By Cameron Buford, whatsgoodinsports.com
Chargers Weekly- Meet Offensive Tackle Rashawn Slater
On a near-perfect Friday in Costa Mesa, California. A couple of days before the Los Angeles Chargers were to play the New England Patriots at SoFi Stadium. I sat down with Slater to discuss his young NFL career, his thoughts on fellow weight room monster Austin Ekeler and the recent comparisons to NFL great Hall of Fames tackles. He and I sat outside the team facility on one of the benches of the scenic park setting they have in place.
For those unaware, the Chargers selected, with the number #13th pick of the recent NFL draft, the 6’4” 305-pound Offensive Tackle, Rashawn Slater, out of Northwestern. Though this Sugar Land, Texas native opted out of his senior season, he was named to the 2020 Preseason First-Team All-Big Ten, including the 2020 Pre-season All-America team. Having started 37 of the 38 games he played in at Northwestern.
Because Slater opted out of his opting out of his fourth season at Northwestern, I was very much interested in how the Chargers would view this situation. On a zoom conference, after the draft, GM Tom Telesco said, “We did a lot of work on him throughout the whole process, and he’s a perfect fit for us.” Head Coach Brandon Staley added, “We feel like he’s a natural out there, we feel like he has rare athleticism to kick to these wide rushers.”
When asked what separates him from the other Offensive Tackles in the draft, Slater responded confidently, “I’m a technician, I’m consistent. I feel like the best thing that you can be, as an offensive lineman, is consistent, and I’m the most consistent offensive lineman in this draft. I owe that to my technique, my understanding of the game, and just my work ethic.”
“I have the privilege of coming in playing with four veteran O-lineman next to me. Every single one of them I’ve heard from; they were intentional about helping me with my technique and the way I see things, that was a huge impact on me.” Slater added, “Going against Joey (Bosa) was tremendous! Not only for my technique getting better but for the mental part; I’m going against Joey (Bosa), surely I can go into a game and go against anyone.” Slater said as we sat and chopped it up outside the team facility, who he credits for making him even better as a rookie.
In his NFL debut Slater took on an old foe in EDGE Rusher Chase Young of the Washington Football Team, not only was everyone eager to see the matchup of the two BIG 10 standouts. After the Chargers won that game, everyone was eager to hear what coach Staley thought of Slater’s initial game of his career, “He has outstanding movement for the position. He can unlock and create a lot of power from the ground. He’s got strong hands. Also, if he’s in a disadvantaged position, he can fix it sometimes where a lot of people can’t. He has that lower body movement, power, and strong hands. When you factor that in with his brain and how smart he is, he can just truly play the game under control and with a lot of power and velocity. He had a good understanding of the game-plan. I was proud of the way he started the game. I feel like if you get off to a good start — just like any player, offensive tackle isn’t any different — you can get yourself into a rhythm early. That’s going to create confidence, the rest of the way. I felt like he did a really good job in the first series of creating a rhythm and confidence for himself.” Staley would say post-game.
A few days later, offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi would have this to say about Slater’s debut, “I think that it says a lot. We had high expectations for him, but it’s good to see it validated. Your comment about how you know what you’re getting when you draft him, you’re always hoping — we thought that we knew — so just the combination of his talent and his character makes that margin of error a lot smaller. I remember the first day that he was out in the field back in the spring and [Run Game Coordinator/Offensive Line Coach] Frank [Smith] coming over and saying, ‘Man, this kid is something else.’ He kind of popped right away. It’s good when your draft picks work like that. It’s certainly a credit to our scouting staff. They’ve done a good job for a number of years with those early draft picks. It was fun to see him perform like that.”
Weeks later, Slater’s legend would take another giant step when during the game he told his teammates don’t help me by chip-blocking my guy, most of this game he was lined up against another All-Pro Edge Rusher and potential defensive player of the year candidate Myles Garrett, of the Cleveland Browns. Slater described to me what he said to his teammates, “A chip (block) can be helpful if you see it’s coming, but if it comes from the backfield and you don’t know it’s coming; that could help the defender because it knocks him off the block if you don’t know it’s coming. So that was just the thing, where I was like, ‘Hey guys, I appreciate the help, but if I don’t know it’s coming, it actually does more harm than good.’”
Coach Staley pointed out a couple of things about Slater’s request, “I think that says a couple of things. Number one, what we’ve tried too is to create real trust and communication with our guys, that they can speak up and have a voice to express themselves. Rashawn just felt like, ‘Hey, I can block this guy. I can block this guy man-to-man.’ It says two things that stand out to me — maybe more — but the two things are the trust in the communication to talk to not only Austin [Ekeler], but our offensive coaching staff, and then, number two, the confidence that he has in his ability. I think what you’re seeing is a player that is earning the confidence to say that because he has a lot of belief in his game. He has a really good plan of attack versus this pass rusher. We all know [Browns DE] Myles [Garrett] is a defensive player of the year candidate, one of the top rushers in the league, one of the top defensive players in the league. Those are all encouraging signs, to me, both of those things. I’m excited that he feels that way and I’m excited that we were able to get that done for him because that’s what you — you want your players put in positions where they can succeed, and he felt like that was going to be the best position for him to be successful.”
Joe Lombardi, the offensive coordinator, shared these thoughts on this unique situation. “There are a couple of things there. Technically speaking, there are times where the tackle knows that he’s getting help, like, ‘Hey, we’re putting a tight end there, or a running back, and he’s going to chip for you.’ You know that it’s coming, so you can have a set plan to plan for that. I’m sure that he still loves those. Sometimes, though, the back has protection, then if you’re free, chip on the way out. As a tackle, you don’t necessarily know that that’s coming. He’s setting, thinking that he’s on his own, and then, all of a sudden, the guy gets hit, and he’s like, ‘I didn’t know that was about to happen.’ I think that was more of, ‘Man, I have a plan to block this guy. I’m good enough to block him. Don’t ruin anything because I’ve got it.’ But, if we put Jared [Cook] right next to him and say, ‘Hey, we’re going to chip this end, and then he’s going to release on a route,’ I’m sure that he’s still happy with that.”
Because Rashawn Slater’s father was a Professional basketball player, he would play some basketball growing up. He also played baseball, soccer and he tried some Taekwondo. So, staying active has always been important. That made him sit out his final year at Northwestern, even that more surprising. I had to ask about that decision, and it made sense when he said, “honestly that year for me, that decision; sounds cliché and corny, but was like a business decision. I knew for me to get a return out it of it, I had to get a lot better during that year. That’s how I approached it. I need to make sure everything I’m doing, as far as my recovery, my workouts, nutrition, in becoming a better player than is I just player another year.”
When asked about his biggest takeaway from his time at Northwestern Slater said, “Northwestern is a program that prides itself in being physical, smart, and disciplined. I feel that molded me into the way I approach the game. You treat practice like a game.”
When asked if he worked out with known workout warrior Austin Ekeler, He jokingly said, “here yeah; Never like a private workout with him.” Knowing that Slater is a beast in the weight room himself, I asked him if he planned on challenging him? Slater said, “they call him pound-for-pound for a reason. He’d smoke me.”
Shortly before my sit down with Rashawn Slater, I interviewed Shawne Merriman. Knowing I was going to sit down with Slater later that day, I asked Shawne about his thoughts of Rashawn, and he proceeded to bring up names like Willie Roaf, Orland Pace, and Walter Jones. When I asked Rashawn Slater if he was familiar with those guys and what were his thoughts about this comparison, after laughing at me, he responded modestly when said, “Obviously, it’s a tremendous honor! But I just got to focus on beating the (New England) Patriots! Maybe one day I’ll earn that recognition, but until then it’s one day at a time.” When I told him he was being modest, Slater responded sharply by telling me, “That’s how I feel; the second you let something go to your head, is the second you lose it all.”
Slater says I wasn’t playing football, “I’d wish that I would’ve majored in Physics, and I’d be trying to get into NASA. I love space and physics.” When asked if he would pursue a career in physics after his NFL career, Slater said, “like the NFL, you have to start when you are super young to have a shot.”
When asked, Slater says if I weren’t playing football, “I’d wish that I would’ve majored in Physics, and I’d be trying to get into NASA. I love space and physics.” I followed up by asking him if he would pursue a career in physics after his NFL career, Slater said, “like the NFL, you have to start when you are super young to have a shot.”
As we know, these Chargers are a talented team, and I thought it would be cool to hear his description of some of the players he plays with. So, I proposed playing a name association game with him, where I would mention a player’s name, and he would tell me the first thing that came to his mind describing his teammates;
Derwin James- “Baller!”
Joey Bosa- “Freak!”
Linval Joseph- “Hulk!”
Justin Herbert- “Legend!”
Keenan Allen- “Beast!”
Austin Ekeler- “Pound-for-pound”
It was a pleasure to sit down with Rashawn Slater. His intelligence was just as impressive as his modesty! Based on what we’ve seen from him early in his career, we all have reason to believe he will be around for years to come in the NFL and Herbert’s backside appears to be just as safe. Share your thoughts on Slater’s young career and what impact he will have on this Chargers team. Feel free to reach out to me on Twitter @whatsgoodnsport or shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. I encourage you to forward any suggestions on what topics, angles, or players on this Los Angeles Chargers team you would like to read about this season.
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