An annual tradition, all 32 NFL head coaches meet with the media during breakfast at the NFL Spring League Meeting. On Tuesday, Mike McCoy was one of 16 AFC head coaches to hold court. Here are some of the top takeaways from the session.
- Melvin Gordon will be the first to admit his rookie season failed to live up to his own high expectations. He carried the rock 184 times for 641 yards, averaging 3.5 yards per carry without a touchdown in 14 games. Despite a disappointing first season, McCoy made it clear the Bolts firmly believe Gordon has a bright future and explained the reasons why the team is confident he will take a leap forward:
"He's going to be a better player. I think the big thing for any young player is you're going to learn from your early years. He's going to look back in a year or two and say, 'God, I wish I would have known that.' Whether it's the preparation part of it, the way you study film (or) playing with players. We need to have more consistency up front. We have to do a better job up front opening some holes. You watched the way we played up front and the way he ran earlier in the year, some of his best games were the first couple games of the year. And unfortunately we didn't play as well and block as well up front in the running game as we needed to….It's really going to be the guys up front doing a better job, and then him having that belief that if this is where the ball should go (to be more decisive). He's got to be more consistently making the right reads and cut also. Like all players, whatever you're playing, when you're not having as much success at times you are going to start questioning yourself a little bit and be a little hesitant at times. But he's a very talented player, and that's why he's going to have a great career."
- In order to get that improved play along the offensive line, the Chargers tabbed Jeff Davidson to revitalize the unit. San Diego's new offensive line coach most recently served in the same position with the Minnesota Vikings, but was previously the Panthers offensive coordinator when McCoy served as QB coach in Carolina. As such, McCoy knows firsthand what Davidson brings to the table:
"Having spent the time together in Carolina, we are a step ahead of the game now. Bringing in a new coach, sometimes it's going to take him some time to adjust to what we want to do here. But he and I have worked together for a couple years, and understand how we want to play the game up front. He was the coordinator obviously at the time, so we have a good understanding. The good thing is with him coming in (is) a lot of the things are the same. We changed a couple things with terminology and things like that, but really the philosophy of how we want to run the ball hasn't changed. As a staff, now with the new guys here, it's building our system that best fits our players. It's not going to be just this one scheme; we're going to build up everything. So I think with the knowledge he has from working in a number of good places and the success he's had wherever he's been is he will do whatever our players do best."
- The Chargers released Donald Butler largely due to Denzel Perryman's emergence down the stretch in 2015. The second round pick made a major impact during his rookie year with 95 tackles (second most on the team), including 79 over the last seven games once he became a starter. McCoy explained the nature in which Perryman changes the defense, and what he wants to see out of him in his second year:
"Continue to improve. You saw what our defense did once we made that change last year and put him in there. He's a playmaker, very instinctive, loves the game and works extremely hard. He fought through a little through (last year's) offseason program, but once he got healthy, we put him in there and you really saw our defense take off."
- When the Chargers signed Casey Hayward to a three-year deal, they added a versatile and productive cornerback who totaled 168 tackles, 35 passes defended, nine interceptions and one pick-six over four years with the Green Bay Packers. McCoy detailed the reasons the Bolts targeted the 26-year old, and chief among them was Hayward's ability to play multiple roles in the secondary:
"Looking at where we needed to improve our football team and what we think we needed to do to help the defense moving forward, his position flexibility of being able to play outside and inside. Certain games he obviously played more inside in the slot as a nickel. Really the position flexibility (was big). He was a guy we were targeting to go after, so it will be a good addition to our football team. One big thing we always like to talk about really in every position is having that flexibility. It does wonders for your football team. There are going to be certain players you want to match certain guys up with on the back end, and say, 'Hey, we've got Jason Verrett on one side, but what do we want to do on the other side? Is there a guy who can play against a certain type of receiver inside or want to keep him outside?' So the position flexibility is big for us."
- Brandon Mebane is another new defensive player in the fold for 2016 as San Diego inked the nose tackle to a three-year deal. After nine years as a key member of a stout Seattle Seahawks defense, McCoy outlined how he expects the 6-1, 311-pound Mebane to be an anchor up front for the Bolts:
"We brought him in quickly in the free agent process, (and after) having dinner with him and talking the next day at the facility, (we told him) what we want him to do. His leadership role on the defensive line up there, and I think he'll be a great addition to play next to Corey (Liuget). He's a guy who does it all. He can get after the quarterback, a run stopper, his leadership ability he has and what he's done. Talking with (Seattle GM) John Schneider, Coach (Pete) Carroll and everybody here, (they gave him) great reviews with the positive things they said about him and what he did for that organization for a long time….He'll be the nose for us and have the ability to play as a shade (to) get up field and get after the quarterback. We're really excited to have him."
- On the other side of the ball, Travis Benjamin was added to inject speed and playmaking ability into the offense. Not only is he one of the game's best deep threats, but Benjamin ranked third in the league as a punt returner in 2015. As a result, McCoy expects him to make a major impact in various phases of the game with his speed:
"An explosive player. A player that you throw a hitch route (or) throw him a slant and he can take it to the house every single play. Really the speed brings another element to our football team. Talking to Philip (Rivers) every once in a while when he walks by the office, he's already got his ideas with what he wants to do. At the right time this offseason program, we'll start putting a package together. The team will (still) change over the next couple weeks when we add a couple pieces through the draft. We're constantly looking to improve our football team. But we're really excited for the speed and playmaking ability that he brings. An added dimension and another guy to play with."
- While the Chargers added four new players, they also brought back seven of their own pending free agents in Antonio Gates, Joe Barksdale, Kellen Clemens, Dontrelle Inman, Kenny Wiggins, Damion Square and Chris Hairston while also placing a second-round tender on Jahleel Addae. Gates is obviously the biggest name, and while McCoy noted it was important to bring each of those players back, he expounded upon why the tight end is an integral figure in America's Finest City:
"Not only (are we excited) about the guys we brought from other football teams, but re-signing our own players. Getting someone like Antonio Gates back is great. He didn't want to be anywhere else, and we understood that it was critical for us to get him back (with) the Hall of Famer player that he is. What he means to our football team, not only on the field but off the field the great guy he is. The way he's worked to this point in time in his career, and really what he brings as a leader."