Chargers Rookie Minicamp Quotables

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DEFENSIVE LINE COACH MIKE ELSTON

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On coming to the Chargers:
“It’s been awesome. I love the group. I love working with the pros. It’s kind of neat when you tell them one time to do it a certain way and they do it. I’m used to dealing with college guys, it takes four or five times for them to figure it out. It’s been a blessing. It’s great to continue to work with [Head Coach] Jim [Harbaugh], with [Defensive Coordinator] Jesse Minter. I think both are the best at what they do, which is a big reason why I chose to come along — who I’m working with and for us to be able to run the same package, a similar package and grow it in a way that we would have anyway based on the end of the season analysis of different things. It’s been awesome. The only thing I miss is my family being with me right now, but it’s been great. The guys have been great.”

On Defensive Coordinator Jesse Minter:
“The thing that I’ve noticed about Jesse — I’ve worked with him now, this will be my third season. I’ve worked with a lot of other defensive coordinators. Jesse sees things from the back end. As a DB coach, that’s his expertise. His ability on gameday to call the game in the situations that we’re in, to put the pieces from the sideline as best you can as a coordinator, to put the pieces where you need them, I think he’s the best gameday coordinator I’ve work with, in terms of calling a game. I know he puts a lot of work into it, a lot of thought into. His father, [Senior Defensive Analyst] Rick [Minter], who is on our staff as well — a great success. His tutelage. Jesse is just a great gameday manager in the way he calls games. I think he’s one of the best that I’ve ever been around.”

On Minter calling games:
“Oh yeah, he’s very creative. I think we have a very creative staff in general. Both from the backend and the front end, in terms of how we game plan and do different things. Jesse takes it all in as we go throughout the week and then he picks and chooses what he thinks is going to fit best with the scheme that the offense is giving us. There’s a lot to sift through there. Obviously, he watches a ton of film and has a lot of self-reflection, but he’s really good on gameday.”

On the veteran presence:
“It’s a great group, both from the d-tackle room where you have guys like [DL] Morgan Fox and now [DL] Poona Ford. They’re veteran guys that have played a lot of football. There’s great leadership in that room. Then, when you get into the edge room with [OLB] Joey [Bosa], [OLB] Khalil [Mack] and now [OLB] Bud [Dupree] — [OLB] Tuli [Tuipulotu] had a great season. It’s a very talented group and leadership all across the board. It’s a very veteran group and a very experienced group. Putting the pieces where we need to put them in different situations is going to be the fun part.”

On coaching responsibilities:
“Good question, the way we break it up is very similar to what we did at Michigan. Right now, we’re in the early phases of installing everything and teaching technique. Myself, I’m in the d-tackle room. [Defensive Assistant] Dylan Roney is in the edge room. When we get more into game planning and further down the road, then we’re going to spend a lot of time together, just so we’re all on the same page with the rush plans and different things like that. On the field, there’s some crossover work for some drills and different things when guys to go special teams, I get the edge guys and things like that. We have a very talented, young coach in Dylan Roney. He does a phenomenal job. The guys respect him. He developed [Lions DE] Aiden Hutchinson when he was at Michigan. He does a really good job with our edge group. We split it up right now.”

On the defensive front in the scheme:
“First thing we want to teach is technique and block destruction. We have to be able to knock people back and play the run. I think we’ll do that very well. I think we have a lot of really good block destructors right now. Guys that are very talented. Then, we have to be able to get after the quarterback. That edge room is as talented and as deep as probably any edge room in the country. We have to lean on them for that part of it. In terms of what I’ve seen, it’s been great growth so far. We’ve been working together for a few months now. It’s a great group.”

On scheming based upon talent at a position:
“If you rewind back the last year, we knew we were more talented on the inside. More depth, more pass rush ability from the d-tackle position. We’re able to still be creative and put guys in certain situations, but we didn’t have to lean so heavily on an [Lions DE] Aidan Hutchinson or a [Raven OLB] David Ojabo to create that pressure. Where here, I think we have some really good interior pass rushers. I think we’re going to be good there. Obviously, where we can take a big step forward is utilizing all of those edge guys in a way to create disruption and create havoc in the backfield in passing situations. Our creativity with that will be the biggest part. Jesse [Minter] putting that together and leaning on us to do that would be great.”

On the defensive linemen:
“I’m impressed with all of them. I just said those two because they’re the older guys in the room, in terms of leadership. [DL] Scott Matlock, [DL Christopher] Chris Hinton, [DL] Jerrod Clark, all of those guys are developing and doing a great job. I’m very impressed with all of them. [DL] CJ Okoye is doing great. [DL Otito] Tito [Ogbonnia] is phenomenal. I think we have a very strong room and the draft pick with [DL] Justin [Eboigbe] — he’s a worker. Was trained very well at Alabama. Does a lot of the similar things we do here in this system. It’s been an easy transition for him. It’s a really good room.”

On if DL Justin Eboigbe is a ‘pass rusher’:
“He’s got a good blend. Right now, he’s heavier on block destruction in run defense. I think he can become a really good pass rusher. He’s working on those tools right now. He’s a work-in-progress there.”

OUTSIDE LINEBACKER BUD DUPREE

On what attracted him to the Chargers:
“It was an easy decision. First of all, you know, [OLB] Khalil [Mack], [OLB] Joey [Bosa], [S] Derwin [James Jr.]. Guys like that. [LB] Denzel [Perryman] came back. Seeing people like that. I played with [CB] Kristian [Fulton] in Tennessee. Just enough familiar faces. Obviously, a new culture with [Head Coach Jim] Harbaugh coming in. Being familiar with [LB] NaVorro [Bowman] and his style of play when he was in the league, as well. Continuously seeing him evolve as a coach is outstanding. I wanted to be part of something that is doing it from the ground up. Obviously, California, as well [laughter]. It’s always a good place to be in sunshine.”

On playing with OLB Joey Bosa and OLB Khalil Mack:
“Any time you have guys that have been in the league a long time as established rushers, it’s always great to have guys on the field together. That was kind of the ‘gimme.’ I’m at a point in my career now, too, where it’s a different role for me now. Being able to be a third-down guy, especially a pass rush guy but still being able to show my worth in the run is always a plus. To have other guys to be able to bounce ideas off of, to be able to look at film together, match things up against each other and see how we see this opponent that we’re going to go against, the tendencies and the keys — it’s always great to have that type of stuff in the room. With a new, young coach like we have right now, it’s awesome to be able to help him grow and evolve as a coach as well.”

On the outside linebackers:
“The will to want to win. Obviously, they are who they are. That pedigree. They are first-round picks for a reason. To be able to come in and see that they really want to work — because a lot of guys who you see are the type of people that really don’t work — but, obviously, Joey [Bosa] comes in every day and works hard. Khalil [Mack] comes in every day and works hard. It speaks for itself when they get on the field with the way that they produce. [OLB] Tuli [Tuipulotu] is a young guy. He’s coming in and works hard as well. He just follows the leader. Being in that group is refreshing. Not saying that I haven’t been part of groups that work hard, but to be on a new team and see that’s what you’re walking into is a vibe.”

On his relationship with Bosa and Mack:
“With me, it’s more just studying the guys and being around the league, knowing each other through football. This will be my first time actually meeting [Joey] Bosa. Knowing guys through football is always tremendous, especially if you’re in the same [position]. I watched [their] film, they watched me. Being able to finally be on a team with them is amazing. It’s the same type of ordeal if you’re a defensive tackle and see [former Rams DT] Aaron Donald. You may end up going to a couple of pass rush camps with them a couple of times. You see them out when you’re training together. Obviously, there will be a connection right away because of the respect level for your game is there. Being able to see and hone in on who he is as a person, who they are as family people outside of football will only make it better on the field with teamwork.”

On being comfortable with his role:
“You know, if you come in the first round, you want to play that whole game [laughter]. But I’ve been going through a lot of injuries the last couple of years. Last year was probably my healthiest year in the last four years. Having a situation like this to take a load off me, a load off my body, is tremendous. Obviously, I feel like it can extend my career and also help me make more plays.”

Super Bowl Champion Discusses Jim Harbaugh Brings

On Head Coach Jim Harbaugh:
“I’m not going to lie, I really haven’t heard any stories about him. I just knew that he was a winning coach. He played in the league. Obviously, they won a Natty. They’ve been great. He turned that football program around. They’ve been great. His staff that he has with him, he brought the majority of people of in because they’re familiar guys. It’s a great opportunity to be part of that. Once I got here, I started hearing all the guys come tell me, ‘Man, you’re going to love Harbaugh. He’s a player’s coach. He loves the vets. He loves the leadership.’ Now that I’m in the building, I can see why people like him and adapt to him.

“Just the persona, man. Just the energy. That he wants to win. Coming out every day with the same mentality and the same edge. That’s tremendous as a coach. Also, too, when you’re doing stuff for the players, especially the older guys, we take that into consideration a lot. It makes people want to not only be perfect for you on the field, but to be great people off the field for you, too, to make sure we’re holding our hat and representing you well.”

On LB Denzel Perryman mentioning Harbaugh reminds him of Will Ferrell:
“He looks like him [laughter]. Nah, man. That’s cool, man. I hadn’t heard him say that. They are similar, that’s a good look-a-like.”

On Harbaugh participating in strength and conditioning:
“Yeah, how old is he? That’s wild. I saw him toting the medicine ball right behind me, I was like, ‘Dang, that’s crazy.’ [laughter] You know, most people aren’t feeling to go out there and get in a fight with you, no matter how young the coach is. The last person that I really saw get in a fight like that was [former Titans Head Coach Mike] Vrabel got in a fight when I played in Tennessee. He was kind of coming out of that playing stage. Other head coaches, man, they’re not coming in and putting themself in the fire like that. That’s always good. It excites us and shows us that he works hard as well. He’s not just telling us to do something and then not able to do it. That’s tremendous.”

On the outside linebackers:
“It can be as good as the work that’s put in. We come in every day. We get the play calls first together. We go out and grind together, as a unit. We get the feel for each other, make sure that we trust each other to do each other’s job. Man, that’s when you can go out there and just play ball with your hair on fire, being able to make as many plays as you can. That’s when it becomes fun, energetic and everyone feeds off it. It’s exciting and something to look forward to. Obviously, we have to put the work in from day one, which we started and continues through camp. When the season starts, we have to make sure that we’re ready.”

On the defensive scheme:
“Oh, it’s smooth. Obviously, I’m familiar with Baltimore. I watched Michigan a lot because Kentucky is always in the front of my mind. I’m hopeful that we play them in the Natty next year. Wishful thinking [laughter]. But the defensive scheme is the scheme. You have to be able to make sure that your edge guys can move, drop and do everything that you want to do. It kind of gives you different looks, so you’re not just staggered in one spot. That’s how we want to do it, to be able to mix it up a little bit and make sure they can’t just dial in on us in one place.”

On the defensive personalities:
“Everybody has been mentioning, even [DL Morgan] Fox. Guys like that, man. [CB] Kristian [Fulton], like I said, I played with him in Tennessee. He doesn’t really talk a lot. Other than that, different personalities always — this is what football does, it brings people from different backgrounds and different areas of the world and puts you in one room. You have to get used to that type of person. It only helps your outlook on life, but also, too, helps you adapt to people to see who they are. It’s always fun to kind of get to know someone from a different part of the world, different community and background than your own. All we’re stuck in is what we actually know and grew up around. Being able to take that from football to what it brings us, that’s part of being a football player that’s a blessing.”

On his health last season:
“A lot of times, we as players, you have to hold back from yourself. We grew up in the era where it’s ‘Work, work, work, work, work. Grind, grind, grind, grind. Balls to the wall, every day, all day.’ That can be tiring on the body. It can make injuries occur that you could avoid if you just took a break sometimes, chilled and did more recovery, especially when you get on the older side. Being able to realize that, okay if my hip flexor is tight today, it means something is wrong with my sore ass. Make sure you identify those type of things and not just try to push through it. I used to do two and three-a-days. That’s when I started getting hurt the most. I started just being able to do one-a-day and making sure that we run through it, cover everything in that one session and have more time for recovery. I feel like that’s the main thing about it. All that you hear when you come into the league, especially if you don’t have anyone like myself — I was one of the first people from my area to go to the NFL. I didn’t really have anyone to look up to going in. I just knew how I got here was we were going to work. Same way, go out every day and do the same thing. Work hard, grind until I get tired. That isn’t always the best way to do it.”

On the talent among the outside linebackers:
“I played with [Steelers LB] T.J. [Watt], but it was just me and T.J. This is the first time — this will be the first time [with this much talent in the room]. It’s exciting.”

On what’s ‘impressed’ him about the outside linebackers:
“Well, we aren’t really going full-speed right now, so I can’t tell you everything that we’re doing right now, as far as that. But you know, just from watching film and knowing the players — seeing Tuli [Tuipulotu], seeing Joey [Bosa], seeing Khalil [Mack]. Everyone knows Khalil is going to be a power player, great at the top of the rush. He’s been doing it consistently for 11 years. That’s why he has 100-plus sacks. Joey, he’s a hands guy. You know he’s going to do his signature move and swipe you until the wheels fall off. Being able to see those people predicate their pass rush moves and continue to win over and over, it’s hats off to them. Tuli coming in, I know he’s figuring himself out, but he’s one of those guys with tremendous upside and being able to bring a lot to the table. I’m just honored to be able to come here and be part of it, add my value to the team, add my value to that group as much as I can. Whatever value I can bring, I’m making sure I can do it to the best of my ability.”

LINEBACKER TROY DYE

On what led him to the Chargers:
“I think just coming back to Southern California was a big thing for me. Coming back for a fresh start, new staff, new team. A lot of good things that kind of just opened my eyes. Kind of restart and give it a shot. Kind of just happy to be back in Southern California, be back in the sun and in beautiful weather.”

On spending time with Special Teams Coordinator Ryan Ficken in Minnesota:
“Coach Ficken was there actually for two years, he was the assistant my rookie year and then he was the main guy my second year. We have a really close relationship. He helped my game out a lot when he was in Minnesota with me. He’s always kept in touch since he left. It was always kind of a thing, that if the opportunity was there, I would definitely look into it. The opportunity was there and he was pressing hard and you always want to go somewhere where you are wanted and appreciated. I felt that from here and that’s where it went. Fick had a big part in that.”

On how different of a player QB Justin Herbert from college:
“He is definitely bigger, he put on some more weight. I think he is the same. He has always been and even-keel dude, a big-time leader. Not super vocal where he is going to be “rah rah”, but when he needs to say something, he says it. I think his words carry a lot of weight, I think around this building they carry more weight than they did at Oregon. He’s proven and earned that. I think that is the biggest thing. There is no drop-off or anything. That’s the one thing I love about that dude, he’s always the same dude day in and day out. You can always depend on him and that is a big factor of why he is who he is.”

On Herbert’s words carrying weight:
“Through his track record, over time you have to earn that respect from guys, especially in the league. I think he has done that. When you come in as a rookie, you don’t have as much respect and you have to earn your stripes. He’s definitely earned his stripes through battle and gameplay. I think a lot of the guys in this locker room really respect everything that he says and will go to war for him, and I’m one of those guys.”

On if he foresaw Herbert becoming what he has become”
“Yeah definitely. I think my freshman year when he came in — I enrolled early, so I was kind of that in betweener where I wasn’t with the class, but I was kind of with the class. That first week of camp when he came in you are like “okay that dude is special” making all the throws you can make. Super strong, super confident in himself, super athletic — I don’t think he gets enough love and praise for his athleticism. I think he runs really well. He moves really well and he has a crazy strong arm. He’s a smart dude and a great dude to be around. He’s just one of those guys that you just want to gravitate towards and put your best out there because you know he is putting his best out there.”

On if he’s seen Herbert ever not be even-keel:
“In a three-on three basketball tournament, just outside of football. He’s just one of those competitors where he is really trying to get it. I have never seen him flustered or shaken in a game. I think he has always been very mellow and knows what he needs to do and what works for him.”

On his experience playing three-on-three basketball with Herbert:
“He was competing. You got different teams winning, different teams winning. His team won the tournament, so kudos to him. He is just a competitor when it comes to that type of stuff where you have to get ramped up and get going.”

On if he and Herbert were trash-talking during three-on-three basketball”
“Yeah, I mean he is definitely a big-time trash talker. I don’t think a lot of people know that. He is good with his word for sure.”

On his first impressions of Defensive Coordinator Jesse Minter’s defensive scheme
“I love it. It’s definitely a scheme that’s player-friendly. I think if everyone does their job it’s going to work out perfectly. He knows what he is doing, and we have the right pieces for it. He’s confident in it, and I love the way they team it, I think they have installed stuff at a good pace and really good teachers from Jesse and all the assistants. Everyone knows what they are talking about, and you can ask anyone and they know what they are talking about. I think with the new staff is having that communication from everybody and everyone can be on one page, because everyone is learning it at the same time. I think they do a really good job of installing stuff slowly, but fast at the same time.”

On Linebackers Coach NaVorro Bowman”
“Yes, like you said, there are things that you can work off of each other with. Like if you get a quick switch with somebody you can switch it off and not have to work the trap and stuff like that. It makes it makes it a little bit easier and cleaner for everybody to have their eyes on the right spot. I think when you do that, everyone plays a little calmer and slower, everyone gets to their job a bit faster because no one is out there flustered and running around quick. As long as we know what we are doing and trust the guys next to you — that’s the biggest thing is the trust factor with the guys next to you — it will go a long way.”

On the new kickoff rule:
“It’s definitely going to be interesting. I think the first couple weeks there are going to be some explosive plays and probably some turnovers — you never know what’s going to happen. But once guys get used to those drops and how to take on that quick five-yard or 10-yard span it’s going to get pretty fast and pretty physical, but I think it’s going to be interesting to see how the preseason works and how those first couple weeks in the season really go.”

On any similarities to the new kickoff arrangement and other situations in football:
“I would say if you are on the edge like a pass rush type of deal where you’re on punt or punt return type of set up and getting out of the stack and doing that type of deal. It’s definitely a different feel, I don’t think there is anything you can try to emulate or kind of go
‘Oh this is what it’s kind of like,’ because one guys is dropping three to five yards and other guy has a five-yard head start, kind of how it plays out going to happen “bang bang”. Have to get your hips around quick.

On if he is expecting learning curve with the new kickoff rule:
“Yes, I definitely think there is going to be a big learning curve. Not a big learning curve, but how coordinators attack different schemes, if they go two returners or one returner or running reverses or different set up different blocks. It’s hard, ‘Do you have your offense trying to lead up through stuff or do you have peel-back blocks, how is this going to play out?’ That is going to be the biggest thing is how you want to set up your blocking schemes, once coordinators figure it out, I think copycat league once one guy figures it out, ‘Oh this is the best and it works,’ and be the return of the year, you’ll kind of go off of that. Then next year kind of go off of that and trickle-down effect like it has been in that past.”

On if he did a YouTube search on new kickoff rule for film”
“No, Coach Ficken, they’ve done a really good job of bringing great clips from the XFL that they had last year and kind of do a little different. It’s still a little different from the XFL on when you can leave and when the ball touches the ground and things of that nature. It’s hard to find tape that is perfect for it, so it’s going to have to wait until Week 1, Week 2 of the regular season after you build a bunch of preseason tape and see what it really looks like.”

OUTSIDE LINEBACKER TULI TUIPULOTU

On Head Coach Jim Harbaugh:
“I think the fans showed how excited we are that we hired such an experienced coach with winning. That’s what we want to do here, we want to win. We’re excited. We just have to take the opportunity and run with it. Having a coach with that much experience, that’s been to the Super Bowl and all of that. Man, we just want to win.”

On Harbaugh:
“He’s an interesting dude, for sure. I’m not going to say too much about it [laughter]. He does catch me off-guard a little bit. I’m a shy dude already and with how he approaches me and talks, it’s kind of, ‘Oh, shoot.’ I don’t know, I’m weird [laughter].”

On the outside linebackers with the addition of OLB Bud Dupree:
“I think we’re kind of stacked, you know? Adding another vet in the room just gives me more opportunity to learn from another vet. Surprisingly, he is kind of different from [OLB Khalil] K-Mack [Mack] and [OLB] Joey B [Bosa]. I’m excited to continue to learn from him. I think when we get to training camp that’s when I’ll be able to learn more and pick his brain about stuff.”

On how he feels compared to this time last year as a rookie:
“I think the biggest difference was actually having an offseason. I had so much time, I didn’t even know what to do with it. We had the combine, pro days. Now, I had like three or four months to just chill — well, not chill. Obviously, I was working out, but I took a vacation right after the season. Then, I was like, ‘What else am I going to do?’ So I just worked out the whole time, which might be a bad idea, but it was pretty cool. Next offseason, I’ll be more prepared and understand how much time I have.”

On his vacation:
“I didn’t go anywhere special, I just went to the [San Francisco] Bay Area. I should have gone out of the country or something like that, or at least out of the state. I didn’t take advantage of the offseason at all.”

On how he feels compared to this time last year as a rookie:
“I think going into the offseason that I had a good idea of what I needed to work on. I don’t think it was that hard to figure out what I needed to work on. I was excited going into the offseason. I’m excited going into training camp. Not just OTAs, but also training camp where we can put the pads on and show what we can do.”

On OLB Joey Bosa and OLB Khalil Mack:
“I was happy. Right after Joey, he texted me, ‘One more year.’ I was like, ‘Oh hell yeah, let’s go.’ I was excited for both of them. I was kind of bummed out. Joey is always messing around with me, saying, ‘Dang, Tuli, that was our last game together.’ I’m like, ‘bruh.’ [laughter] But, man, having both of them back and then adding Bud [Dupree], it’s been fun. I think Bud brings a lot of energy to the room. That’s what I’ve been noticing in OTAs. He’s always trying to — I wouldn’t say hype somebody up, but say, ‘Good [stuff]. Good rep.’ Stuff like that. We usually didn’t really do that. I don’t know why we didn’t, but Bud brings the energy. It’s been good having three vets to learn from.”

On how much improvement he can make in year two:
“I don’t know, you have to wait and see [laughter]. That’s pretty much it.”

On what he wanted to work on entering the offseason:
“I would just say my get-off on my pass rush. I think a lot of people thought I had a good impact in the pass rush game, but I felt like I left so much stuff on the field. I had a lot of opportunities to make more plays, but didn’t take advantage of it. Going into the offseason, I needed to work on my get-off, getting to the point, my pass rush hand moves and all of that.”

On his pass rush moves:
“Just working my hands. Everything starts at get-off. If your get-off is slow, you’ve already lost. Get-off and pass rush moves.”

On his get-off last season:
“It was alright.”

On how to improve get-off:
“I did a lot of sled work, getting out of the stance. That’s one of the ways.”

On Dupree:
“Khalil [Mack] talks, but he doesn’t talk every single time. When he does talk, you hear him. You actually listen, like, ‘Oh, damn.’ Khalil just talked, so you’re listening. Bud, he’s consistently talking and every rep, ‘Let’s go, Joey. Let’s go, K-Mack.’ Even to the younger guys, too, ‘Good rep. Good spin.’ Stuff like that. It’s cool.”

On his mindset on kickoff:
“It’s crazy. I think it’s really fast. I think my very first rep on kickoff, I ran straight and [WR Derius] D.D. [Davis] was already past me on the left. I was like, ‘Damn, I didn’t even get a chance to do a move yet.’ [laughter] We’re going to have to adjust.”

On if he expects to be on kickoff:
“Whatever they need me to do, I’ll do it. Yeah, I prepare for everything.”

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