The Chargers stressed a need to improve against the run from the moment the 2017 season came to an end.
The Bolts ranked last in the NFL a year ago, giving up 4.9 yards per attempt. While that can be a bit of a misleading stat, especially since seven of the 10 teams to rank at the bottom made the playoffs, the team made it a focal point to improve in that area.
If the first padded practice of the year is any indication, it appears the Chargers are on the right path.
The run defense was particularly stout on Monday, earning praise from Head Coach Anthony Lynn. Still, the performance should be taken in stride. As Lynn explained, it's natural for the defense to be a bit ahead of the offense when it comes to the running game this time of year.
"I was pleased with the run defense today," he said. "Our run defense usually on that first, second or third (day in pads) are always ahead of the offense because you go all offseason passing the ball. You never get a chance running the ball until you get to training camp, so the offense has some catching up to do in that area, but I was pleased with the run defense."
Nonetheless, it was certainly a step in the right direction as a number of players made their presence felt. From veterans like Kyle Emanuel, Denzel Perryman and Melvin Ingram to youngsters like Isaac Rochell, Kyzir White and Chris Landrum, the defense was on point.
"I felt like we've improved a lot, especially coming off last year," Perryman said. "Today was the first day in pads, and everybody was amped up. The guys were flying around. That's what you want to see. Now we've got to see if we can be consistent."
While pleased with their performance, the defense noted they still need to improve. The Bolts offense had their way on several plays as Justin Jackson, Austin Ekeler and others broke free for some sizeable gains.
"It was a good day (overall), but there were too many plays where the offense did their job and had some breakout runs," Perryman said. "That's something we can clean up. We just need to be consistent with it. But it was a good day. When you play the run, you have to wear your hardhat. You have to have a certain mentality when it comes to the run game."
"I thought today was pretty good, but we still have room to improve," added Darius Philon. "There are a lot of things we look at as a defensive unit, and different things we focus on. It's about focusing on our techniques and our keys. It's showing our physicality and showing our coaches we play a physical game."
All in all, the defense believes Monday was a strong building block, insisting they can use it as a springboard as they move forward throughout camp.
"It was a lot of guys flying around and a lot of contact today," said Jahleel Addae. "All offseason, OTAs and the first two days of camp are just shorts and tee shirts, so you know football is different. We have to get used to carrying the pads again and getting that physical side of things going, but all in all it was good."
Take a look through the top photos from camp, as the Bolts practice in pads for the first time.