On the backdrop of the country remembering tragic terrorist attacks that scared us Americans twenty years ago, this was one of the most significantly impacted cities. The Los Angeles Chargers would kick off their season in Washington D.C. against the Washington Football Team. For the second time in as many seasons, the NFL’s reigning Rookie of the Year, Justin Herbert, would have to learn a new offense just as he did multiple times in college. While the Chargers’ new head coach Brandon Staley would be beginning his tenure as head coach, seeking to redirect the franchise trajectory. All while our country mourns the loss of the lives of those who passed in those attacks and celebrates the first responders who assisted so many by sacrificing their lives this past weekend
All through training camp, Coach Brandon Staley has brought young, fresh energy to the organization. His youthful energy has been infectious, and his youth has enabled him to be more relatable to the players on this team, who have been very responsive to his new strategies and teachings. Coach Staley brought in a mixture of experienced coaches with those who have recently played in the league, which has infused the team with a sense of confidence and understanding. His strategy of explaining why they are making their strategic decisions have also created buy-in among one of the most talented teams in the league.
When describing how coach Brandon Staley’s, coaching philosophy, was communicated to the team Super Bowl Champion and two-time Pro Bowler defensive tackle Linval Joseph would say. “This is the best it’s been explained (to me). It keeps you more involved, and it makes you love what you’re doing versus just doing it. It’s bringing the team together, by the way, he’s doing it.”
All-Pro Safety Derwin James would add, “Coach Staley, very open. He brings us his plan; he listens to us. He asks how we see it too, and we are constantly communicating. That’s what makes him so great as a coach.” James would also say about this philosophy, “it makes me that much more confident! We’re comfortable doing, and he’s comfortable doing it if everybody is comfortable it makes for a better outcome.”
Before the season would get underway, I wanted to know how Coach Staley would classify as a successful season; Coach Staley would define it this way, “Us establishing a competitive standard of performance. Where we go out, and we will compete, the way we’re capable of competing in all three phases of the game; I think that’s big when you’re starting a program: establish your way of playing. You have to start there before you get into winning and losing; We have a good team, and we have the type of team that can compete against anybody that we play against and beat anybody that we play. For me, I want to be a deep team. That’s important to me this season, to be a deep team, where all three phases of the game can go into any environment and play the game nose-to-nose.”
When asked about how aggressive he would likely be in the coming season, Coach Staley would confidently state, “I’m a big fan of trusting our quarterback, of putting the ball in his hands and putting pressure on the defense. I believe in that. From a strategic standpoint, there are a lot of reasons why. Fear is not going to be a motivator for us, one that we make decisions by. I like where we’re at right now. I trust our players a lot. When you have a quarterback like ours, and you have skill players like ours, you have a line like ours, you’re going to err on putting pressure on the other team.”
All of their work from Mini-Camp and through Training Camp would be tested when they travel to Washington D.C. to play last season’s NFC East Division Champion on their home field. During the off-season, the Chargers focused on improving the offensive line. These new changes would be under scrutiny right away in their match-up against the Washington Football Team, which had one of the most formidable defensive lines in the National Football League last season. Not only did they find themselves in a tight game against the Football Team, but they would also have a chance to test their new additions.
When asked about how Herbert responded to his tutelage of his background as a defensive coach this off-season, Coach Staley mentioned. “He has learned so much about his game, fundamentally, and then learning a new offense. Then defensively, I think that he is just more aware of what is out there. I think so much, as a young quarterback, is being able to identify what is on the other side of the football.”Coach Staley would add about Herbert, “he’s a perfectionist. He knows that he has to learn more. He doesn’t ever feel like he has it all figured out. That’s why he’s going to be successful.”
For the first time since 2000, the Chargers scored on their first drive of the season, as Austin Ekeler finished off their initial 10-play, 75-yard drive with a 3-yard touchdown. Herbert’s growth manifested itself in the fourth quarter at FedEx Field as the Chargers went to close out the game. In those critical moments, the strong-armed quarterback would convert four consecutive 3rd downs to seal the win with the confidence and trust that Coach Staley spoke of previously. In total, the Chargers would convert 14 third downs in the game, the most by any team in a game since 2011.
Herbert ended the game passing for over 300 yards for the ninth time of his short. He now is one 300-yard passing game shy of tying Patrick Mahomes for the most by any player in their first two seasons in the NFL. All-Pro Wide Receiver Keenan Allen topped 100 receiving yards for the 28th time in his career. Marking, his fourth 100-yard performance in a season opener. This ties Allen for the second-most 100-yard receiving games in season openers since 2013 when he entered the NFL. James would also suit up and play a regular-season game for the first time since 2019, and having him back on that Chargers defense was an emotional lift for them and the team as a whole.
Coach Staley would mention in the locker room post-game that it was a dream of his to pass out game balls, as he did to Herbert, Allen, and James. However, in a sentimental moment, Justin Herbert gave Coach Staley a game ball. When asked if he dreamt of that moment, Staley humbly replied, “No, I don’t think that my dreams are really about me. It was more just about our players, an amazing moment. I think that it’s special when your players give you one. That means that the most to me when our starting quarterback was able to give me one. That means a lot, coming from him. A dream come true that way. Being a coach, it’s never about yourself; it’s about your guys. I was proud to give those three game balls because those guys were certainly deserving.”
Kindly share your thoughts on what impact coach Staley will have on these Chargers and what you think their ceiling might be for this upcoming season. 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.
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