Chargers General Manager Tom Telesco called into SiriusXM Mad Dog Sports Radio's "Schein on Sports" on Tuesday to talk the state of the team post-draft.
While the entire interview is a great listen, host Adam Schein went through a bunch of topics with Telesco including where Derwin James was slotted on the team's draft board, how Philip Rivers continues to play at a high level, what makes the duo of Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram so special, and more.
Where was Derwin James on the Bolts' board?
Pre-draft, Derwin James was considered to be the top safety of the 2018 class let alone a top-10 pick. But luckily for the Chargers, they were able to nab him at 17th-overall. So where did the Bolts have him on their board? Like many of those pundit mocks, pretty high:
"Significantly higher than where we took him, but everyone's boards are a little different.... So, it's all about how the player fits in your scheme. I know with us, the safety position requires a lot of different responsibilities. It's a tough position for us to scout because they're asked to do so much. A player like Derwin, as far as what he can do in the run game and the fact that us and many teams play so much nickel that your safety has to almost tackle like a linebacker sometimes. But then, add in the fact of being able to cover; being able to cover a tight end man-to-man, be able to cover a back out of the backfield, be able to bump out in the slot or be able to get out in the middle of the field and have some range. There's a lot asked of that position which is why a player like Derwin is drafted as high as he is."
"This is what he loves."
In 2017, Philip Rivers' 14th season in the league was one of his best in recent memory. He finished the year completing 360 of 575 passes for 4,515 yards and 28 touchdowns with just 10 interceptions. When asked how Rivers continues to play at such a high level, Telesco credited it to the QB's inherent love for the game and how it rubs off on younger players in the locker room:
"Nothing gets old for him. The routine that he's going through right now is the routine he's been going through for years and years and years. He still has a great enthusiasm about it. All the drills on the field, all the prep work in the film room; he still loves it. He's a son of a coach who grew up in football. This is what he loves to do. He's talked about coaching, when he's done playing, at the youth level and high school level. This is what he loves. I think that rubs off on everybody else. I think it rubs off on our young players when they see one of our best players on our football team and what he goes though on a day to day basis to become a great player. When they see that, they figure that if he's that talented and works that hard, then they need to work at least as hard as Philip if not maybe a little bit harder. To see his enthusiasm every day in the building and the fact that nothing gets old for him, it's pretty neat to see."
The "unselfish" dynamic duo.
When you think of top pass rushing duos in the NFL, you'd be remiss if you didn't name the tandem of Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram. The pair combined for 23 sacks in 2017 and will continue to wreak havoc in 2018. What makes them so good? Besides talent, according to Telesco, it's their selfless nature:
"What I think is nice about those two players is that they're very unselfish. Sometimes with people who get after the quarterback, they're very selfish on their own quarterback numbers. But those two guys play off each other. They line up in a lot of different alignments. They'll play for each other and that's the big thing with those two guys. They'll also play the run. There's more to playing defensive end in this league than just rushing the quarterback. Joey can play the run and Melvin took huge strides playing the run last year. I thought he did a really good job. We need to get a little more consistency (with) inside pass rush to try and help out the two outside guys on the edge, but those guys play hard, are great teammates and great leaders, too."
Expectations for MG28.
Melvin Gordon had a career-year in 2017. He rushed for 1,105 yards with eight touchdowns and added 58 receptions for 476 yards and another four scores through the air. He's gotten better and better each year since being drafted in 2015, and Telesco hopes for more growth this coming season:
"(We want him to) just keep coming along like he has. He was obviously a huge part of our offense last year, not only with running the football, but out of the backfield. He caught a lot of balls with us and that was something coming out of college he had to project a little bit. He didn't catch a whole lot of balls at Wisconsin, but we thought he had pretty good hands. But he's really worked on that…. He's such a tough runner, a tough guy…. Down the stretch, he was critical for us. He just needs to keep coming along, but we're really happy with him."
How good can the DB corps be?
The addition of Derwin James strengthens an already stacked Chargers defensive backfield including Casey Hayward, Jason Verrett and Jahleel Addae. So for a defense that was ranked top three against the pass in 2017, how good can the secondary be in 2018? Telesco sees the group building on what they did last season, but their success is predicated on all defensive units working together:
"Well, we hope better than last year, and I thought they were pretty strong last year. But I think if you can blend and combine the pass rush with the coverage, you're in pretty good shape. And we've got a couple rushers up front who can get after the quarterback and that helps the secondary. The secondary helps the rushers by making that quarterback hold the ball just a little bit longer. But between our corners, which I think are deep, and our safety group, I thought Jahleel Addae had a really nice year for us last year and flies under the radar a little bit, but he's a really good football player and a nice leader for us. That's a position group that's strong for us and we think we have some rushers. We need to get our linebacker crew a little more consistent but I think we'll get that from Denzel Perryman (who) has a really bright future in this league, as well. We're getting there. We're taking strides each year and that's what we're looking for."