of OTAs, head coach Brandon Staley took to the podium to talk about his offseason goals, new additions on the Bolts at practice and more. Staley explained how one of his goals for OTAs is to 'set the foundation for training camp' and talked about the different approach he's able to take at OTAs as he prepares the team for the 2022 season.
"I think I have a much better sense of who our team is and what our organization is about," Staley said. "I think you have a lot better understanding of everybody that helps make our team what it is, and I think that there's a lot that goes into that. The one thing that always strikes me about the NFL is that you're building something new every single year. You're not building on what you did, you're building something new every single year, and today was the beginning of that. But I know that the people who are here have a lot of confidence in how we do it."
While no live contact is permitted at OTAs, Staley talked about evaluating players by 'assignment, technique and effort' during this phase of the offseason. With a year of head coaching experience under his belt, Staley talked about his personal development as a coach and the 'winning edge' he now has as he heads into year two.
"Things aren't happening to me for the first time anymore," he said. "I think that I'm just in a lot better rhythm. I think that I'm able to communicate even more clearly. Communication is your number one role as a leader, and being able to express that to everybody in the organization, not just the players and coaches, it's everybody in the organization. Just how we orchestrated practice today, it was so much smoother than it was a year ago. I think that that's a winning edge."
Khalil Mack and Kyle Van Noy amongst new additions at practice
While OTAs remain voluntary practices ahead of the mandatory minicamp in mid-June, the Chargers had several new additions and returning star-players in attendance to kickoff the first week of practice.
Two notable veteran agents in attendance were Chargers new outside linebackers Khalil Mack and Kyle Van Noy. Mack and Van Noy suited up in their new powder blue jerseys and white helmets alongside returning leaders like quarterback Justin Herbert, safety Derwin James and wide receiver Keenan Allen to kick off the next chapter of their playing careers.
Staley talked about seeing Mack and Van Noy suit up for the first time on the Bolts practice field.
"Confidence," Staley said. "Those are real NFL players that you talked about — those two, specifically, that you mentioned. I know what I see out there. Those two are the two of the best players that we could have joined up with this offseason. It was awfully good to see them out there."
Staley, who spoke highly of what Van Noy brings to the Bolts roster, talked about where he sees Van Noy fitting in with the defensive scheme and his excitement towards joining up with him this offseason.
"Kind of his trademark is that he can do either — he can play on the edge, he can play behind of the ball," he said. "He's a very versatile player, but what he does better than anything is that he is extremely instinctive and he's a playmaker. He can make plays at both of those positions and he can run the show — he's been the green dot in New England. We just feel like that versatility is really going to help us. That championship experience — he's a Super Bowl champion, he's been a part of top-five defenses, really, wherever he's been. I'm really excited to join up with him."
Right tackle competition
Another topic Staley addressed was the competition at right tackle and the plans he has for that position at this point in the offseason.
Staley explained how a collection of players will 'duke it out' this offseason before they name a starting right tackle. He mentioned two players specifically in Strom Norton, who started 15 games at right tackle last season, and Trey Pipkins III who started two games for the Bolts last season, one at right tackle and one at left tackle.
"I think both of those guys played quality football for us," Staley said of Norton and Pipkins. "I think those guys are going to compete. Then, we have several guys who have played right tackle — [G] Matt Feiler being one of them. We have some of these young guys who played tackle in college. Again, there's a lot of time between now and our first game, but I think those guys are going to duke it out."
Staley talked about how he expects both Norton and Pipkins to continue to make improvements in their game in 2022 and the depth added to the offensive line group.
"We're excited to see those guys continue to improve," he said. "I think what isn't lost on us as coaches or in our organization is that we were a very good offensive football team last year. Trey and Storm both played a lot of winning football for us. We expect those guys to continue to improve. We feel like we've added some good depth to kind of complete the overall offensive line. We're excited to see that take shape."
Check out the best photos from the start of Week 1 at Chargers OTAs.
Depth at secondary
The additions of cornerbacks J.C. Jackson and Bryce Callahan during free agency along with safety JT Woods and defensive backs Ja'Sir Taylor and Dean Leonard through the NFL Draft have created a deep secondary this offseason.
Staley talked about his goal of bringing in the 'best of the best' in that room and what having depth at that position will do for the Bolts' defense heading into the 2022 season.
"It's going to be very competitive in the secondary, Staley said. "I think what we've done is we've acquired a lot of depth in order to make it a competition. I think that that is what we were after, really, in all phases of our team, but I think specifically on defense, and in the kicking game, we really wanted to make sure that we get the best of the best out there so that we can find out who those guys are, going into next season, that are going to compete, start, play for us, earn a roll."
Staley talked about what Callahan brings to the Bolts' secondary and his ability to play both on the outside and as the slot corner.
"He can play effectively at both spots," Staley said. "But the experience and the play-making ability that he has within our defense — he's been a part of some of the top defenses in the NFL throughout his entire career. He's been a playmaker, a ball producer. We think that he has real toughness. I'm excited that he's with us."
According to Staley, the Bolts need to become a 'team defense' in order to get to the level he wants the defense to play at and why he feels Monday was a great way to start that process.
"This group that we've joined up with, we're off to a good start with them," he said. "I'm excited because it's a deep group, it's an experienced group. I think we have a good mix of veteran and youth, but they're all guys that fit how we want to play. Now, there's a lot of work to do between now and our first game, but today was a good start of it."
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