By Cameron Buford, whatsgoodinsports.com
The Los Angeles Chargers OTA’s (Organized Team Activities) have a completely different look for their players this season, as they get to know their new coaching staff and their expectations. As we mentioned last week, success on the field begins in these early stages as they look to learn their roles and responsibilities during these initial few days of on-field activities and combined with their league-mandated zoom meetings.
This week we will share with you the player’s side of this “get to know” process. From our communications with select players during their media availability sessions. Along with how they are managing this process and their initial thoughts and impressions of their new coaching staff.
Perennial Pro Bowl Wide Receiver Keenan Allen would say about new Head Coach Brandon Staley’s energy and presence. “I think it’s big. Especially having a new coach, you want to start to gain trust, and you want to believe in somebody you can trust and feel like you’re going to fight for. I think he’s giving us that. The way he talks, it’s just giving us the confidence that we can go out there and play for a coach who is going to lead us in the right direction.”
When asked about his initial impressions of Justin Herbert during these OTAs, Allen responded by saying, “Herbie is getting better, man. There was a moment out there today, [WR] Mike [Williams] was like, ‘Hey, Keenan, has he been working on his play-calling?’ He’s calling it so much smoother and more composed than he was last year. He’s going to get better with repetition, so I’m excited to see what he does this year.”
Allen also spoke about having Safety Derwin James back on the field, “That’s amazing. His energy, impact, and his skills on the field will speak for themselves. Hopefully, he can stay out there with us this year.”
When speaking to the media Safety Derwin James told us when asked about the ‘vibe’ of the new coaching staff, “Not that guys weren’t more focused in the past, because we were focused every year, but I just feel like this year, we’re locked in. We’re honing in right now on the little details and stuff. We’re still trying to gel and find our way and where everybody is going to be. We’re learning every day.
As long as we continue to learn every day, I feel like we’ll be where we need to be when it’s time to play football.” When asked about what makes him a good leader James said, “I try to tell people all of the time that I don’t just try to be a good leader, I just try to be myself. Sometimes, it just naturally comes off as a leader, as a person that wants things to be the right way. I try to come out, be myself, encourage, motivate and build people up around me. I feel like I feed off of other people’s energy, not just my energy.”
James was also asked to share his thoughts on the new defensive scheme, “I love it. I can’t wait. I can’t share too much about what we’re going to be doing, but as I said, I’m very excited about this scheme. Just know that we’re going to make a lot of plays.”
When second-year Linebacker Kenneth Murray was asked to share his thoughts on the new defensive scheme, he told us, “I think it’s a great first impression so far. We’ve had a chance to talk and to see exactly what [Head Coach Brando Staley] wants me to do and how I fit in, so I’m happy. I feel like his scheme fits 100 percent to my strengths, so I’m excited. I think it’s going to be a great year.”
When asked about his offseason Murray said, “It’s been different, to be honest. It didn’t go exactly the way that I planned it to go. I planned on having a regular offseason. But, I got the news that I needed to have surgery at the end of the season. That’s been the most different thing about it. I had the surgery. Other than that, it’s just been rehabbing. That’s pretty much been what my offseason has looked like, just rehabbing my shoulder and getting it back to 100 percent. Going through the things that I need to get that to 100 percent. Overall, it’s been pretty much just rehab, to be honest.”
Murray also shared with us some of his motivation and how his past sticks with him when he told us this story about riding his bike to practice while growing up in Houston, “It’s funny because if you go back to my high school, my bike is still chained up back by the practice field. Every time I go back home, I’m able to have that reminder of what it was like. It was the summertime and I was riding a bike on Highway 6. It was 105 degrees with the humidity and everything in Houston, so it was pretty hot. For me, it just reminds me of who I am. I’ve always been a self-starter. I’ve always been someone that never really wanted to depend on anyone.
If I did have to depend on someone, I hated it. I didn’t want to have to ask my parents to take me to practice because I wanted to be there an hour earlier than when they were starting because I wanted to put in extra work before and after practice. I wanted to be able to do that and not have to depend on someone to pick and up and drop me off. Those are the memories. Though, while I was riding that bike, I always told myself that whenever I get into that position, I would never have to ride a bike again. I’m fortunate enough to be in that position now.”
When Uchenna Nwosu was asked about playing a more significant role this year, with Melvin Ingram no longer on the team this season he responded by saying, “I’m approaching it the same way I do every season; just be ready to go, honestly. Working hard every day, making sure I have the defense down pat. Making sure that I know what I’m doing when I’m on the field so I don’t have any confusion.”
Additionally, Nwosu was asked about taking on a leadership role with this season, “Yeah, I do notice that. A lot of the guys coming up to me and saying, ‘What do you think of this? What’s going on here?’ Just like [former Chargers DE] Melvin [Ingram III] prepared me to be a leader. His time was finally up. He’s prepared me to be in this situation, so all the credit to Melvin. He’s taught me. I was lucky enough to have a guy like him be on this team, who’s played in this league for nine years and who had all of the experience that he has had. He was able to coach me and let me know how to teach guys along the way how to be a team leader.”
I also thought it would be interesting to know, how he had to adjust his game to fit into and excel in this new defensive scheme, “For the most part, it hasn’t changed. It hasn’t changed, overall, too much. Just a little more dropping. Dropping into coverage and playing a lot of the short flats, or whatever it may be. Overall, it’s not too big of a change.”
Uchenna says about the new vibe on the team, “I love the vibe! All the coaches are good; you can go up and talk to any of them at any time. They’re welcoming and I like it.”
During his media availability, 4th Year Wide Receiver Mike Williams says about his offseason training, “It’s been good. I’ve been working on everything, like any other offseason; conditioning, getting stronger, getting faster, getting better at routes. Just everything.”, went on to say about the new offensive system, “It gives everybody an opportunity to do what they’re best at. It allows everyone to make plays. That’s what we’re looking for, as receivers, to make plays, and this offense puts a lot of us in different positions to make plays. We’re looking forward to it.” Lastly, when asked about what makes a dominant receiver he stated, “Catch every ball thrown to him be a leader out there!”
It seems as if the players are accepting of and enjoying their time with the new coaching staff that Head Coach Brandon Staley has constructed. Though it is still June, no one is in pads and no games have been played to test these new philosophies. What are your initial thoughts of this revamped Chargers coaching staff and what would you like to know about this new team. Feel free to reach out to me on Twitter @whatsgoodnsport or forward any suggestions on which additional storylines you’d like to see read about to email@example.com.
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