Take a look at what Brandon Staley, Tom Telesco and Rashawn Slater had to say about the Bolts rookie class from the 2021 season that was ranked eighth overall by Pro Football Focus.
Head coach Brandon Staley on the roles the Chargers rookies played in 2021
"I'm really proud of our rookie class, guys. I think that, when you take a look at it, if you study the NFL draft and you look at every team who had a draft class — all of our drafted players were active on gameday this year. If you really take a look at that class and you dive deep into them, most of them had big roles on our team, whether it was a starter on special teams, a starter on offense or defense."
Staley on LT Rashawn Slater's season
"I think when you take a look at our first pick in the draft, you're talking about an All-Pro left tackle in his rookie season. It's something that this team I know has been searching for a long time — what every team has been searching for a long time. The fact that we have that and for [T] Rashawn [Slater] to play like he did this year, I think that's such an incredible testament to your first year together."
Staley on CB Asante Samuel Jr.
"For [CB] Asante [Samuel Jr.] to be a starting corner and play like he did, proving that he belongs. I think that, when you judge Asante, it's tough to start in the NFL at corner as a rookie. If you just take a look at last year's rookie class, you'll see that. For him to be a starting player, for him to be a player that we feel like we can build around, I think is a great start."
Staley on WR Joshua Palmer
"Josh [WR Joshua Palmer], being able to fit in with [WR] Keenan [Allen] and [WR] Mike [Williams] and really take on a No. 2 receiver role, [No.] 3 receiver role depending on who was in — being able to play and be a starter in three-receiver groupings or two-receiver groupings when Mike or Keenan were out. I think he proves he belongs. I feel like, I'm just super proud of him on his work on special teams. "
Staley on the Bolts' young core of special teams players
Then, you have [OLB] Chris Rumph [II], [LB] Nick Niemann, [RB Larry] Rountree [III], [G/T Brenden] Jaimes, [DB] Mark Webb [Jr.] — all of those guys and then [TE] Tre' McKitty starting at tight end — all of those guys were contributors to our football. I'm really proud of that. I feel like our coaches did an outstanding job developing these guys. These guys are at the beginning. I think you can expect a lot of improvement from them this coming offseason because they definitely have the right makeup that we're looking for."
Rashawn Slater on 'how good he thinks he can be'
"As good as I want to be. I feel like, the biggest limitation is always competing against yourself. I feel like I can build a lot off of this season and that's going to be my challenge. If you rest of what happened in the past, then you're doomed to fail. This season is out the window and I'm going to be searching for ways that I can get better and I know there are a lot of ways I can. I'll just be taking it one step at a time."
Slater on being named a Pro Bowl starter in his rookie year
"Think it'll be a really cool experience. I'm always huge on picking the brains of other guys so to be around some of the guys there will be beneficial to me. Just learning how they approach the game, some things about their technique, and seeing how they prepare and stuff like that. It'll be a really cool experience, which I'm looking forward to."
General Manager Tom Telesco on LB Nick Niemann and younger players on special teams
"[LB] Nick Niemann ended up top-five in special teams tackles this year. Those guys brought a lot of energy to our special teams. We still have a lot to learn, but having players like that on your special teams is not uncommon in this league. There's no doubt that punt, punt return, we have to make much bigger improvements there. Obviously, we did better on kickoff returns this year with better blocking and, obviously, a better return man...I do think that a lot of the young players that we used this year, those guys have the traits that we're looking for on special team — they're fast, they're long, they hit, they're aggressive, they bring a lot of energy to covering kicks and punts. We do have some pieces there."
Telesco on the 'transformation' the Bolts had in 2021
"To me, this has been a pretty big transformation this past year and a lot of it has to do with the 2021 team. The identity that they have, how we play, I feel the support and I can see it — I see it on gameday, which going into this year was completely new, we didn't know what we were going to see in our first year in a new stadium, in what, basically, is a new market for us. I think that there's a lot there to be proud of with this football team and how they play. We're just going to keep working at it. I understand that people want results right now, and they should have results right now, but this team is different than the team a couple of years ago. I'm really just focused on 2021, and then getting better for 2022."
Telesco on RB Larry Rountree III
"[RB] Larry Rountree [III] started off well. He's a young player in this league that's still learning. Again, his role has to be running back and special teams. I still think there's a lot there with him. For young guys early on, it was just a little inconsistent behind [RB] Austin [Ekeler]. "
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