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Mike Sando: Bolts are Among AFC's Top Teams Entering 2023


Chargers Training Camp wraps up this week as the Bolts get ready for their preseason finale on the road against the 49ers.

A handful of national experts passed through Costa Mesa in recent weeks, including Mike Sando of The Athletic.

We caught up with Sando to get his thoughts on Justin Herbert and the Chargers:

Your QB Tiers article came out a few weeks ago and Justin Herbert was once again in the top group. How did the league view him in your tier rankings?

"All the talent in the world. And when people see him in person, their impression of him goes up. He wows people physically. He is bigger, faster and more athletic than people think. They talk about specific plays where they saw him outrun a linebacker where you wouldn't expect a quarterback to do. You don't think of him as a running quarterback because he's such a good passer, but he's athletic and big and fast, and it just wows people.

"And while he was in Tier 1, the minority of people that put him in Tier 2 are just waiting to see more of the team success come with it. Honestly, that probably has more to do with the team coming along and those things as it is here."

Browse through live action photos of the Bolts Preseason Week 2 matchup against the Saints at SoFi Stadium.

What are you looking to learn while you're here at camp?

"For me, my visits are all about the relationships I have with coaches and people in the front office. I am less about watching the red-zone offense. I like to see new players I haven't seen before and it's good to get a visual image of what this person looks like. That's helpful for me, but I'm not an evaluator or a coach."

What has caught your eye so far out here?

"The thing that stood out to me was the Keenan Allen catch. That diving catch was coming right toward me. Just the joy from a veteran who has been around a long time. The way he laid out for that ball and then he turned and threw it into the crowd. You can tell, 'Hey, this guy still has a lot of fun and he's bringing a lot to the table.' That was fun to see."

What do you think the Bolts defense needs to do to find consistency in 2023?

"The run defense component is one thing, but that's not unique to the Chargers. I was in Cowboys camp and that's what they're talking about, too. You have some of these teams that have a strong defense but maybe there's an area they can be exploited in. Then you just really need to see their best players be on the field at the same time. We've seen teams just struggle with that. This team has had a little bit of that so you just need some luck to have Khalil Mack and [Joey] Bosa on the field at the same time. They pick up [J.C. Jackson] and he gets hurt. Derwin James has been in and out of there. It's a little bit fingers crossed that they have those guys on the field so they can show what they can do."

If everything clicks for the Chargers this year, what's the ceiling for this team?

"They are one of about six teams in the AFC that you could see going to the Super Bowl. If this team was in the NFC, it might be disappointing if they didn't go to the Super Bowl. But here? You want to see them advance in the playoffs. They are a team that can get to the AFC Championship and maybe that's sort of the goal. It's hard to say that anyone is beating Kansas City, I don't care who you are. That quarterback on that team can be hopping around and without Tyreek Hill and that's still the guy to beat. I think the Chargers are one of those teams that has a real guy, too, that can challenge that champion. How far can they go? I'd love to see them advance in the playoffs and maybe get to the AFC title game. That's a realistic goal and one they should be shooting for."

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