The Los Angeles Chargers held a padded practice on Monday morning for the first time in 2020.
Several new faces put on their shoulder pads under the powder blue, including Chris Harris Jr. The All-Decade corner, who signed with the Chargers this offseason after nine years with the Denver Broncos, is accustomed to playing with Pro Bowl-caliber talent.
One thing he isn't used to is being the new guy.
"It's definitely weird," Harris Jr. said with a laugh. "I'm used to walking in the room knowing everybody. It was very comfortable because I played there nine years. But it's different. I got lost in the building a couple times trying to find my way around, but everything's getting better."
Harris Jr. said not having an in-person offseason program has contributed to his surroundings feeling so new. He said coaches and teammates have made his transition across the AFC West easier.
Another plus is the familiarity in the defensive backs room. Harris Jr. was a Pro Bowl teammate of Casey Hayward and Derwin James in Orlando. He also knew Desmond King before signing in Los Angeles.
His longest-standing connection is DBs coach Ron Milus, who was Harris Jr.'s position coach during his rookie season in Denver.
"Especially on defense, I have a lot of confidence in what we're doing [and] in [defensive coordinator Gus] Bradley and Coach Milus and the coaching staff, and what they've got planned for us," Harris Jr. said. "It's just taking it one day at a time and continuing to improve."
Based on the way Bradley and Milus plan to use him in the slot this season, Harris Jr. thinks he "should have a big year."
"I feel like I can do everything in there," he said. "I can play man. I can play zone. Play the run. Blitz. I'm the total package in the inside."
The new guy is expecting the same old All-Pro results in L.A.
Keenan Allen talks quarterbacks
One of the NFL's most productive wide receivers the last three seasons will have a new quarterback throwing to him in 2020.
A portion of Keenan Allen's Monday session with the media was dedicated to discussing Tyrod Taylor and rookie Justin Herbert. Allen noted that Taylor's mobility will keep defenses honest when playing the Chargers.
"You have to guard all 11 guys now," Allen said. "He's obviously a big playmaker with his legs and he can throw the ball deep. So yeah, I think it adds a whole nother element to the game."
"I think he has a lot of talent," Allen said. "He can throw the ball anywhere on the field; a lot of strength behind his arm. He obviously can run. He's a big guy and he's smart, too.
"I can't compare Derwin James"
When asked if he has ever played with a safety like James, Harris Jr. was quick with his answer.
"I can't compare Derwin James," he said. "I can't. I haven't had a teammate like him at the safety position. I've had great safeties playing with [Hall of Famer Brian] Dawkins. He was at the latter years. T.J. Ward and Darian Stewart [too], but no one at the level of Derwin James, so I'm excited to definitely play with him."
Harris Jr. was a key member of Denver's historic "No Fly Zone" defense, which helped the Broncos win Super Bowl 50. He named Champ Bailey and Aqib Talib as the best secondary teammates he's ever played with, before adding that the combination of himself and James "could be very scary."
He also praised Casey Hayward Jr., who's helped him learn the defense.
"I haven't had a good [counterpart] with me since Talib, so I'm definitely excited to be able to [pair up] with him and see what we can do," Harris Jr. said.
Odds and Ends
-Allen said he spent more time in the weight room this offseason: "This is probably the best I've ever entered camp as far as shape-wise."
-Allen also shared his thoughts on the two newest additions to the wide receivers room: rookies Joe Reed and K.J. Hill. "They both show a lot of potential. Joe's very explosive. He's fast. He's strong. And K.J., he's been a technician so far. So, if he can just keep that up; keep running crisp routes like he's been doing and just understand the knowledge of the offense, then he'll be solid."
-Harris Jr. on being Allen's teammate: "It's been great, man. Just continuing to work every day, build that competitive nature and get us ready for the season. … It's gonna be easier for us when we get to the games just competing against each other, working every day. He's gonna bring it every day and you know I am. That's just my competitive nature."
-Allen on lining up against Harris Jr. in practice: "It's fun, man. You get to bring the battles from the game field on to practice every day. Learn from each other, compete with each other and it's been fun."
-Harris Jr. on head coach Anthony Lynn: "He treats us as grown men and that's one thing I love, man. Being able to come here, have a coach that's a well-respected coach from everybody -- and he's leading the way. So, I'm excited, definitely, for him to be my coach. … He has the respect of being a player and being a good coach. That goes a long ways, man, when you got NFL guys and when you got a coach who has experience doing this and playing in it. He understands the pain and what goes through an NFL football player. You get more respect for that."
-Allen on wide receiver Mike Williams: "Mike has evolved in a great way as far as route running, as far as using his big body. He's able to release, his release moves are better. His head nods, his sticks, everything is just coming all in-sync. … If you single either one of us, it's gonna be a matchup nightmare pretty much."