By Cameron Buford, whatsgoodinsports.com
As fans piled into the temporary stands this past week at Jack Hammett Sports Complex in Costa Mesa to see the second week of training camp for the Los Angeles Chargers, they saw veterans and rookies raise their stock on this team and in their careers. Coming off a disappointing season, the organization made it a point to build around their 2020 first-round draft pick and NFL’s Rookie of the Year Justin Herbert. The Chargers brass chooses to bring in a driven and energetic Head Coach to make the best of the opportunity he and his team have this season.
One focus of the Chargers front office was to protect Justin Herbert this season while simultaneously improving their running attack. So Chargers brought in former Green Bay Packers Center and 2020 Pro Bowler Corey Linsley and former Pittsburg Steeler Matt Feiler. In Linsley’s seven years in the NFL, he has started in every game he played in and allowed zero sacks in either of those 99 games. Similarly, Feiler hasn’t allowed any sacks in his five years as a Steeler. Additionally, Feiler started in 40 of a possible to 46 games.
When asked about the offensive line last week Coach Staley had this to say, “I think they’re coming along. This group is getting to know each other. We have a great advantage in that four out of those five have played a lot of football, just in the NFL. They can talk through a lot of these difficult issues that you have to solve every week and every day out here on the practice field. They have those inventories of experiences that, I think, can help you. I think that we can utilize that to our advantage. Then, you have a young guy who is capable of absorbing a lot. They can catch [T Rashawn Slater] up. That group is coming together. Our operation, with [C] Corey [Linsley] and [QB] Justin [Herbert], I’ve been pleased with that. In and out of the huddle, substitutions, snap count, cadence —Justin is starting to use his cadence as a weapon, with help from Corey. Those guys are getting better every time they go out.”
I also asked Coach Staley about the improvement he has seen in first-round draft pick Rashawn Slater, “More confident in how we target and identify our runs. In pass protection, who he is working with. As a left tackle, he’s working with [G] Matt Feiler all of the time. Those guys are getting used to one another in how they set. When they see this set of circumstances, this is how we’re going to play together. The offensive line is the truest, to me, example of team sports. Those guys have to work together every snap. It’s just that game within the game. Finding his way. Taking his strengths as a player and being able to apply them. A lot of the technique stuff that he’s working on with [Run Game Coordinator/Offensive Line] Frank [Smith] and [Assistant Offensive Line] Shaun [Sarrett] after practice, just getting more confidence in his technique. He’s been a lot of fun to coach. You can see that he’s gaining confidence in the same way that [CB] Asante [Samuel Jr.] is. Going against [OLB] Joey Bosa every day, you know that guy is about as good as it gets, so if you can block him, your chances are pretty good. ”What asked about the camaraderie of the offensive line Corey Linsley said, “Our offensive line room has a great bunch of dudes. I feel like the culture here, at least from what I’ve experienced, is phenomenal. Again, like I just said, communication is key. Being able to talk with your guys with someone not getting sensitive, myself included. If I need to change something that I’m doing because [G] Matt [Feiler] or Oday [Aboushi] have been doing it another way. I’m able to do that. That’s something that I have to work on —and the same thing with them. We’ve been able to do that. I feel like that’s when you really come together is by listening to each other. It sounds so simple, but we’ve all been playing for a pretty long time, except for [T] Rashawn [Slater]. We’ve all played a lot of ball so we’ve all kind of gotten, not set in our ways, but we’ve done things a certain way. For us to be able to move within that space of how to do it, that’s given me so much confidence in us.”
Linsley specifically said about rookie Rashawn Slater’s development during these initial days of training camp, “He’s been great. It’s early, but just like I said, I’ve been harping on it over and over. The biggest thing is communication. He’s been asking questions. I know he has been talking to [T] Bryan [Bulaga] a bunch about playing tackle. It’s a different game out there, you know? There is only so much communication that the interior guys can help with. He’s received all of that. He’s a great dude and works hard. I have nothing negative to say about the guy. He’s a great player.” When asked about building chemistry with this new offensive line group Matt Feiler told us, “We’ve jumped pretty quick. We all come from different kinds of backgrounds and different kinds of teams that we’ve played with in the past. We worked hard together through OTAs and we all have kind of managed to talk it out. We’re all on the same page now. I think we’ve been making strides and improvements each and every day. We look good. We feel good. We just have to clean up little things here and there, but that’s every offensive line.”
Feiler would also tell us about rookie offensive tackle Rashawn Slater, “He’s a hard worker. He’s got grit. He wants to learn. As a tackle —as an offensive lineman, really —that’s what you need to do. You need to learn from your mistakes and ask questions. He’s asking all the right questions. He’s picking up things a lot quicker than I thought he would. A lot faster than I did when I was a rookie. He’s taking big strides, and he’s looking good.”
After Saturday’s practice at SoFi Stadium, Coach Staley had this to say about their new pieces to the offensive line, “I said that the other day, but we feel confident in our first five guys. Those guys are all mature, and I think that they’re a group that is going to give us an advantage, when you have a veteran O-line, you’re going to be able to do more schematically. We’re going to try and use that to our advantage.”
During Justin Herbert’s record-breaking rookie season, he worked with a bunch of young receivers. Therefore, drafting a wide receiver in the third round was a surprise to me. However, Tennessee Volunteers Wide Receiver Josh Palmer has shined through both weeks of training camp. Here is what Justin Herbert said about Rookie WR Josh Palmer, ”He’s a tough and physical kid, he works hard, he’s always there after practice catching passes. I think Josh has done a great job of picking up the offense. He runs great routes. He’s very physical like I said and able to throw guys off of him. He’s one of those guys, kind of like [WR] Mike Williams where he can go up, get the ball and make some pretty impressive plays.” Coach Staley elaborated on the Wide Receiver group by saying, “Top to bottom, since I’ve been in the NFL, this is the deepest receiving corps that I’ve ever been a part of, five years in the league.” Coach Staley added, “Those are all quality players. They’re all showing what they can do. That competition is bringing out the best in them. I think that it’s going to be a strength of our team, that receiver group. Then the kicking game, is going to be a big factor about who emerges in that race for those roster spots. I know this we’re glad that we have all of them. They challenge us every day, defensively. I’m excited about how those guys are performing.”
With just about a week left in the Chargers 2021 Training Camp at Jack Hammett Sports Complex at 2750 Fairview Rd, Costa Mesa, CA 92626). Bolts Fans or not, you can attend Training Camp by pre-registering for their free tickets at chargers.com/camp to watch them in their third week of training camp. Come down and check out the development of this squad for yourself.
Where the team speaks confidently about this new union of lineman, Coach has earned my confidence in making these changes and additions work, so I look forward to see how this season plays out. Kindly share your thoughts on Coach Staley and how this team building approach will improve this franchise in the immediate future. You can reach out to me on Twitter @whatsgoodnsport or shoot me an email at email@example.com. I encourage you to forward any suggestions on what topics or angles about this new version of the Los Angeles Chargers you would like to see discussed this season.
Lastly, be sure to subscribe to our weekly “Voice of the Fans Podcast,” which is available for you on most podcasting platforms; Apple and Google Podcasts, including Spotify, TuneIn, and iHeart Radio. On our Podcast, we have passionate banter about everything NFL while addressing current NBA topics, in addition to discussing multiple issues in and around the world of sports. Thank you, as always, for spending time with me and Making Our Voice, Your Choice!