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Renaldo Hill on Defensive Philosophy, Derwin James and His Partnership With Brandon Staley


Renaldo Hill was formally introduced Wednesday as the new defensive coordinator of the Los Angeles Chargers.

Here are five takeaways from his press conference.

Defensive Philosophy

Coming from Denver under head coach Vic Fangio, Hill explained the advantages of bringing that specific brand of defense to Los Angeles.

"I think the biggest thing is that we try to remain multiple," Hill said. "When you look at our shell, we're going to try to be two-shell [safety], or at least try to show a two-shell so that we don't induce a lot of throws."

"These quarterbacks are too good in this league. If they line up and they see a single-high [safety], it gives them a lot of answers as to where to go pre-snap."

Hill also mentioned the importance of providing players with "the why, the tax and the stresses in our defense."

"If we can give those guys that in those situations, it'll give them ownership," Hill added. "They'll know that when those critical downs hit, they'll know who to address. They'll know who they have to protect. They'll know all of those tells that make you a successful defense."

Relationship with Brandon Staley

Hill and new head coach Brandon Staley worked together for one season in Denver. Hill coached the defensive backs. Staley, the outside linebackers.

Their partnership immediately flourished.

"Coach Staley, as soon as he came into the building, I think we connected," Hill said. "Obviously, there was a background of us both being in similar systems, under that [Alabama Head Coach] Nick Saban system. We knew that we had a similar background in that area. That offseason when we got in, I think it immediately went to, 'Let's figure out some puzzles. Let's figure out what the top teams in the NFL are doing. Let's find the new things that people are doing, and then let's attack them.'

"I think we game-planned, probably on our own, each day, and just kind of came up with ideas. Our offices were right next to each other, so I think we probably spent more time in the other person's office just talking game plans than actually our own."

Though Staley will be calling the defensive plays this season, Hill praised the head coach for his ability to listen and take input from others.

"Obviously, I'm going to lean on him earlier in this process," Hill said of Staley. "But, I know that he is always open to listening to new ideas. He has his own ideas and I have mine. But, as a defensive staff, we will definitely collaborate on all of those and come up with what's best for the guys."

Advantages of Being a Former Player

Hill spent 10 seasons in the NFL as a defensive back and safety for four teams. When asked if he wished he had some of the attributes that his All-Pro safety Derwin James possesses, Hill smiled and said, "Definitely do."

"The way that the game is changing now, you need a guy that can be able to play in space, as well as play in the box," Hill said of James. "When you look across the board and you have guys in our division, whether that's [Chiefs TE Travis] Kelce or the big fella, No. 83 [Raiders TE Darren Waller], and you look at those two guys, you need to be able to match up with those guys and have that size and skillset to play in space or be physical at the point of attack.

"That's something that he brings. That's something that I definitely wish I had as a player."

Hill's experience includes 114 starts and 141 games played. Whether it's James or any player, their new defensive coordinator knows what it's like to sacrifice and grind through a 16-game regular season.

"Being in those shoes, understanding the day-to-day and how the body feels, I think it's important when we do get on this side of the ball, as far as coaches, that we understand that we have to get our players to the game," Hill said. "I think that's one of the most important things that you can have. We have all of those premium guys that I listed, but if we can't get them to the game on Sunday, it won't matter."

Coached and Played With Chris Harris Jr.

A familiar face for Hill on this Chargers defense is cornerback Chris Harris Jr. The two were together in Denver in 2019. But it actually goes back further.

"This won't be my second stint with him, it'll be actually my third," Hill said of his reunion with Harris Jr. "My late years at the Denver Broncos playing safety, Chris was a rookie coming in there. We spent some time in camp there together before that. He saw my exit. I heard about some of the noise that this young guy was flashing and making plays all over the field. Ten years down the road, he is still doing the same thing."

Harris Jr. is entering his 11th NFL season. He started nine games last season, making 37 total tackles. In Week 15 against Las Vegas, Harris Jr. kept his streak alive of at least one interception in each of his 10 seasons.

Coaching Journey

Hill is a student of the game. He points to Buccaneers defensive coordinator Todd Bowles as his biggest coaching influence.

After his playing career, Hill said Bowles and Broncos defensive coordinator Ed Donatell helped him search to find his first coaching job at Wyoming in 2012. Both men, specifically Donatell, thought it would be beneficial for Hill to be in charge of his own room, make mistakes and find out whether he truly loves coaching.

Hill said he immediately discovered his love for coaching. In 2014, Hill was out of football – but he didn't spend time away from it.

"I took a sabbatical and went around to different teams," Hill said. "I spent time with Alabama, Michigan State, Utah, North Dakota State. I wanted to go to the different levels and figure it out. There wasn't anybody pushing me to do that. I wanted to find out those answers and how those universities and teams established themselves. What was the core of their foundation? I just wanted to continue to build, even though I was out of the game."

After three seasons at Pitt, Hill served as the Miami Dolphins assistant defensive backs coach in 2018. That led to a promotion to defensive backs coach for the Denver Broncos. Two seasons later, Hill is now the defensive coordinator of the Los Angeles Chargers.

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