Fans gather at Qualcomm to observe practice and play Pokemon GO at the 2016 Chargers FanFest presented by Bud Light.
The San Diego Chargers added a new executive into the player personnel department this offseason in 20-year NFL evaluator Louis Clark.
Prior to joining the Bolts as Senior Director of Pro Personnel, Clark held the same role with the Philadelphia Eagles, where he was tasked with evaluating the 31 other clubs. He liked what he saw from the Chargers as an outsider, and now that he's spent the past few months in San Diego, is an even bigger fan of the team's roster.
"I like the talent we have here," he said. "We did a lot of projects every year (in Philadelphia) where we looked at every team, their strengths, their weaknesses, what their needs are and so on. I had a pretty good feel for the Chargers (before I got here). I did (this) talent then; we have a lot of young players that are developing. Being here and seeing them firsthand, I'm impressed even more with them than I was. I think this team is on the way up."
Clark boasts a long, rich history in the NFL. A former 10th round draft pick in 1987 by the Seattle Seahawks, he played wide receiver for seven seasons, hanging up his cleats following his 1993 campaign with the Green Bay Packers. After a few years dabbling in coaching, he spent 16 seasons ascending through the ranks of the Jacksonville Jaguars organization before his most recent stint in Philadelphia.
With one week of practice in the books, Clark has kept a keen eye on the entire team. However, he's particularly focused on players who could potentially fill the back end of the 53-man roster.
"I'm mainly still getting to know all the players," he explained. "When I walk out on to the field I am looking at all the positions, but I am focusing more on the younger players at the back-end. Guys who can help us have quality back-ups, so I can make sure that (I have an understanding of where we're at) when I do go out on the road. I am basically looking at the bottom tier of our roster, because I think we all have a feel for the top 40 or so guys. But I just want to make sure that we have this thing set from top to bottom."
One of Clark's key responsibilities is to have a litany of players in mind for whenever the need arises. Injuries and roster changes are a regular part of the NFL from the start of training camp through the final week of the year. As such, he is constantly on the road evaluating talent, seeing how they may fit in should a need arise.
"It is a grind from August until December because every week, you are not only evaluating the teams we are playing, but you are also evaluating our team. So at the end of the year, we will know how that player played from Week 1 all the way through Week 17. For example, I have the Week 2 assignment this year so I have Jacksonville. I am going to watch their whole roster, but then also grade our guys every week."
In addition to players currently rostered, the pro personnel department also keeps tabs of those on the open market.
"We keep a list of all players that are available that we call the short list of everyone by position. For example, we could have a short list of QBs that is 10 guys ranked 1-10, and we go through every position. We have their agent's name, work number, cell number, and in case something happens during the game, say we are on the road and we get a call from (General Manager) Tom (Telesco),we have a game book of every player, every practice squad player, and everyone that we are interested in. We will make a call right there on the spot saying, 'We want this guy here on Monday for a workout.'"
In his new position, Clark works closely with Director of Pro Scouting Dennis Abraham and Pro Scout Regis Eller. The three have already formed a strong, open working relationship as he detailed the process of building their database of potential targets.
"We are all assigned teams. I have four teams, Dennis has 4 teams and so on. So we will take our first four opponents, I will take two and he will take the next two, and we are looking at players from the 5th round all the way down to the 7th round and any of the undrafted free agents that may have made the roster. We will evaluate those guys. We will compare those guys to what we have on our roster, and our college scouts are doing the same thing."
Before he hits the road for an extensive period of time, Clark is busy studying every aspect of Chargers Camp. Thus far, he's been impressed by the team's attitude as a whole.
"I really like the enthusiasm of this football team," he said. "I think they are really into it and responding to what Coach (Mike) McCoy is teaching them. I've been really impressed with the defense and how hard they work. I have been impressed offensively with our offensive line. They are becoming more of a unit that is gelling together. I understand the changes they have made since a year ago, and they have been able to develop their cohesiveness."