South Bend has taken over Southern California.
The Chargers have three Notre Dame rookies currently on the roster, including defensive tackle Jerry Tillery (No. 28 overall) and linebacker Drue Tranquill, the team's fourth-round selection. Luckily for these Irish defenders, a familiar face was waiting for them when they arrived at Hoag Performance Center.
Entering his third NFL season, Chargers defensive end Isaac Rochell is the big man on campus among his former Notre Dame teammates. Rochell has gone from a seventh-round pick in the 2017 NFL Draft to an integral piece of L.A.'s pass rush.
"Ike has gotten better every single year," Head Coach Anthony Lynn said. "He's changed his body. His work ethic is outstanding. He's turned into a pro. I look for him to take the next step this year, but he has gotten better every single year. That's what you want in your young athletes."
When defensive end Joey Bosa suffered a foot injury last season in training camp, Rochell's responsibilities increased. He appeared in all 16 regular-season games and registered 29 tackles, five sacks and a game-sealing interception in Week 4 against the San Francisco 49ers.
Before Bosa returned in Week 11, Rochell averaged 37.8 defensive snaps per game and an additional 12.3 on special teams. Valuable game reps and an experienced D-line room are key ingredients to future success.
"Once you're comfortable and can play fast, you don't have to worry about the package," Rochell said. "You get better. … You look at the defensive line — some of the leaders we have on the line and some of the great talent we have, it's easy to get better in that environment."
Rochell explained organized team activities (OTAs) provide an opportunity for players to get into an off-field routine, from proper eating habits to stretching. He views this portion of the offseason as a "trial run" before his third NFL training camp.
On the field, Rochell said he's working to further improve his mental approach to the game.
"Lining up and having a pre-snap plan – I think that's important with the defensive line," he said. "A lot of times, you see guys get caught in their rushes and they're just standing up watching because they don't have a pre-snap plan. That's something I'm trying to focus on."
Tranquill joked that Rochell must have clout with Lynn since the organization brought in a trio of Golden Domers this offseason. Rochell views himself as a resource to his college teammates; he said any sort of mentoring role will come natural.
"I think what will end up happening [is] once they're used to being here, they'll challenge me, too," Rochell said. "Like I said, I'm happy to have them here because I think they're special, special guys with special qualities."
In many ways, the defensive additions of Tillery and Tranquill reflect what Rochell has shown himself to possess in two NFL seasons: high character, intelligence and talent – with a work ethic to match.
Opening day of training camp announced
The first day of Chargers training camp is scheduled for Thursday, July 25 at the Jack Hammett Sports Complex in Costa Mesa, Calif., the team announced Friday.
To receive the full schedule in your inbox once details are finalized, click here.
Similar to the last two years, the New Orleans Saints will come to town for joint practices with the Chargers in August. Quarterbacks Philip Rivers and Drew Brees – former teammates and future Hall of Famers — have combined for 33 NFL seasons, 129,093 passing yards and 894 touchdowns.
Their post-practice QB challenges have become a summer tradition at camp.
Tranquill on sharing the field with savvy vets
Drue Tranquill was 10 years old when fellow linebacker Thomas Davis entered the NFL in 2005.
When Philip Rivers started his pro career the season before, Tranquill was still in single digits.
Both players are leaders on their respective sides of the ball, and each have made a strong impression on the rookie.
"I laughed the other day," Tranquill said. "I was like, 'Man, I'm walking out here, this is my first OTA,' and I'm looking across the field and I'm like, 'It's Philip's 170th OTA!' … The dude just gets up to the line of scrimmage and calls out the defense, and just says what everybody's doing."
Tranquill noted how effortless Rivers, 37, makes things look on the practice field. An equivalent example can be found in his own position group.
Don't let age fool you: the 36-year-old Davis still has a lot of juice, according to Tranquill. The way the 14-year veteran conducts his off-field business is a large reason why.
"He's a pro in everything that he does," Tranquill said. "He's taking care of his body here at 6 a.m. … all the way leading up to practice."
Listen to the full interview with Tranquill on Chargers Weekly, which is available on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, TuneIn, Google Play and the official Chargers app. A five-star rating/review is appreciated and will help spread the word to other fans this offseason.
-Meet the DB who brought the JackBoyz to Los Angeles
-Three Chargers were named to the NFL's All-Under-25 Team (Marc Sessler, NFL.com)
-Chargers rookie Drue Tranquill makes every moment count, even when asleep (Mark Whicker, Los Angeles Daily News)
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