By Cameron Buford, Whatsgoodinsports.com
The Los Angeles Chargers would have the veterans, free agents, and rookies dress and take the field for the first time during their Organized Team Activities on Monday. For the first time, rookies get a chance to get suited and impress the veterans, coaches, and one another. One player referred to Organized Team Activities as being like the first day on the job or the first day of school for others. However you see it, this is when the team building starts, and the unity begins.
Though full pads aren’t on yet, the beginning of OTA’s signifies the second season of the Brandon Staley era. From the free-agent acquisitions of guys like edge rusher Khalil Mack and cornerback J.C. Jackson to the recent draft picks of guard Zion Johnson and running back Isaiah Spiller, they are getting closer to the image of the team Staley is seeking to build. With this additional talent, they are much better equipped to control the line of scrimmage and provide multiple coverage schemes on the back end this season.
“Things aren’t happening to me for the first time anymore. I think that I’m just in a lot better rhythm,” Staley said when discussing how his personal development throughout the off-season. “I’m able to communicate even more clearly. Communication is your number one role as a leader,” Staley continued about his growth and how this will improve this coming season, starting with the OTA’s.
“In the springtime, you don’t have shoulder pads on, you’re not playing full speed, contact, tackle, blocking, full-speed to the ground, so what you have to focus on are assignments, techniques, and effort,” Staley pointed out when asked about their short-term goals of the OTA’s. “I can’t measure anyone’s toughness right now. I can’t measure someone’s physicality right now, or their discipline, because we’re not playing football. But what we can measure are those three things that I’m talking about.”
“We want Derwin to be the signal-caller of our defense because we feel like he is the leader of our defense. We feel like the way he plays, where he plays — whether he’s playing safety, Star or Money — he’s in the middle of the defense.” An emphatic Staley said about utilizing all-pro safety Derwin James. “He never leaves the field. We think that that’s important. We think that can be an advantage.”
“Man, you know that I don’t care. I’m a football player! You know that,” an excited James responded when asked about his preference of positions to play. “I’m comfortable in the box; I don’t mind it. Being able to move around, whether it’s star, nickel, linebacker, or even in the deep part. It’s just going to make our team that much stronger.”
“It feels good. I feel like I had my first day of school outfit on, my new jersey,” James said beaming with as much excitement one can have after an NFL practice. “For me, it felt good. I’m excited. Some of the guys were excited to be out here for the first time.”
Where James is one of the key leaders on the team, and the defense for sure. The team’s ultimate success will likely come on the arm of Justin Herbert. The third-year quarterback is coming off a pro bowl season, and the team has invested in more protection and weapons for him to work with this season.
“I think it’s great team building to have everyone together and have that camaraderie of being together and knowing each other. I think that helps on the field,” Herbert said when asked about players showing up to the voluntary portions of the off-season program. “When things get tough, whether it’s the fourth quarter or fourth down, knowing the guy next to you.”
“Just be yourself. Be genuine and be authentic with everyone and get to know everyone,” Herbert said about approaching his leadership role on the team. “We’ve done a great job of being in the weight room, in the film room, the meeting room, and just getting to know each other. So, when that does come, the fourth down, fourth quarter or whatever it is, we’re able to trust each other.”
“I think we have to focus on getting better. As long as we’re doing everything that we can as best as we can, you can’t do too much more than that,” Herbert said in regards to managing expectations for this season. “We’re going to do everything that we can to win every game. In the NFL, that’s tough. We have to put ourselves in a position to win each week, whether that’s preparation, film, and all that goes into it, so we, have a chance to win on Sundays.”
Bolts fans should be confident in the development of this team during the off-season. They have taken the proper steps to improve upon last season’s disappointing results. Their coaching staff appears to be providing the players with the tools and personnel to get better individually and collectively. Now it’s time for the collective to execute their goals.
Kindly share your thoughts on the Charger’s off-season, as it won’t be long now before these guys are playing meaningful games as they try to get rid of the bad taste in their mouths from the way they finished the year last season. Reach out to me on Twitter @whatsgoodnsport or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.