Below are three takeaways from Thursday's press conferences with Rashawn Slater, Joe Lombardi and Renaldo Hill .
Things slowing down for Slater
Chargers rookie tackle Rashawn Slater has made a name for himself just eight games into his NFL career. Slater has faced defensive lines with elite pass rushers like Myles Garrett, Chase Young and Calais Campbell to name a few.
On Thursday, the rookie left tackle talked about while the season itself seems to be flying by, aspects of the game are starting to slow down as he settles into his new job.
"I definitely feel like I've just gotten more comfortable with the speed of the game and what goes into preparing each week," Slater said. "I've realized that every week is different in the NFL. You never really go about defenses the exact same way, so a lot of learning since then. I feel good."
Chargers offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi likened the success Slater has had early on to another player he's familiar with in Saints left tackle Terron Armstead. Lombardi said once Armstead, who's now in his ninth season, was inserted in the starting lineup during his rookie year, he never had to worry about that position because he knew Armstead 'had everyone blocked overt there.'
Lombardi talked about how unique it is to not only have a young talented left tackle, but to also have a talented young quarterback as well in Justin Herbert.
"It's not unprecedented, but it's definitely unique," he said. "I think that it's such a credit to those guys and their maturity. It's not easy coming into this league and playing that well that fast. I think that speaks a lot to those guys. We're glad to have them."
The young quarterback and left tackle duo have impressed across the league and Slater talked about what it's meant for him to play alongside Herbert and his excitement to be part of the Chargers.
"I wouldn't want to have anyone else," Slater said. "If you look at us, I feel like it's so clear where we're headed, and I feel like we've gotten better and better each game I feel like and we're just gonna keep going. So, I feel like it's a really good spot to be in and I'm excited."
Plan for Vikings defense
On Thursday, Lombardi explained the importance of staying out of third downs especially against a talented third-down defense like Minnesota.
Lombardi highlighted the Vikings linebacker tandem of Eric Kendricks and Anthony Barr and what makes them such a special group.
"They've been together for so long," Lombardi said. "They play off of each other so well. Part of the magic of their third down is those guys' ability to communicate with each other and recognize protections. They have a way of making you wrong. They figure out what you're doing and they figure out a way to defeat it. [Vikings S] Harrison Smith has been a part of what I've always considered the straws that stir that drink out there, as far as their ability to disguise and everything. Harrison isn't going to be playing, but those two guys, I think, are one of the best tandems, linebacker-wise, in the NFL."
The Vikings have logged a lot of miles this season with three overtime games and their defense playing 98 snaps in the overtime loss to the Ravens in Week 9.
Despite the extra time on the field, Lombardi expects nothing but a 100-percent effort from Minnesota on Sunday.
"I guess you just kind of hope that they're tired," Lombardi said. "They're going to have a week to recover, so I don't put a whole lot of stock to it. If they come in and they're a little beat up and tired, that would be great. But, I expect to get their best shot and everyone being 100 percent."
Slater called the Vikings' defensive line 'extremely talented' on Thursday and talked about the importance of protecting his quarterback on Sunday.
Slater also gave insight into how he prepares for the big challenge of taking on a new group of d-linemen each week in the NFL.
"I always like to look at what I can improve on," he said. "I know that there were a couple of things against [Browns DE] Myles [Garrett] that I definitely could have done better. I could have stayed more square. I could've had a better anchor on some reps. I just feel like I could do better going forward. I just get excited for the next time that I get to go against them."
Forcing Cousins off his mark
In his 10th season in the league, Vikings quarterback is doing a great job at not turning the ball over with just two interceptions this year.
Chargers defensive coordinator Renaldo Hill talked about what elements of Cousins' game allows him to minimize turnovers.
"He's seen a lot," Hill said. "He understands what the defense is doing, he's able to get the ball in and out of his hands. He's not going to sit back there and pat the ball for long. He's been around — he's been through the paces. He definitely knows where to go, and if it's not there, then he knows that rush is coming. He does a good job managing the game and making sure he doesn't lose the ball for those guys and they possess it. That's the reason they're a top offense; because that guy is a general back there."
Hill focused in on the importance of generating a pass rush against Cousins in order to throw off his internal clock in the pocket.
"He knows where to go with the ball, and he has a good understanding about that clock," he said. "We're upstairs, late night, trying to figure it out. We know if we can affect him early, that's a big part of the game. He's a steady guy, but we have to try and find our ways. Coaches, we're digging down deep trying to get those answers."
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