Each week, offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt and defensive coordinator Gus Bradley address the media. On Thursday, the coordinators looked ahead to Sunday's game in Detroit.
State of the Offense
Backfield Balance: Ekeler and JJ
Whisenhunt was impressed with running backs Austin Ekeler and Justin Jackson in Week 1. When asked about balancing snaps between the two backs, Whisenhunt said he was satisfied with the "mix" of playing time.
“JJ [Justin Jackson] probably could have played a little bit more, but the big thing is that I think Austin [Ekeler] got just about the right amount,” Whisenhunt said. “If he would have gotten five, six, seven less plays, that would have been okay, too. I think that’s a hard thing to do for those guys, but they’re handling that situation really well.”
In addition to Ekeler’s 96 receiving yards, the pair combined for 115 yards rushing against the Colts and will be looking to produce similar results this Sunday against the Lions.
Green and Culkin to Step Up at Tight End
“Well, Virg stepped up [last year], Whisenhunt said. “We expect Virg to step up, and Culkin had a really good camp. We’ll miss Hunter, but we expect some guys to step up.”
Green and Culkin have been in this situation before, as Henry missed the entirety of the 2018 regular season due to injury.
“Every week I prepare as if I’m a starter, so things happen," Green said. "A guy can get tired and you get thrown in out of nowhere."
O-Line vs. Lions Defense
Chargers running backs and tight ends will be going up against a Lions defense that limited the Cardinals to 100 total yards in the first three quarters of last week’s game. Lions head coach Matt Patricia, whose previous coaching stint came as the New England Patriots’ defensive coordinator, and DE Trey Flowers present a front seven Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn described as "salty."
Whisenhunt explained whether the Chargers’ experience facing Patricia’s defensive schemes in New England will be useful knowledge in facing the Lions.
“You can see similarities, but I think a lot of it is just dependent on your players and how long they’ve been in your system,” Whisenhunt said. “I think Coach Patricia does a great job with those guys. There are elements of it, but they do their own thing.”
State of the Defense
Defense "Really Focused This Week"
Bradley said he expects his defensive players to be locked in after not playing to their potential in a Week 1 victory over the Colts.
“As a defense, we didn’t feel like we played a full, 60-minute game up to our standard,” Bradley said. “There is still a feeling that we weren’t at our best. That’s a heavy feeling with our defensive guys right now.”
The defensive coordinator, in his third season with the Chargers, said that he knows his defense is motivated.
“That’s not who we are,” Bradley added. “We have to get this right. Let’s get our focus (and) our attention even [higher].”
Defending TE T.J. Hockenson
Bradley commented on Lions rookie TE T.J. Hockenson, saying he "jumps out” and is “very athletic.”
“He can catch all of the balls that we saw in preseason and the regular season,” Bradley said. “We knew when he was coming out [of the University of Iowa] how talented he was when just talking to some of our offensive coaches. Then, to see him perform like he did...he’s that caliber.”
Hockenson had six receptions for 131 yards receiving and a touchdown in his NFL debut last week in Arizona.
Bradley said the key to defending Hockenson is “building awareness to where he is” on the field.
Tillery will be a "Pretty Good Player for Us"
Bradley described first-round draft pick DT Jerry Tillery as a “work in progress,” who “showed flashes of doing some good things and then some of inexperience.”
The defensive coordinator compared Tillery’s trajectory to that of safety Derwin James’ last season.
“It was like, ‘Okay, let’s stay with him and let him grow.’" Bradley said. "The more and more reps, the more he plays, he’ll develop to be a pretty good player for us."
He added that the coaching staff has “no issues putting [Tillery] in there and letting him play.”
Tillery played 21 defensive snaps, one-third of the defense's time on the field against the Colts and recorded his first career NFL tackle.