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Camp Preview: How the Bolts Tight End Room Can Elevate the Rushing Attack

TE Preview

Chargers Training Camp is on the horizon.

The team will host **14 open practices** as they welcome fans to The Bolt in El Segundo for the first time.

The Bolts are looking to have an instant impact in Year 1 of the Jim Harbaugh era and have a new-look coaching staff and roster that relentlessly attacked the offseason program. will take a look at each position group leading up to training camp. The tight ends are up first.

Who's on the roster?

Will Dissly, Hayden Hurst, Donald Parham, Jr., Stone Smartt, Ben Mason (TE/FB), Luke Benson, Zach Heins

Camp outlook

The Chargers tight end room was revamped during the first offseason under General Manager Joe Hortiz.

Only two of the six tight ends on the roster return from 2023 as the group looks to mirror the physical philosophy that has been echoed all offseason by Harbaugh and the rest of the coaching staff.

Because of this, the Bolts will rely and ask a lot of tight ends in Greg Roman's offense in all facets.

"We have [the] guys in this room that have an opportunity to compete and give us the room that we need to have," Chargers run game coordinator/tight ends coach Andy Bischoff said in early April. "This offense needs tight ends to be productive whether we're running it, passing it, blocking — they have to be real tight ends. That's the kind of room that we're trying to build."


The first addition to the room this offseason came with the signing of Will Dissly in mid-March.

Dissly, a 2018 fourth-round pick (No. 120 overall), joined the Bolts having spent his entire six-year career in Seattle and was brought in to spearhead the new, physical room the group is looking for.

The veteran tight end has been one of the top blocking tight ends in football since joining the league and brings a rare skillset at the position for the team.

"When you start with Will, you're talking about one of the three guys in the league that can own the C-gap, period. There's not many of them," Bischoff said. "This is a different kind of football league that we live in now. To have a tight end that can own the C-gap is rare. He's one of those guys."

Dissly is joined in the room by another free agent addition in Hayden Hurst, who not only brings a physical element to the group, but an athletic receiving element as well.

Hurst has hauled in 195 passes for 1,902 yards in his career and has been able to create with the ball in his hands after the catch as 103 of his catches have gone for first downs.

"He has all the speed, all the hands, all the ability," Bischoff said about Hurst. "Hayden just needs to find the right situation."

Bischoff later added: "We're nothing but happy to have this guy here. He will provide that athletic element to this offense that gives us an opportunity."

Hurst believes the duo of him and Dissly can compliment each other well.

"He had a lot of success, he got to stay in Seattle for a few years. I bounced around a little bit, trying to find a home," Hurst said about Dissly. "It'll be fun to be in the same room with him. I think we have similar qualities.

"He does some things well that I can pick and choose from to help my game, and, hopefully, I can help him with route-running stuff, as well," Hurst said. "I think we'll pair pretty good together."

One of the returning members of the group is Donald Parham, Jr., who has spent the last four seasons with the team. Parham had a bounce back in 2023 and hauled in four touchdowns.

Stone Smartt also returns for a third year with the group and saw a lot more action last season, playing in 16 games and scoring his first career touchdown.

Rounding out the group is a pair of undrafted free agents in Luke Benson and Zach Heins and free agent addition Ben Mason, who was brought on as both a tight end and fullback for the Bolts.


Quick quote

"It's a great room. To keep guys like Stone and Parham and then add Will and Hayden – they are two of the best in the league. They're great leaders, teammates and tight ends. To have guys like that in the locker room, it's only going to help because you know you'll go into game day and can rely on those guys. They're smart, athletic and they're playmakers. They can do all that you ask of a tight end." – Justin Herbert on the tight end room.

Player to watch: Will Dissly

Dissly fits the exact profile of who the Chargers were targeting when free agency began — big and physical.

The 6-foot-4 tight end, who started his career at Washington as a defensive lineman, is a major force in the run game.

According to Pro Football Focus, Dissly had a run-blocking grade of 77.2 in 2023, which was second among tight ends with at least 20 percent of the snaps in 2023. He was also second in that group in pass-blocking with a grade of 83.5.

It's safe to say the tight end isn't afraid of some contact and move some people out of the way.

"Part of my background is that I played defensive line at Washington for two years and then transitioned to play tight end," Dissly said. "I think, if you were going to write your article, it would say, 'Will is not afraid of contact,' because I played defense.

"I'm looking to hit people," Dissly added. "That's part of the game, right?

Even throughout the offseason program where it's not full go, Dissly has shown what he's capable of from a blocking perspective.

But don't sleep on what he can also do catching the ball.

"It's impressive just to watch him move. But he's not just a run blocker," Herbert said about Dissly. "He's able to catch the ball as well.

"To have a guy that, it just opens up avenues on offense whether you're running ball or having the illusion of running the ball or whether you're throwing the ball, you have a tight end out there they have to respect," Herbert added. "To have four guys like that, it's a quarterback's best friend."

Dissly could provide the Bolts with some punch in the room and figures to be a big piece at the tight end spot in a multitude of ways.

And he's ready to contribute in whatever way he's needed in 2024.

"I've never been afraid of hard work," Dissly said. "If they ask me to go put a hat on someone, I'm going to do it, but if they ask me to run a seam-route, I'm going to do it and I'm going to do it to the best of my abilities.

"At the end of the day, it doesn't really matter what I do," Dissly added. "As long as we're winning games, that's what I'm here for."


Key question: Can the tight end room help the Bolts become a top rushing offense?

The success of the Chargers run game will ultimately rely on all 11 players on offense — but the tight ends are perhaps one of the spots with the most on their plate.

In addition to the receiving aspect, they will be integral in the run game and on top of just about everything.

"You have to be able to do everything," Hurst said. "Obviously, besides quarterback, I think that tight end, in this offense, probably has the most on their plate with run game protection stuff and pass game stuff.

"You have to be on your P's and Q's," Hurst added. "From what I know of Andy and G-Ro [Greg Roman], there's not going to be specialized stuff, you have to be able to do everything. You have to be a well-rounded tight end in this offense."

But the room are well aware of what's expected of them and ready for the challenge as they understand in order to have a stellar run game, they will need to put on full effort.

"I kind of look at it like basketball. You set a screen to get the pass for the layup," Dissly said. "You have to put a little work in to get the reward."

Dissly later added: "I'm not working for me. It's way easier for me to go out there and play at a hard level for someone else than it is just for personal gain, I guess, is the way I kind of approach my style."

Adding in a good run game in the mix with Herbert under center, there could be big potential on that side of the ball.

"He's deadly," Hurst said. "You give him a run game, he is going to be able to throw it all over the place.

"I think that's the one thing, outside looking in, it's the one thing that he hasn't had, just a consistent run game," Hurst added. "We all see what he can do through the air. You pair up a run game with that, I think that the sky is the limit for this place."

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