Below are three takeaways from Thursday's press conferences with Joey Bosa, Joe Lombardi and Renaldo Hill:
Preparing for offensive weapons on the Raiders
On Thursday, the Chargers coordinators took to the podium to preview the Bolts' regular season finale in Las Vegas. Defensive coordinator Renaldo Hill talked about what the Bolts defense needs to be prepared for as they face the Raiders for the second time this season.
Two players that stand out for Hill are receivers Zay Jones, who had 120 yards receiving last week, and Hunter Renfrow. Hill noted the connection between quarterback Derek Carr and Renfrow, who has a career high seven touchdowns this season, and also described what the defense needs to do to contain him.
"He does a good job of being able to separate," Hill said about Renfrow. "He's a multi-cut route-runner, so if you have him covered on the first move, his second and third act is where he separates. We have to do a good job of staying connected to this guy at all times. Even when we think that we have him covered, we have to stay complete until the play is over because he will separate, and those second and third acts, he makes a lot of hay there."
Carr isn't the only quarterback that the Bolts are preparing for according to Hill, as the Raiders also have a weapon in backup quarterback Marcus Mariota who rushed three times and attempted one pass in the Raiders' Week 17 win over the Indianapolis Colts.
The Raiders have a chance to also get starting tight end Darren Waller back this weekend after missing the past five games. Waller was limited at practice on Wednesday and Thursday.
Hill explained how important it will be for the Bolts defense to play with 'energy and intensity' in order to be successful in Week 18 and return home to Los Angeles with a win.
"They can shove and nudge and get us out of position," Hill said. "But we have to have 11 guys hunting at all times. A lot of times that solves a lot of problems. We can go up on the board and diagram a whole lot of things, but if you're not playing with the energy and intensity that this game is going to present, you have no chance. That's really the message. We're going to be sound in everything that we're coaching, as coaches — and the players, we're going to be telling them to do the same thing."
The Bolts were able to hold Carr to 196 passing yards when they faced him in Week 4, his lowest passing total on the season. Hill and company look to replicate that formula for success as they face off again three months later.
Bosa reflects on Pro Bowl season
On Thursday, OLB Joey Bosa had time to reflect and evaluate his sixth season as a member of the Chargers. Bosa has put together his fourth Pro Bowl season, putting him behind only linebacker Junior Seau for the most Pro Bowl selections in a defensive player's first five seasons in Chargers history. Bosa is also three sacks away from reaching 60.0 career sacks.
Bosa gave some insight into how he feels he's played this season.
"I think I've had some really, really good games and rushed really well," Bosa said. "It's obviously been a [career]-high with the strips, which was a big point of emphasis for me. I think I'm doing well. I've left some plays out there, but with where I came from this offseason, without going into too many details, I'm pretty proud of where I am, definitely. I think, like the rest of the team, getting healthy. I'm still trending in the right direction."
This offseason, Bosa put an emphasis on focusing on strip-snacks. That extra layer of technique that he added to his game has allowed Bosa to lead the league in strip-sacks with a career-high six this season. Bosa talked about the mindset that has allowed him to not only change his technique, but change the game as well.
"It's something, I mean, it takes time for that muscle memory to get there," Bosa said. "For me, getting sacks, I guess earlier on in my career, I was too nervous to let the guy go, so I'd just wrap them up and try to get them down and forget going for the ball. Now, I think more than anything, it's just a mindset — always thinking about it. It's how you really change the game, if you're able to get those turnovers."
As for the defense as a whole, Bosa talked about how important health will be as they make their playoff push.
"I think we're trending in the right direction at the right time," he said. "It's not really about peaking in the beginning of the season, it's a good time to all get healthy and all come together at this time of the year."
Herbert's development as a decision maker this season
Throughout the season, the Chargers coaching staff has talked about how players have improved from the offseason all the way to Week 18. One of those players is quarterback Justin Herbert, who followed up his Offensive Rookie of the Year campaign with a Pro Bowl honor in his second year.
In 2021, Herbert also leads the league in most games with 300-plus passing yards (eight) and is behind only Tom Brady for most completions in the NFL with 409.
Offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi talked about how Herbert's decision-making skills stand out to him as the season progressed.
"He still is such a young quarterback," Lombardi said. "As far as experience is concerned. With having so many different offenses to learn every year, going back to college, you spend a lot of your time thinking about offense and learning what you're doing versus studying defense. As that experience comes, you can just feel him growing every week, knowing what the defense is doing and just understanding how our play is matching up against the defense that we're facing and where to go with the football. Again, I can't say enough for the work that [Passing Game Coordinator/Quarterbacks Coach] Shane Day does with him and how hard he works every single week. I think he can see that it's paying dividends."
Herbert and company were able to find success in Week 4 against the Raiders, with the QB completing 25 passes for 222 yards and three touchdowns on Monday Night Football. With a chance to look at the Raiders defense now at the end of the regular season, Lombardi discussed what stands out to him when he turns on the film and why the Bolts will need to be 'efficient' when paying against Vegas.
"The first thing that jumps out on the film is their pass rush," Lombardi said. "Their defensive ends are tough the block and they consistently get a pass rush, and they get it there quickly. That's a huge challenge. They're tough in the run game, as well. They're so active and high-effort guys. They're strong inside. The scheme itself is a simple one, but those guys really, especially as this season has gone on — early in the year, you could tell that they were still learning all the nuances — you can see, as the year has gone on, they're getting more comfortable. They're playing faster. With any coach's first year, as the guys learn the system a little bit more, they tend to play it a little bit better and a little tighter. They've definitely been playing well."
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