The Chargers returned to Hoag Performance Center earlier this week to kick off Phase I of the offseason program.
Today, we catch up with Offensive Coordinator Ken Whisenhunt, who discussed the state of the offense heading into the offseason program, the offensive line, young wideouts needing to step up and more.
Question: This marks your 32nd NFL season as either a player or a coach, so you've been through this a lot over the years. What is it that really stands out about the two-month long program, especially right off the bat when everyone returns?
Whisenhunt: The big thing is getting our guys back in the building. When it ends the way it does, especially in the playoffs in the second round, it's hard. Everyone says their goodbyes, and then that's it. So there is always that feeling of needing to get past that. So when they come back, you see the excitement on their faces. You know it's time to get back to football.
Question: What are your overall thoughts on the offense as the team returns for the offseason program?
Whisenhunt: It's always a good time to see everyone again, but like with anything, there are always changes. So, that's a big part of the offseason (program). Finding guys that can fill new roles within our offense. We're lucky because one of the hardest things in this business is to have continuity (along) the offensive line, and we feel good there. We have guys who played really well for us, and young guys that we like who are going to compete. So, we have a good group, and that's usually one of the harder things you have to try to establish or build continuity with during the offseason program. And then Hunter (Henry) coming back, obviously being involved in the program, that's exciting. And I'll tell you what, our running backs did a real nice job as a group, especially the way JJ (Justin Jackson) and Detrez (Newsome) came along. And obviously Austin (Ekeler) and Melvin (Gordon) had a great year. So, you start thinking about those things and you get really excited.
Question: You mentioned the offensive line, and there are three players from the 2017 draft class going into their third year in Dan Feeney, Sam Tevi and Forrest Lamp. These offseason programs are always big for young players, so what is it you want to see from those three in particular from Phase I through Phase III?
Whisenhunt: Obviously for Forrest it's the biggest offseason just with the way things have gone for him. Unfortunately, he hasn't had the chance to play as much as the other two. Now, give him credit. He worked hard and got a chance to play a little bit later in the season. So, just getting reps with the guys and competing will be good for him. Sam and Feeney, they both were integral parts of our playoff team. When you talk about young guys who have been in the playoffs, have gone into Pittsburgh and won, gone into Kansas City and won; that's huge. That's something you can't describe or expect them to be able to handle until they do it. It helps our culture having guys who have gone through that, so it will be good to see everyone continue to work together and continue that cohesion.
Question: There is a lot of continuity, but you also mentioned changes earlier, too. The biggest one that jumps out is Tyrell Williams' departure. We have three established vets in Keenan Allen, Travis Benjamin and Mike Williams. So, when it comes to guys like Artavis Scott, Geremy Davis, Dylan Cantrell, Andre Patton, Justice Liggins and so on, what is it you want to see out of those young wide receivers throughout the offseason program?
Whisenhunt: Tyrell was very productive and made a number of big plays for us last year. But then you think of those young guys you mentioned, and it's what can those guys do and how can they compete to fill that role. They have an opportunity. It's all about expectations for that position, and those guys have seen it with Keenan, Travis and Mike. If you break down what we do, players are in different spots. So (the young) guys saw them have to play different spots, and that's what we need out of them. Think about our Kansas City game (last year). One of the biggest games for us last season, and Keenan was out. Who made a huge play in the slot on that last drive? Travis. So we have a culture and mentality where guys have to play other positions and know they can step in there and do that. Those young guys, we have to see how they handle it. Can they play X? Can they play Z? Can they play the move position? Can they line up in those different spots and be productive? If they are, can they fill the roles that are required for that spot? Can they excel at it? It's exciting! It's exciting to see what these guys can do.
Question: One big addition on offense was Tyrod Taylor joining Philip Rivers in the quarterback room. This is his third system in as many years, so what is the process like of getting him up to speed so when OTAs and minicamp start, he's able to go out there and execute?
Whisenhunt: Tyrod's a veteran. He's been in a few different systems, including some that have been similar to us in how they've operated. But he's a veteran who has been through it; has played games and been a starter. So you expect him to be able to handle that transition, but it's obviously good that he's getting in here and learning the terminology now, and getting prepared for that. He's been great in the room. It'll be good to see him when we get the chance in a few weeks to get on the field with him.