Below are three takeaways from Thursday's press conferences with Rashawn Slater Joe Lombardi, and Renaldo Hill.
Slater honored, returns home to Texas Sunday
2021 has been an eventful year for Chargers rookie left tackle Rashawn Slater. Since April, Slater was selected 13th overall in the NFL Draft, started 13 NFL games, and on Wednesday, was named an AFC Pro Bowl starter. With the honor, he became the first rookie tackle named to the Pro Bowl since Minnesota's Matt Kalil in 2012 and is the first Chargers rookie to be selected to the Pro Bowl since Derwin James in 2018.
While Slater explained he didn't have this as a goal going into his rookie season, he is honored to make the 2022 Pro Bowl roster.
"It means a lot to me," Slater said. "For me, the biggest thing is it means I got the respect of the fans, players and coaches, which to me is a huge deal and a huge honor. Obviously, the goal is to be busy that week preparing for the Super Bowl. It's a great feeling and I'm excited to keep building."
Offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi expressed how happy he is for Slater's nomination and the moment he knew Slater was ready for NFL action.
"I think it's a well-deserved honor for him," Lombardi said. "I think he has played outstanding, coming in as a rookie and just manning that left side for us. I think it's as good as you could have hoped, how he's played. I think he deserves the honor. I am very happy for him and proud of him. From day one we could see Rashawn was ready to go in and play. I think that's rare. The way he approaches the game, his whole makeup lends himself to a guy that you will be able to rely on for a long time."
Slater explained he's had his eyes on this week's game against the Houston Texans since getting drafted by the Chargers. Sunday caps off a big week for the newly minted Pro Bowler as he will get a chance to suit up against the team he rooted for after growing up in Sugar Land which is a little over 20 miles outside of Houston.
Linsley's first Pro Bowl
After being named an All-Pro center last season, Corey Linsley was named to the first Pro Bowl of his career on Wednesday. The offensive line duo of Slater and Linsley are the first Chargers offensive linemen to be named to the Pro Bowl in the same season since 2006.
On Thursday, Lombardi talked about the type of leader Linsley has been for the Bolts in less than a full season in Los Angeles.
"He's just a really good leader," Lombardi said. "His intelligence is off the charts. He does a lot for us on the line of scrimmage setting protections and setting the run game, letting everyone know who they are supposed to block and making those calls."
Lombardi talked about the type of confidence and 'attitude' Linsley's leadership instills in the Bolts offensive line despite battling through injuries and starters missing time in order to protect their quarterback and open the gates in the run game.
"The attitude of the offensive line permeates the whole offense and really the whole team," he said. "He is kind of the ring-leader of that group. His attitude, his work ethic all those things has a multiplying effect for everybody, so it's been huge. [He's been a] great pickup for us."
Defensive news and notes
With the Bolts' main focus on going 1-0 against the Texans, defensive coordinator Renaldo Hill talked about how the team is keeping their focus ahead of the final stretch in the regular season.
"Our goal is to be a playoff team sitting at the end of the year," Hill said. "We know that Houston is the next team on our schedule, and we have to do a good job of taking advantage of this opportunity. They're just coming off of a win. They're getting some guys back. We have to be ready to go."
The Bolts also have two Pro Bowlers on the defensive side of the ball in Derwin James Jr. and Joey Bosa. Hill discussed what it says about those two players being nominated again and the work they put in on a daily basis.
"It says a lot; obviously," Hill said. "Switching systems and buying into what we want to do, but it also shows the effort and the work that they've put into being really good players in this National Football League. I'm happy about their accomplishment. It's a great accomplishment for this team, as well. Those guys do a lot for our team, and we ask a lot of them. I'm happy to see those guys get rewarded for their work."
In need of more depth in the secondary, the Bolts claimed cornerback Essang Bassey off waivers on Monday. Hill, who worked with Bassey while he was a rookie with the Denver Broncos in 2020, talked about why he was the right fit for his system this time on the Bolts.
"We thought that he would be a good guy moving forward," he said. "He's been in the system. I think he'll fit great into the room and into this Charger family… [he's] a good player. A fast learner. He was able to step in as a rookie and perform at a high level. That spoke volumes to what we would be getting here in LA."
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