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Three Takeaways: Tom Telesco Talks Cap Space, Building on Offensive Success and More

Telesco combine presser photo

Below are three takeaways from Tom Telesco's press conference at the 2022 NFL Scouting Combine.

Goal is to compete for a championship

With the 2022 NFL Scouting Combine under way in Indianapolis, Chargers general manager Tom Telesco spoke to the media on Tuesday for the first time since mid-January.

Telesco talked about a variety of subjects including the process of the combine, the Chargers rookies from the 2021 season and working with new special teams coordinator Ryan Ficken.

One of the main topics during Telesco's time at the podium was the Chargers' ability to spend on unrestricted free agents, whether it be their own or players from other teams who are set to hit the market. Telesco talked about his approach heading into the 2022 offseason.

"We have a lot of cap space this year," Telesco said. "So, we have to balance the players that we have that their contracts are expiring how we can bring them back, but also look at from the outside of UFA's who we can bring in and how that's all going to work together. That's what we are still working on right now."

Telesco called the extra cap space a "nice resource to have" explaining how it also helps to have a quarterback of Justin Herbert's caliber on a rookie deal as well. Telesco also talked about what his goal is every year as he assembles the roster.

"We try to be aggressive every year," Telesco said. "It just depends what our resources are and what our circumstances are at that point...the goal every year is the same, the goal is to challenge and compete for a championship."

'The official beginning of the next season'

Telesco is no stranger to the city of Indianapolis as he lived there for 15 years while working for the Indianapolis Colts. Telesco, who attended his first combine in 1995 as scouting assistant for the Carolina Panthers, explained what he likes most about the combine.

"It's always great coming back to Indianapolis," Telesco said. "I'm around the coaches and the scouts really 24/7 and you talk football all day long, that's all you do…it really feels like the official beginning of next season…as far as all the time drills, the measurements, interviews, those are really, really important."

Both Telesco and head coach Brandon Staley have expressed their focus on improving the Bolts defense in 2022. The University of Georgia has several prospects at the NFL Scouting Combine – 14 invites – including several names on defense expected to be selected in the first round.

"Obviously that Georgia defense is really, really impressive," he said. "It could take you days to work through that tape of all the prospects they have. We'll get a chance to see more of these guys here, but pretty impressive front."

Building on fourth-ranked offense in 2021

In Joe Lombardi's first season as the Bolts offensive coordinator, he helped guide several players on offense to career season including Herbert, wide receiver Mike Williams and running back Austin Ekeler. Despite having the fourth-ranked offense in 2021, Telesco explained why the Bolts aren't satisfied yet.

"The focus can't just be on one side of the ball," he said. "It's got to be on both. I want to make sure on offense we don't take a step back next year. I thought we had a really good year on offense. It wasn't perfect by any means, but it was good. We've got to take another step up there on offense. Certainly, we are ecstatic with what Justin's done and he's still very young. We still think he's going to get a lot better as well."

As Ekeler led the way at the running back position with 20 touchdowns, the Bolts had inconsistent play behind him. Telesco explained how all options are on the table when it comes to finding a running back to provide consistency from that spot in 2022.

"If we want our offense to evolve and continue to get better, we have to get better in that spot," he said. "Wherever that comes from that remains to be seen, but we need to get more from that spot and it could be from someone currently on the team and it may be a free agent, it could be a draft pick, could be anything. If we want our offense to really evolve to what it can be, we need a little bit more from that spot."

A rookie from the 2021 draft class that Telesco talked about was wide receiver Joshua Palmer, who caught four touchdown passes in his first NFL season. Telesco talked about his work ethic and when he felt Palmer began to come into his own during the season.

"He's a pro, like he really works at it," he said. "You could see him probably about mid-season him being more confident in what he was doing and you could see Justin more confident in what Josh was doing. Josh is an excellent route runner, he's got really nice size, he's got really good run-after-the-catch skills, strong hands, so I think he has a really bright future in this league."

On Wednesday, Staley will address the media from the combine at 1:30 p.m. PT.

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