“Chargers Coach–Sounds Off”—————
The NFL season kicks into gear next Thursday and then on the weekend.
The Chargers went (0-3) in the preseason, playing none of their starters, but finding out answers on young draft picks and backup players.
Coach Brandon Staley went (9-8) last season but saw his team fade in the back half of the schedule.
He has rebuilt the defense, added backup people on offense, and is ready to go.
He spoke about preseason on Thursday before giving his tam a final weekend off before game preparation for the /Raiders opener begins:
HEAD COACH BRANDON STALEY
On the signing of RB Sony Michel:
“He fit right in yesterday. Got in there and had a bunch of carries in the practice. That’s how the NFL is, it never ceases to amaze me, and that’s why I love the NFL. He fit right in with us yesterday. He and his fiancé just had a baby recently, so there’s a lot going on with the Michels. We’re certainly happy to have him. We see a complete runner. I’ve known about this guy since he was in the eighth grade playing varsity football at American Heritage [School] down in Plantation [Fla.], Broward County, Florida. I’ve known about him since he was a 14-year-old kid. Just really respect the resumé. He’s a complete runner, even going all of the way back to Georgia, him and [Browns RB] Nick Chubb teaming up. I faced him when he was with New England, and, certainly, joining up with those guys last year and helping them win a Super Bowl. Just a very complete back. We’re excited to have him.
On how he knew about Michel ‘since he was in eighth grade’:
“I recruited South Florida when I was in college. He’s kind of a legend down there. He was an eighth grader that played on the varsity. His reputation precedes him down there.”
On C Corey Linsley not participating in practice the last two days:
“Just a couple of veteran days there. He’ll be out at practice today. Taking care of him more than anything, getting him some rest. Nothing to be concerned about.”
On the running back repetition distribution:
“We have to see how it’s going to go. With [RBs] Josh [Kelley] and Isaiah [Spiller], we know how those guys have played for us this preseason. I’ve commented on the improvement of Josh in a big way, in being a core contributor for us on special teams. Then, I think Isaiah was able to show a lot of good things in the preseason. Just had the ankle, but we have him out at practice now. Just felt like it would be a move that would really help solidify our running back corps. I think that yesterday was a good practice for him to fit right in and for our guys to see that. He’s been working. Very pleased with how that practice went yesterday for Sony [Michel] and for that running back group.”
On if Spiller is ‘back to 100 percent’:
“He’s getting close. He felt, certainly, good enough to be out there at practice. Definitely trending in the right direction. Hopefully, after today, get the long weekend off, and then be ready to go next week.”
On Michel ‘playing complementary’ to RB Austin Ekeler:
“Yeah, I think you saw Sony do that in New England with [former Patriots RB] James White. James White had a lot of the stuff that Austin has. James White was a heck of a back, a lot of respect for him. I know that he just retired, so much respect. Glad that we don’t have to cover him anymore [laughter]. I see similar complementary styles. The thing about Sony is that he’s a three-down back. He can run any can fit any type of run style; tight zone, wide zone, gap scheme, shotgun running under center. A very complete back pass protection. He has been in good offensive systems in the NFL, so he knows how to protect the quarterback. He has soft hands in the passing game, the screen game.”
On Michel being a ‘veteran presence’ for Spiller:
“Great point. I think so. I think any time that you can see a back that’s kind of gone on this path, first-round draft pick, Super Bowl champion two times, but also that has been around a bunch of teams now. I think it’s good for young backs to see that, and see what it takes to be successful in the league.”
On why Michel was not acquired earlier in the offseason:
“I think we spoke about that around draft time. We felt like. going into the draft, that that was going to be the best way to attack the running back position, based on how the other groups on our team were doing. Then, we were going to see, based on our draft and based on our training camp, whether or not we would revisit that. I think that our running back core is much deeper than it was. We have depth of youth, too. We have guys that are still relatively young for that position. I think that [General Manager] Tom [Telesco] and [Director of Player Personnel] JoJo Wooden did a really good job of making this happen with Sony.”
On if Michel’s release was ‘surprising’:
“Yeah. Anybody of Sony Michel’s caliber, you’re obviously surprised. But, it worked out for us.”
On if a decision has been made on who will be the No. 2 quarterback:
“Not yet. We’re going to get through the weekend, and then we’ll go into game week next week and attack that question. I’m really proud of both guys. I felt like they had really quality camps. I’m glad that both of them were on our team, for sure.”
On if the No. 2 quarterback ‘will fluctuate’:
“It could, for sure. That was kind of our approach last year, too. I think that’s a fair assessment.”
On his reaction to a QB Justin Herbert trading card ‘bidding for over one million dollars’:
“He’s come a long way since Sheldon High School. I’ve met a bunch of the people that he grew up with. He’s come a long way.”
On an injury update for CB J.C. Jackson:
“J.C. is working out. He’s trending positive. He’s working out hard. He’s in good spirits. I think, over this weekend, we’ll be able to tell you a lot more about his practice prospects for next week. He’s making good progress.”
On if Jackson ‘still has the boot on’:
“Yes, he does, as of right now.”
On ‘the key to making a successful backfield work with so many rushers’:
“I think that you have to have a plan for the flow of the game. I think running backs aren’t too dissimilar to other positions, you have to get them into a rhythm. I think that that’s always something that we’re trying to do, and that we did the same thing last year with Austin and J.J. [former Chargers RB Justin Jackson] and J.K. [Joshua Kelley] and all of those guys. We’re trying to get them into rhythm, and also get them in runs that they’re comfortable with, I think, early in the game. Then, from a pass-protection standpoint, when you’ve seen as many looks as Austin and Sony have, it’s kind of all the same, it’s just fitting what you’ve learned to what you’re joining up with now. But that’s one of the reasons why we were attracted to him, is that we could play him on all three downs.”
On ‘if this is the team that he wanted when he first took over the job’:
“Last year’s team was the one that I wanted because my dream was to be an NFL head coach. Any team that’s in front of me every day, that’s my dream. To answer your question, to where it’s maybe going is, I think that our team is taking shape and our organization is taking shape. That’s a process in order to make that happen. A lot of people are required to make that happen. I like what I see out there and I’m excited to get this group out there next week in the game week and see us compete together.”
On the advantage of Week 0:
“I think that’s a great question. I think that it gives the guys a chance to breathe a little bit. You can’t minimize what these guys just went through with training camp and three preseason games. There was some travel involved. I think it allows you to get healthy, I think it allows you to focus on fundamentals, and it allows you to, maybe, test some things schematically. But I think that this week, there’s a lot of roster stuff that’s changing, too, and it kind of allows that to take shape, as well. Then, you get into game week, and you know that you’re headed somewhere. I really like this week. I think it’s really smart by the NFL. If you keep these players in mind, I think that they’ll continue to have this week before a game week.”
On evaluating the defense without all players contributing in the preseason:
“Also a good question. I think that you know how it should look, you have a vision of what it should look like and it’s defined. Your players know, when they’re playing to that type of standard that you don’t need to do it in a game because every practice, for us, is a game. I think that’s difficult for people to understand, but every practice, for us, is a game. Our guys know what we expect from them. I think what [[DL] Sebastian [Joseph-Day] is referring to is that our defense is finally playing together. There were a bunch of guys that were out there for a while and we didn’t really get to play together. We got [S] Derwin [James Jr.] back, and then we got some linebackers healthy. We started to get to play together. When you get to play together, you improve together. That’s what should take place. When have guys like Sebastian who are leading the way, that improvement can happen quickly.”
On the value of a few of the defensive additions having prior experience in this system:
“It’s an advantage if the players that you bring in are the right players, because you can know the scheme inside and out, but if you’re not good enough, then it’s not going to do much good. It’s still about the quality of the players. I think what it does is it allows them to be that extra coach on the field within a position group. It gives an extra reminder of, ‘Hey, I went through this experience, and this is how it worked for me. Maybe this is how it can work for you,’ give some history of some play calls like where Sebastian [Joseph-Day] can say, ‘I went through this against Seattle in the playoff game,’ and he can maybe help [DL] Otito Ogbonnia, or somebody like that. [CB] Bryce Callahan can teach a [DB] Ja’Sir Taylor and say, ‘Hey, man, when I was in my first year as a nickel in Chicago in 2015, this is how we played, and then when Coach [Staley] went to Denver, this is how we played, and then now this is how we’re playing,’ and he can translate that information and that can help you in a big way. [OLB] Khalil [Mack] can give Joey some context, like, ‘Hey, man, when I was with Coach [Staley] in 2018, this is what it was like, now this is how it’s changed, this is something that I like about it, this is something I don’t like about it and this is what we’ve changed.’ All of those types of things. That was a big reason why we did that, it’s that our players are good enough and that they would be able to help us from a leadership perspective.
“Is that it for questioning? Because I don’t know if you guys watched Serena Williams last night, but I know that I did because I was here too late, but you’re talking about the greatest of all time. You just cannot explain it. I had it on mute, but just watching her last night light that tennis court on fire, that was just amazing. You guys know that I’m a huge tennis fan, huge Serena Williams fan. She was just amazing last night. She was just on one last night. She played fantastic. I just want her to know that the Chargers are rooting for her in the next round. She’s amazing. I get a chance to have a press conference, so I’m going to tell her how I feel. Good luck, Serena.”
On how Williams’ performance ‘can translate to his players’:
“Our guys all know Serena Williams. I don’t need to say anything. If they don’t know Serena Williams, then we have bigger problems.”