By Cameron Buford, whatsgoodinsports.com

Since the abrupt season ending for the Chargers, they have maximized each portion of the off-season, all to ensure they do not finish this coming season short of the playoffs. Whether it be the signing of strategic free agents, the selection of young talent in the NFL draft, or the signing the undrafted free agents, the Chargers appear to be all-in on making the playoffs in the second season under the Brandon Staley. 

A couple of their high draft picks from last season were made available to the media. No doubt these Southern California newcomers will be focused on improving upon their rookie seasons to have a bigger impact on wins this season for the Bolts. With the second pick of their 2020 NFL Draft, the Chargers selected 5’ 10” Florida State Seminole defensive back Asante Samuels Jr.

These Southern California newcomers are looking to not only improve upon their rookie seasons, but they are searching for ways to have a bigger impact on the teams wins this season. With the second pick of their 2020 NFL Draft the Chargers selected Florida State Seminole defensive back Asante Samuels Jr. spoke with the media earlier this week as did classmate Joshua Palmer. 

5’ 10” 190-pound Samuel Jr. received the Fan Vote of Pepsi Zero Sugar Rookie of the Week in two of his first three weeks of his career, along with being named the NFL’s Defensive Rookie of the Month for September. He also became the first Charger since Joey Bosa in 2016 to accomplish this. Impressively, Samuel Jr. started each of the 12 games he played in his rookie season.

Among the many topics Samuel Jr. discuss with us during phase two of their off-season workouts was about last season and what he’s doing this off-season to get better at his craft. I was particularly curious to hear what his lasting memory of his rookie season was, and he wasted no time bringing up that fateful Raiders loss that kept them out the playoffs. 

“I’d say the last game of the season; the Raiders game. The biggest game of the season. There’s kind of a love/hate relationship with that game. We fought to the end and saw the potential of our team, but we still didn’t come out victorious on that game,” Samuel Jr. said when asked what stood out to him about last season. “Every time we’re working out, you just work out a little bit harder because you know.” He added. 

The feisty Samuel Jr. finished the year with two interceptions and 11 pass deflections. He even combined 43 tackles and one tackle for loss in his rookie campaign, despite missing five games due to injury. When comparing his readiness for this upcoming season versus how he felt coming into camp last season, Samuel Jr said it was like a day night difference. 

“I know the scheme inside and out. I’m just asking more advanced questions instead of asking the regular, basic questions for the scheme,” Samuel Jr. said when asked to compare this off-season to last year. “This is the first time that I’ve been in a system for two straight years since high school, so it kind of feels good,” He added.  

As he mentioned, this will be his second year in Staley’s scheme, yet he will have some new teammates competing for playing time in the secondary. The competition should make him a better player, which should in turn make their secondary better overall. It’s clear that coming into his second season, he has a better grasp of what to expect and what he needs to improve on this off-season. 

“Balance and body control. Just attacking the ball more in the air. Just getting the ball back to the team,” Samuel Jr. is what he told the assembled media he was looking to improve upon for this season. 

With their third-round pick in last season’s draft, the Chargers drafted the Tennessee Wide Receiver Joshua Palmer. The 6’ 1” 210-pound wide receiver caught 33 passes for 353 yards and four touchdowns in 2021. His 13 pass receptions for 137 yards and three scores in the fourth quarter, was good for the second-most touchdown grabs by a rookie wide receiver in the fourth quarter in 2021. Those three fourth-quarter touchdown receptions are the most by a Chargers rookie in the last 30 years.

“It felt good, I worked a lot last season just gaining trust from the quarterback and the coaches.” Palmer said about Herbert going to him in their “must-have-it moment” in their final game of the season. “Justin found me. I was open. It was just a trust thing that we had been working on, just being in the right spots at the right time,” Palmer added.

Critical to Palmers production will be his relationship with All-Pro quarterback Justin Herbert, when asked about his relationship Palmer was open about what their off-season has been like during his media availability session.  

“Just hanging out a lot more, throwing in the offseason and working on timing. I know when the ball is going to come out, he knows when I’m going to come out of my break. I know how fast it’s (ball) going to come, he knows how fast he’s going to throw it,” Palmer told us about his building relationship with Herbert. “Having one year under our belt and having a full offseason going into the new season is going to help a lot,” Palmer added.

We also talked to Palmer about who he has learned the most from on the team, he did not hesitate, in fact was excited to share his fondness on fellow receiver Mike Williams catching abilities. 

“Mike is probably one of the best acrobatic catchers I’ve ever seen. He’s probably also the best (at tracking the ball). He can catch the ball in traffic. He can catch the ball wherever it is. His catch radius is insane. He can catch it in any situation. The way he can track the ball is the best I’ve ever seen,” Palmer told us. “I just study how he does it. If you can catch it like that, you can pretty much catch anything,” Palmer said of admiration of Williams’ catching abilities. 

Coming into their sophomore season each of these guys will be called upon to have significant roles on this Chargers team. As compliments to all-pros these guys will get the opportunity to show they have a similar pedigree as those they look up too. What are your thoughts on these guys from the initial draft of this regime? Kindly share your thoughts on the draft by reaching out to me using Twitter @whatsgoodnsport or email me at voiceofthefans@outlook.com. I also encourage you to forward any suggestions on what topics or angles you would like to discuss about this version of the Los Angeles Chargers.

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