COSTA MESA, CA (News4usonline) – So the Los Angeles Chargers are doing things a bit differently than they have been for the past four years. After four years under the Anthony Lynn regime, the Chargers have banked their future on a first-time head coach and a second-year quarterback.
So far, the marriage has been pretty good with a lot of swooning and praising from coaches and players alike about how they are preparing for the 2021 NFL season.
The two-day minicamp session in which the Chargers completed their spring/summer work until training camp flexes in the upcoming season, beginning in late July, was more about getting more familiar with one another as well as the playbook.
Chargers head coach Brandon Staley said as much at the conclusion of the team’s minicamp session.
“I was just really thankful. I’m thankful for the guys,” Staley said. “I really appreciated their performance in this offseason program. I really thought that we showed that we’re a team. Any time that you’re joining up with new people, that’s a process to earn their trust. You can’t respect somebody before you trust them.
“What really goes into our program is relationships and competition,” Staley continued. “In a relationship, it’s a lot easier to respect someone from afar. I didn’t know [WR] Keenan Allen, but, man, I respected his game from afar. It’s a far different thing to trust one another. That took some time. We certainly proved that this offseason, as you guys are aware. With all of the challenges off of the field, us coming together, designing an offseason program that we really feel works for us, doing that together, I feel like we got off to a good start.”
Speaking of a good start, quarterback Justin Herbert is coming off a sensational rookie campaign in which he was picked as the NFL’s Offensive Rookie of the Year.
In his debut season, all Herbert did was complete 66 percent of his passes for 4,336 yards and 31 touchdowns against just 10 interceptions, and established himself as the Chargers franchise quarterback.
To cap off his Cinderella season, Herbert broke NFL rookie records of completions in a season (396) and most TDs (31) by a novice signal-caller. Did we mention he’s in the Pro Football Hall of Fame? Thanks to his seven-game streak in which he threw for two touchdowns or more, Herbert’s No. 10 jersey has a place sitting in the Canton, Ohio museum. That’s some pretty neat stuff.
But even with the mountain of success that he had during his first season, Herbert, ever the humble spokesperson, said there are multiple areas in his game in which he feels he can improve.
“I think there’s a ton,” Herbert said. “I think defensive recognition is huge and being able to see the safety rotation, where the pressure is coming from and continuing to get out of a bad play into a good play, and having a complete understanding of the offense.
“I think that all kind of ties together,” Herbert also stated. “I also think drops and footwork can always get better. Your feel in the pocket can get better. I was talking to [T] Bryan Bulaga the other day about stepping up and having a comfortable pocket, so he’s able to push the ends around me and [I’m] able to step up and make the throw. There’s a lot. We’ve been working on that a lot. It has been going really well so far.”
As the new leader of the Chargers, there is no doubt that having Herbert as his leading man in the most important position on the football field is something that Staley likes. A lot.
“What stands out to me is that he has a real presence on the field,” Staley said. “That’s what you’re looking for in a franchise quarterback; does he have that command presence on the field? Certainly, he has the stature, but how his teammates view him, how his coaches view him, how do people in sports performance, video, and equipment view him? He certainly has earned the respect of those people.
“I think that’s something that’s really important, before you start getting to the physical part,” Staley continued. “When you do get to the physical part, this guy is huge and really athletic. He has the arm strength. This guy can really rip it. He can access any part of the field, but he can also layer his ball. He has that ability to shoot the shot that needs to be shot. That’s something that I’ve really been impressed with.”
Staley is not the only person impressed by what they see and hear. Chargers players appear to have bought into the message that Staley is preaching to them. Yes, it’s early in the game, but the vibe has been all positive.
During a press conference with media members, edge rusher Joey Bosa sounded as if he had already joined the fan club as he talked about his initial meeting with Staley.
“Just the intro and that we were excited to get going,” Bosa said. “It’s a position that he has been working really hard for. Now, he gets to be the head guy and run things exactly how he wants to. He wanted us to know how confident he is in us as players and how much he trusts us. He’s really open to talking and suggestions. It’s a great relationship that he’s building so far.”
The former defensive coordinator of the No.1 defense in the entire NFL with the Los Angeles Rams, Staley has been able to generate a newfound level of excitement within the organization. Herbert may have a deeper appreciation for Staley than anyone else.
It could be that instead of fawning over him and his star potential, Staley has challenged Herbert in practice with varying looks that his defense has thrown at the young quarterback.
“He’s done a great job of that,” Herbert said. “All of the defensive looks that they have — they hold their disguise so well and they’re always showing [coverage] shell. It puts the offense in a tough position because everything looks the same and you’re not really able to pick up where the pressure is coming from, where to slide to and who to point to. Just seeing all of that, it doesn’t get much more complicated than that, so I have really appreciated that.”
Featured Image Caption: June 16, 2021-Los Angeles Chargers defensive back Nasir Adderley (24) and rookie wide receiver Josh Palmer (5) go at each other on the second day on minicamp. Photo credit: Dennis J. Freeman/News4usonline
Dennis is the editor and publisher of News4usonline. He covers the NFL, NBA, MLB, racial and social justice, civil rights, and HBCUs. Dennis earned a journalism degree from “The Mecca” aka Howard University. “I write on what I am passionate about.”