Here are three takeaways from Thursday's press conferences with Renaldo Hill, Joe Lombardi and Drue Tranquill.
James a jack of all trades
One of the Chargers' biggest leaders on the field and in the locker room is safety Derwin James. But describing James as just a safety would be a massive understatement. Along with calling the plays on defense, James is also tasked with playing five different positions in the Bolts' defensive scheme.
Head coach Brandon Staley knows this is a 'tall job description' to ask of James, but if there's anyone that can get the job done, it's him.
"He's one of the few guys in the entire world that can do it," Staley said on Wednesday. "He's also our signal-caller. The weight of that is real. Like I said, I'm sensitive to that because if Derwin James we're just doing two jobs out of five, it would be easier for him — and you may see more production from him — but it wouldn't be as good for our team. Him playing five roles for us helps us be the best defense and the best team that we can be. That's why he's amazing."
That message was carried over into the next day by linebacker Drue Tranquill during Thursday's press conference. Tranquil talked about how James' versatility keeps opposing teams, and specifically opposing quarterbacks, guessing what type of defense they are running.
"The nice thing about Derwin is that we can have the same 11 guys on the field and be in different personnel packages," Tranquill said. "That makes it really complicated and really tough for quarterbacks to try and I.D. you know. [Like,] 'Ok we studied in this personnel grouping they like to bring these pressures, weak side, strong side whatever it might be.' 'Oh, now Derwin's lining up here, what are they in?' and it makes it complicated."
For defensive coordinator Renaldo Hill, he couldn't recall if he's ever seen a player with the skillset James has and sees the value in having James all over the field.
"He is a unique individual guy with the size and speed, and you know the ability to think on the go," Hill said. "I'm glad we got him in our room, it's a special guy and we are just trying to maximize everything we can out of him because he brings so much to the table."
Bolts prepping for Baker Mayfield the 'competitor'
The last time the Chargers faced the Browns, quarterback Baker Mayfield was in his first season where he would go on to break the record for touchdown passes by a rookie.
Two years later, Justin Herbert would then break Mayfield's record with 31 touchdown passes during his rookie year.
On Thursday, reports surfaced that Mayfield has a partially torn labrum in his left shoulder, but for the Bolts, injury news doesn't change their game plan.
"I think he's a competitor that even though he has a little nick he's gonna say, 'I'm good.'" Tranquill said. "He's gonna want to have the whole route tree open and get the ball downfield and so off the tape, you can't necessarily see anything. It was my first time actually knowing today, I saw the headline on the bottom of ESPN that that was an issue, but you can't necessarily tell off the tape."
Hill didn't notice a difference in Mayfield's game due to the injury as well and explained what he expects from the Browns quarterback on Sunday.
"They're going to do a good job of controlling the game with their run game," Hill said. "They get out on the perimeter with him running the boots, in the play-action game. You know the focal point of their offense. I think that he does a really good job of running the show over there. Until the reports came out, I wouldn't have heard anything or thought anything different coming from Baker Mayfield."
What's the most impressive thing about Justin Herbert?
Justin Herbert has been lights out the last two games for the Chargers, throwing seven touchdowns and zero interceptions during that span. Offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi talked about Herbert's ability to make great decisions even when facing pressure.
"The most impressive thing about him is how quickly he processes the information of what's happening," Lombardi said. "How quickly he gets rid of the ball. Whether it's, 'This is the guy that's open.' Or, 'I'm under pressure, I need to get rid of it before I'm ready. I know exactly where to go with the ball.' He seems like a ten-year veteran when you get to that aspect of the game."
Lombardi explained that having Herbert's decision-making is like having a 'security blanket' when calling the plays, knowing that he's in good hands with No. 10 under center. Lombardi had high praise for the high-level decision-making skills for such a young player.
"He's just got that instinct," Lombardi said. "That feel — that awareness that I'm not sure you can really teach It's nice, a good security blanket as a play caller to know he's going to not let a lot of bad things happen if things break down in front of him. He knows what to do, it's outstanding."
The Future is Here!
Secure your 2021 Season Ticket Memberships for only $100. Click here to learn more.