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How the Chargers View Their New-Look Wide Receiver Room

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Chargers wide receiver Joshua Palmer, wide receivers coach Sanjay Lal and running backs coach Kiel McDonald took the podium Tuesday at Hoag Performance Center during Phase Three of the offseason program.

Below are three takeaways from their media availabilities Tuesday afternoon:

A young WR room

The Chargers wide receivers room got an influx of youth during this past offseason.

Whether it was second-round pick Ladd McConkey, a pair of seventh rounders in Brenden Rice and Cornelius Johnson or others, more than half of the receivers on the roster heading into training camp are rookies.

That's not including the pair of 2022 draft picks in Quentin Johnston and Derius Davis, each of whom is entering Year 2.

But despite the number of young players in the room, new wide receivers coach Sanjay Lal has been impressed with how they group have managed thus far.

"I would say they're young and they're willing," Lal described the wide receiver room. "It's what really stands out."

Lal later added: "I'm throwing a lot at them technique-wise; I demand a lot of them, and they have been really good about trying their hardest to implement the techniques along with learning all the offense."

Lal believes this is the youngest group he has ever coached, but it's not as much of a difference as it might seem.

Every year includes the onboarding of rookies. And with a new offense to install, everyone in the room is on the same page in terms of getting acclimated with Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman's scheme.

"They're no different. You have rookies every year that you have to get up to speed," Lal said. "For example, [Johnston] and [Davis] are in their second year, they're learning a new system but everyone is kind of in the same boat because you're learning a new offense."

The longest-tenured Charger in the room is Joshua Palmer, who has a chance at a big role in his fourth NFL season.

The 2021 Chargers third-round pick hauled in 38 passes for 581 yards and two touchdowns in just 10 games last year after being limited due to injury.

Entering a new season with new faces on the coaching staff, Palmer has taken it one step at a time during the offseason.

"I approach it like it's a whole new team, because it technically is from the top down," Palmer said. "The new coaching staff is getting to know me, I'm getting to know them and I'm just taking it one day at a time trying to get the installs, try to understand what they're putting in and just letting everything fall the way they're supposed to fall."

Lal has been impressed with Palmer so far during his time with the Bolts as he has wasted no time trying to learn and ask questions.

"What I have seen is he intently listens to everything you say, he digests it then he comes with questions, so he's a thinker," Lal said about Palmer. "I appreciate that, he has asked questions to me like, 'Why this technique? This is different, why are we doing this?' And I welcome that."

Even though everyone is learning the new Roman offense, the receiver has taken on a role that comes with being a veteran and been open as a resource for the younger players if they approach him and have any questions.

"When guys come up to me, I'll give them what I have… If guys want to do that to me, of course I'll help," Palmer said. "I'm not just going to go force anything down someone's throat like, 'Oh you got to be doing this, you've got to be doing that.' I have to learn this stuff too, so everyone is in the same boat right now."

Palmer has grown each season and shown the ability to step up when he's needed throughout his time with the Bolts, lining up all across the field and filling in roles that were left vacant due to injuries.

It's thanks in large part to the approach he has carried since entering the league of always preparing to be the No. 1 guy — and it's something that could help him entering a big Year 4.

"I feel like my preparation is never going to change," Palmer said. "Since my rookie year, I've always been preparing like if I was the one just because why would I prepare any differently. Why would I prepare as a backup, why would I prepare as someone that's not going to play. That won't change.

"From an experience standpoint, I think it's important knowing that I might be in that role to have to step up big, but I wouldn't say it's anything new," Palmer added. "The coaches have full trust in me, that's what I'm working for, the receiver coach has full trust in me. I'm learning them and they're learning me as well."

All in the details

The reasons for Lal choosing to join the Chargers staff was pretty straightforward for the veteran coach.

"Coach [Jim] Harbaugh's track record, Justin Herbert, a chance to get to work with the young receivers," Lal said. "It's kind of a no brainer.

Lal added afterwards: "And live in Southern California."

The Bolts wide receiver coach has been off and running getting to know both his players and Harbaugh after spending a pair of seasons in Seattle.

Even having not worked with the Chargers Head Coach in the past, Harbaugh's success speaks for itself.

And now joining his staff, Lal described the early part of getting to know Harbaugh as well as what the process has been like familiarizing himself with his style of coaching.

"It's been great. I'm learning his personality on how he likes things done," Lal said. "Any time with a new coach, you get a feel over time of what is the culture, how does he get the culture installed.

"Just kind of working through how he sees things, because I have not worked with him before, and then following suit in that type of coaching style carrying through to my position group," Lal said.

One thing that has stood out to Lal immediately? It's all in the details.

"Every coach has their unique way of implement implementing their system," Lal said. "What I have noticed is he's super detailed on certain things."

Lal then gave an example of how this is put into practice.

"He can be listening to an install meeting and maybe the QB's drop is just off a little bit, he'll stop the whole thing and say, 'No, this is how you do it'," Lal said. "And he'll get up and demonstrate it."

Lal continued to give anecdotes on Harbaugh hammering home the details.

"Or he'll make a point on a shallow cross," Lal said.

"We're a yard away from the hash, our landmark is the hash, we'll stop the meeting, we won't be pressed for time, he'll walk up there and say, 'Okay Sanjay, where do you want him to stop'," Lal added. "And then we'll actually stop, go into the minutia, detail it and move on."

Even though things feel like a time crunch in the NFL, there is a lot of emphasis on getting it right no matter the time it takes.

"Very unique that way in that sometimes in football, you're so pressed for time," Lal said. "'We've got to get this meeting done in this time', we'll just stop it and make sure it's right and everyone understands."

Veterans in the backfield

Spearheaded by Gus Edwards and J.K. Dobbins, both of whom were added in free agency, Chargers running back coach Kiel McDonald can't be more excited to roll into the season with this running back group.

Not only have the pair had great success over the last four seasons, they also bring familiarity to the scheme and veteran experience that has been valuable to the room.

"They have been playing this game for a while," McDonald said of Edwards and Dobbins. "At the end of the day, the standard is still the standard. It doesn't matter what it is.

"To have some veterans that have been successful, especially when they know the scheme, it pushes it in a positive direction," McDonald added.

Edwards fits the profile the Bolts are looking for in the run game — strong and physical.

And that's something that's stood out to McDonald from Day 1.

"Big dude. Big, tall, long, athletic," McDonald said about Edwards. "Looking forward to seeing him in training camp and the rest of the way.

"He's a consummate professional, that's the one thing that jumps out about Gus," McDonald added. "Very smart, knows this scheme inside and out. I'm pretty excited about him."

McDonald has also been impressed with Dobbins and the leadership he's brought early on and heading into training camp.

"Highly intellectual running back," McDonald said about Dobbins. "Super smart, knows where to go. He helps the room and has grown as a leader in the short amount of time that I've gotten the chance to work with him."

Both are different types of running backs but having the ability to play off each other is why McDonald is fired up to have them in the room.

"It's like Thunder and Lightning … that's probably why they took those two guys in Baltimore," McDonald said. "Having them here, they are very mature guys and mature men."

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