Talking Chargers

Date:

WIDE RECEIVERS COACH SANJAY LAL

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On what attracted him about the Chargers:

“[Head] Coach [Jim] Harbaugh’s track record. [QB] Justin Herbert. The chance to work with young receivers. It’s kind of a no-brainer — and live in Southern California.”

On working with Head Coach Jim Harbaugh:

“It’s been great. I’m learning his personality and how he likes things done. Any time with a new coach, you get a feel, over time, of what is the culture? How does he get the culture installed? Just kind of working through how he sees things because I haven’t worked with him before. Then, following suit, in that type of coaching style carrying through to my position group.”

On how Harbaugh’s coaching style differs from others:

“I wouldn’t say that he’s different. Every coach has their unique way of implementing their system. What I have noticed is that he’s super detailed on certain things. He could be listening to an install meeting and maybe the QBs drop is just off a little bit. He’ll stop the whole thing and say, ‘No, this is how you do it.’ He’d get up and demonstrate it. Or, he’ll make a point on a shallow-cross. We’re a yard away from the hash. Our landmark is the hash. We’ll stop the meeting. We won’t be pressed for time. He’ll walk up there and say, ‘Okay, Sanjay, where do you want him to stop?’ We’ll actually stop, go into the minutiae, detail it and then move on. Very unique that way where, sometimes in football, you’re so pressed for time — we have to get this meeting done in this time. We’ll just stop it and make sure it’s right and that everyone understands.”

On the wide receivers:

“I would say that they’re young and they’re willing. That’s what really stands out.

“I’m throwing a lot at them technique-wise. I demand a lot of them. They have been really good about trying their hardest to implement all of the techniques along with learning all of the offense.”

On if this is the ‘youngest’ wide receivers group he has been part of:

“Most likely, yes.”

On the receivers:

“No learning curve for me, I’m just coaching. No, there’s no difference. You have rookies every year that you have to get up to speed. For example, [WR Quentin] Q [Johnston] and [WR Derius] D.D. [Davis] are in their second year. They’re learning a new system, but everyone is kind of in the same boat because you’re learning a new offense.”

On WR Quentin Johnston:

“First thing, I don’t look back. I wasn’t coaching him. I wasn’t here. I don’t know the circumstances. It’s not fair to look back. Looking forward, he moves as well as any receiver I’ve seen. The potential is very high. Just coaching him with great detail. I don’t like to put a ceiling, high or low, on someone. It’s approach each day. Approach each technique. Approach each nuance of every route. Master the technique and then let’s see where we fall. That’s really the most fair way to do it with every player.”

On Johnston’s movement:

“Very impressive. He’s got a lot of juice. He almost bounds when he runs. Working on his body positioning is one of the biggest things that we’ve done. He’s really improved some of his stop-type of routes, like keeping his shoulders over his feet longer and not looking early. That’s a big jump he’s made so far.”

On WR Ladd McConkey:

“He’s very sudden in and out of his breaks. He understands the game. He’s a detailed, precise person. When you teach him a new route, he’s going to master it. If you have to hit it at 13 yards, I’m trusting that he will hit it at 13 yards. The more players like that you have on your team, it just makes your offense more crisp.”

On Johnston:

“I’ve studied everything. One, I studied him for the draft. I was in Seattle and we drafted [Seahawks WR] Jaxon [Smith-Njigba]. We had the first receiver off the board. I watched that whole group very closely. I don’t look back in the sense that, I don’t know how he was coached, good or bad. Why is he doing this? Why did he miss this? Why did he make that? I don’t know the context. To take a player back to that, especially if it’s a negative, I don’t see any purpose going forward. I see that this can be improved. I know the drills to improve it. I’m going to implement those. I don’t need the context. That’s what I mean about no going back.

“We’ll move forward because you don’t need to watch it to know it wasn’t right if it wasn’t right. This is the way we do it. This is the correct way to do it in all of the situations, whether it be a release, top of route, a catch, the junction point between him and the defender on a go-ball. Here’s the way to do it. Here’s empirical evidence, I’ll show you [Seahawks WR] DK [Metcalf] doing it. I’ll show you [former Colts WR] T.Y. [Hilton] doing it. Here’s how to do it. Let’s work to perfect that and move forward. We don’t need to say, ‘Oh, look what you did before.’ It doesn’t matter. Let’s do it this way.”

On drawing on his experience coaching Seahawks WR DK Metcalf:

“What it tells me is — when DK first started, he was a very upright runner. We developed some drills to get him in more of a drive-phase. It’s not so much the player, it’s what are these areas of improvement and what are the drills associated with it? I’ve coached enough guys where it’s let’s use this drill for this, let’s use this one for this, let’s use this one for this. The great thing is, now, on the tape that I can show, look what he used to look like and look what he looks like now. That’s a powerful tool.”

On if he’s using ‘any of the same drills’ from his time with Metcalf now:

“Absolutely.”

On if ‘there is similarity’:

“Yeah, but the drills are more related to the skill rather than the player. If I want [WR] Brenden Rice to get his drive-phase lower, more body lean. The same drill I used with DK to get that, I’m using with Brenden. It’s not a DK thing, it’s a drive-phase drill.”

On if there are drills to improve hands of a receiver:

“Hands is a broad term. That’s too broad because why did you drop it? I’m not talking Q [Johnston], any receiver. Was it a concentration drop? Did you take your eyes off it? Were your hands too soft? Was your hand position wrong? All of those things are factors. You can’t just say, ‘Oh, he dropped ‘X’ amount of balls. He can’t catch.’ Well, what were they? Was it vertical tracking? Was it behind him and he didn’t open his hips enough? Drilling all of those and narrowing down, is he truly deficient in one of these skills of catching the ball? Then, you can absolutely work it.”

On WR DJ Chark Jr.:

“It’s a classic veteran presence, but when DJ is at his best, he has punt return ability, which helps the run after catch, and he’s a vertical threat. Once he gets back to that, that’s really what he brings. He’s a good person and I trust him in the room, too.”

On WR Joshua Palmer:

“He’s been working through his knee. We’ve had him sporadically. Today was probably the most reps that he’s had. What I have seen is he intently listens to everything that you say. He digests it and then he comes with questions. He’s a thinker and I appreciate that. He has asked questions of me, like, ‘Why this technique? This is different. Why are we doing this?’ I welcome that. I show him, ‘Here’s what I’m trying to do to your game. I’m trying to mesh your [Bears WR] Keenan [Allen] game with a vertical game, too. If you mesh both of them together and really open up your stride and then have the ability to move like Keenan does, then we have another player on our hands that’s a whole notch higher.'”

On Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman:

“It’s been much like every other team. I think the run game thing gets overblown. We want to be balanced. When I was with Greg in Buffalo, we were the No. 1 rushing team in the league and I think we were the No. 1 completion team over 35 yards in the league. They go hand-in-hand. Putting in this passing game really has been the same as everywhere else I’ve done it.”

On QB Justin Herbert:

“He can throw the football really well [laughter]. I mean, it’s no secret. Every receiver coach, every quarterback coach. I mean, this was the No. 1 opening, right? Really for that reason. He throws the ball pretty amazingly.”

On working with Herbert:

“It’s an open dialogue. I coach through the QBs eyes because if he doesn’t like it, it’s not going to work. There’s a big give and take right there. I’ll say, ‘This is how I’m having them run this route. Do you like it or is this move going to trick you? How do you feel about this?’ We have those dialogues all the time, especially for a new route. There’s an open communication. [Quarterbacks Coach] Shane [Day] and I talk all the time. How does Justin see it? We watch film together. It’s very cohesive in that regard.”

On what he’s learned about Herbert:

“He is a perfectionist. He’s super competitive. He works really hard. He expects the same from everyone playing on his team.”

RUNNING BACKS COACH KIEL McDONALD

On what led him to the Chargers:

“I didn’t have to move. Get a chance to stay in the same city. Get a chance to work with [Head] Coach [Jim] Harbaugh. I’ve respected him as a coach and his team from afar. They have run the ball, they are physical, they’re tough and just have the utmost respect for him. So, I thought it was a great opportunity. USC was awesome, but I wanted to be able to branch out and see what’s next.”

On his familiarity with the offensive scheme:

“It’s different than USC, for sure. That’s a wide-open offense, high-octane. Very similar to what I ran at Utah. Multiple tight ends, physical, downhill, play-action pass, but this offensive scheme has a little bit of everything. Whether it’s RPO, whether it’s inside-zone or outside-zone, we run everything under the sun. It’s just the volume, the sheer volume is a whole lot more than, obviously, the college game. It’s been a lot of sleepless nights picking it up and making sure that these guys are going to be ready. It’s going to be something to behold once we are rolling.”

On working an offense with QB Justin Herbert after facing him while at Utah: 

“We lost in the championship game. I had a really good running back named [Bengals RB] Zack Moss when we were at Utah. Justin is amazing, he really is, just as a person, as a human being, as a man, as a leader, he shows up every day. We have a thing called ‘TED’ — There Every Day — and he is the epitome of that. It’s something behold the arm strength. It’s real, for sure, and to be able to be able to hopefully put a solid running game around him, hopefully, it will bring some results for us. 

On RB Gus Edwards:

“Big dude. Big, tall, long, athletic. Looking forward to seeing him in training camp and the rest of the way. I like his mindset. He’s a consummate professional. That’s the one thing that jumps out about Gus. He is very smart and knows the scheme inside and out. I am pretty excited about him.”

On RB J.K. Dobbins:

“Highly intellectual running back. Super smart. Knows where to go. He helps the room. He has grown as a leader just in this short amount of time that I’ve gotten a chance to work with him. I’m very excited about him. It’s like thunder and lightning, that’s probably why they took those two guys in Baltimore. Having them here, they are mature men and looking forward to what they can bring to the Chargers.” 

On RB Isaiah Spiller:

“He’s got a lot of room to grow, he really does. When he came here he was a young guy. He’s maturing. Getting a chance to see a J.K. [Dobbins] and a Gus [Edwards], guys that have been successful in the league, and how they go about their work. He’s growing every day. He truly is. He’s got all the tools, he does. He’s 220-plus [pounds], he’s got great feet, he can accelerate, he can catch the ball. He has great recognition in terms of blitz pickup. I think just him going out there, being pushed, understanding what the standard is. I think he is going to continue to grow and be a good player.”

On veteran players helping younger players:

“They’ve been playing this game for a while. At the end of the day, the standard is still the standard, it doesn’t matter what it is. To have some veterans that have been successful, especially if they know the scheme. Obviously, it kind of pushes us in a positive direction, for sure. At the end of the day, it’s the work that you put in. Whatever we put in we are going to get out., but it is helpful.”

On working with Head Coach Jim Harbaugh after working with Utah Head Coach Kyle Whittingham and Southern California Head Coach Lincoln Riley:

“He’s like smack dab in the middle. Coach Whitt, when I answered this question before when it was Coach Whitt and Coach Riley, it’s like the Army and Google. Utah is going to win a lot of games and do the same thing over and over and it’s a very tough program. Coach Riley, he’s one of the smartest minds in football, doesn’t matter if it’s college or the NFL. If you put those guys together, you have Coach Harbaugh. Very tough-minded individual. Very smart, one of the smartest people I’ve gotten the chance to hear football form. Very detailed, doesn’t matter if it’s quarterback, doesn’t matter if it’s a running back, doesn’t matter if it’s an O-lineman, very detailed coach with a great personality. It’s been a joy. I’ve been very lucky and fortunate to work for the three incredible coaches.”

WIDE RECEIVER QUENTIN JOHNSTON

On his offseason:

“It’s been smooth. I’ve just been going into this offseason, this season — everything about this year more smoothly than I think I was last year. Obviously, having a year under my belt, I have a lot more experience going into this year. I know what to expect.”

On his process heading into the offseason:

“After taking some time of from last season, sort of self-evaluation every now and then from last season going back, watching the old film and old practices. Then, taking that and taking what the new coaches this year are teaching us and kind of combining the two of them and keep moving forward from there.”

On last season:

“It was alright. Obviously, some games were better than others. That was kind of my whole thing, just going in and being very critical of myself. Fixing that at practice and off the field, making it better for next season.”

On if he feels more confident entering his second season:

“Oh yeah, 100 percent. That just comes from, like I said before, last year and now having a full year under my belt. Going into this year knowing what to expect. Knowing how to move, develop in a better routine for myself on and off the field.”

On Head Coach Jim Harbaugh:

“He’s really cool. I kind of just take it back to my first impression. Obviously, we played them. I didn’t really talk to him when we played them that much. It was, ‘good game’ and all of that. I think the second day after he accepted the job, he called me and we chopped it up. He was kind of picking my brain about stuff. We were just going back and forth. I knew from that moment on that it would be really cool. Coming in here and meeting him in here kind of lived up to all of the stuff that was talked about on the phone.”

On if anything stands out about Harbaugh:

“Very detailed. He’s very involved with a lot of stuff, which I don’t think you see too many coaches doing that. We’ll be on the ropes outside and he’s over there right next to me in his khakis and button-up doing it [laughter]. That’s really cool. That’s not just, ‘Oh, look it’s the coach,’ thing. It’s like he really wants to be involved with us. Just having that type of leadership is very helpful.”

On if Harbaugh gave him a hard time about Michigan facing TCU when he was in college:

“Oh yeah, the first day [laughter]. The first day he said something about it. Then, [Executive Director of Player Performance] Coach [Ben] Herb [Herbert] said something about it. I was like, ‘How are you doing? I’m Q.’ He said, ‘I know exactly who you are. I remember.’ It was just kind of jokes for a few days. It was fun and funny.”

On Wide Receivers Coach Sanjay Lal:

“He’s really cool. He’s very detailed, just like all the other coaches here. Very detailed and very passionate about what he does. I’m very excited to be working with him this year.”

On Lal showing him tape of Seahawks WR DK Metcalf:

“Obviously, we have pretty different games, me and him, but just as far as being a bigger receiver, he is focusing on the parts of him getting low, coming in and out of his breaks and how he was working on that with him and kind of just translating that to me. It’s been helpful for the most part.

“100 percent, just seeing him day in and day out, how he breaks stuff down in film and how he’s trying to get us to apply it to the field is very eye opening. It’s for sure helpful, a lot.”

On if he identified areas of improvement:

“I mean, nothing too broad. I feel like there were a few obvious plays where I kind of lost focus, attention to detail or what not. Just, like I said, going into this year, I can confidently say that I’m far more ready for it this season. More confident. I feel like part of that was just with the first year jitters still kind of feeling my way around everything. This year, I’m more confident.”

On the wide receivers room:

“It’s different, for sure, but that’s just them making room, I guess, for us to step up and grow up a little bit quicker as a leader. We still have guys like [WR Joshua] Josh [Palmer]. It’s still been steady. It’s still be really good. We all are in there day-in and day-out, learning from each other, bouncing ideas off each other.”

On the turnover in the receivers room:

“I wasn’t 100 percent expecting it, but this is the NFL. I’m not really surprised about a lot of things that go on. At that point, it just was what it was. I texted both of them. I was like, ‘Good luck.’ They said what they had to say to me. From that moment, it’s just me taking accountability. That happened. They were the leaders last year. I have to step up, lock in a little bit more and be that leader that they were for the rest of the guys this year.”

On if his relationship with QB Justin Herbert has improved in year two:

“Yeah, for sure better. Like I keep saying before, kind of going off everything last year, seeing the mistakes, kind of locking in a little more in practice. If I feel like something was off about a throw or route that I did, I’m like, ‘Hey, how can I fix that? What do you see?’ He’ll tell me what he sees and I’ll tell him what I’m feeling. It’s kind of been a back-and-forth with that. It’s been really good. I’m really excited to go into this next season with him.”

On his expectations staying the same:

“100 percent, only this time I know what to expect coming in and playing certain teams. How, like I’ve said before, I’ll go just about every day life and being an NFL player. Just everything. The mapped out road is kind of more clear for me now. My expectations have never changed for myself, even through the bad things I had last year, I was never thinking I couldn’t do it. At the end of the day, I still hold myself to the highest standard that that I’m not here for nothing.”

On lessons learned from last season:

“I feel like the biggest lesson that I learned from last year, just for myself my guess, is confidence in my route running. I feel like I was pretty good in some areas, some routes. Going back, a lot of stuff I could have been a little bit lower on some routes or had more patience with other things. I feel like a lot of my stuff was rust. It was kind of a mix between anxiousness and, ‘Okay, I need the ball,’ instead of being on the quarterback’s timing. I was trying to rush a bit on my time. This year, I just have realized [patience with] progressions and being more confident in my route running. I feel like that’s the main thing.”

On working off to the side:

“Everything was cool. That was just a planned light day for me. I’ll be back, I’m good. Everything is good.”

On times he identified to improve focus:

“From last season, kind of the main one, the one that sticks in my head, the obvious one versus Green Bay. That one, it was obvious that he was scrambling. I kind of just eased up because I wasn’t sure what he was going to do instead of just keeping on my path, which I obviously should have done. I would have had an easy catch. Then, at the catch-point, taking my eyes off of it. I look it all the way in. I feel like it was a lack of focus all together. It’s something to me, my coaches, my teammates that I owe far better. It was straight-up unacceptable. I always kind of go back to that moment when I step back out on practice or if I’m feeling a certain type of way at practice, I always go back to that. Okay, if I take a day off here, it’ll kind of correlate or wind down into a game like that, which, obviously, I do not want again.”

On if he watched that play against Green Bay again in the offseason:

“I watched it a few times. I really was just trying to have my eyes on it. I needed to go back and feel what I felt right then so that I can continue to work hard.”

On if ‘drops can be attributed to concentration’:

“100 percent. 100 percent because of all of the balls that I caught, I’m looking it into the tuck. Literally, every single one of my drops last year, I see the ball and I’m looking to run upfield and take my eyes off of it. Obviously, you can’t catch something you can’t see. That was the main thing with that. That’s why I go back to focus. Just actually being locked in, laser focused. Just being more detailed in everything that I do. Not just route running like I’ve said before, but in my catching. There’s a lot to actually catching a football if you just break it down. It’s not just catch and okay. It’s catch it. Have it right here. Eyes to the tuck so it’s secured. The way you hold it after the catch and stuff like that. It’s just something that I needed to pick up more.”

WIDE RECEIVER JOSHUA PALMER

On his offseason:

“Doing good, getting healthy. Preparing for the season to come. Getting my mind and spirit right. Ready to kick it off.”

On his reaction to changes in the wide receivers room:

“I didn’t know about it until a few people were texting me. I was a little down that day. People were texting me as if I’m the one that got released. We hung out before they headed out. They are nothing but a phone call away. I can just hit them up.”

On opportunity of a bigger role this season:

“I approach it like it’s a whole new team — because it technically is from the top down. The new coaching staff is getting to know me, I am getting to get to know them. I just take it one day at a time. Trying to get the installs, trying to understand what they are putting in and just let everything else fall the way it’s supposed to fall.”

On how offseason workouts have been with new coaching staff:

“The biggest difference is a large emphasis on the details. Extreme emphasis on the details, more than any team I have been a part of — from college to high school to anything, the most detail-oriented emphasis I have ever been a part of. I would say that’s the biggest difference. It’s blaring. You can’t miss it if you are in the building with us.”

On Wide Receivers Coach Sanjay Lal emphasizing getting precisely a certain number of yards on a route:

“That’s a great example. If you are supposed to get right here, get right here. Everything else we’ll coach up. If it says get 10 yards up, don’t get 11, don’t get nine.”

On if he likes the emphasis on detail:

“Yeah, because then it’s cut and dry. There is no room for, ‘Ahh he kind of got there or he kind of didn’t,’ or ‘The ball’s here, but it could have been here.’ It either did you get 10 or not. If you didn’t, then you are wrong. It makes it a lot easier because I know I better get 10 because there is no room to get 9, no room to get 11. I know [QB] Justin [Herbert] is going to throw it at 10”

On if there is no room for freelancing:

“No room for freelancing.”

On his approach to the offseason entering year four:

“You just look for new things. From an individual standpoint, everybody’s offseasons are different. You go into the offseason knowing what you have to correct and the season before and the season before that. Every year is different. This year for me, it was getting my body back healthy from last season and hitting the ground running when I came back.”

On Head Coach Jim Harbaugh:

“He means what he says and he says what he means. He loves football. You can tell that how he comes to work, how he talks, how he coaches. Everything is about football.”

On if his injury last season required surgery:

“No. Just getting it strong.”

On how last season’s injury changed his offseason:

“I might have started training a little later, but nothing extreme.”

On today’s practice

“It felt good. I’m where I am supposed to be and that’s all I know for now. I know what is going to happen tomorrow.”

On if he thinks about filling the leadership left by last year’s veteran wide receivers:

“I’m not thinking about it too much. I’m going to let things fall into place how they should. Right now, my main focus is learning the offense. Learning everything [Offensive Coordinator Greg] G-Ro [Roman] wants us to do. Learning all the spots. Being on the same page as quarterback. Just letting everything come to fruition.”

On if he sees himself as a mentor:

“I would ask the other guys and see what they say. I don’t want to say, ‘I am a mentor,’ or something, someone has to call me their mentor.”

On his past experience stepping in as the No. 1 wide receiver:

“I feel like my preparation is never going to change. Since my rookie year, I have always been preparing as if I was the No. 1 because why would I prepare any differently?  Why would I prepare as a backup? Why would I prepare as someone who is not going to play? That won’t change. From an experience standpoint, I feel like it’s important knowing that you might be in that role to have to step up big. I wouldn’t say it’s anything new. The coaches have full trust in me, that’s what I’m working for. The receivers coach has full trust in me. I’m learning them they are learning me as well.”

On Executive Director of Player Performance Ben Herbert and his offseason program:

“He’s very detailed-orientated. If he says, ‘Don’t go past your belly button,’ don’t go past your belly button. Everything has a reason. Everything has an explanation as to why you should or shouldn’t do something. While we are in there, we don’t waste time. We are in and we are out. We get the work that we need to get done.”

On OLB Joey Bosa giving a speech to the team after practice:

“Just Joey giving a speech. He was just telling guys how long he has been here and how he is happy to be here.”

On WR Ladd McConkey:

“Ladd is a great route runner. I’ve seen a few of his clips when he was at the senior bowl, and I was very impressed with the display he put on at Senior Bowl. Even just here at practice, I see what he can do. He is special.”

On Bosa’s speech and how he gave his speech:

“[Head] Coach [Jim Harbaugh] has this thing called ‘wise words’. He has somebody come up and say wise words. Whatever is on that person’s mind. Coach picks a random person each practice, without a heads-up. On the spot, you don’t have time to prepare. You should be prepared because you might get picked.”

On if he has been picked for wise words:

“I have not been up yet. I have been thinking about it, in case he calls me.”

On differences in WR Quentin Johnston from his rookie year:

“Of course, Quentin is a lot more mature in terms of knowing how to do things that he might have not known how to do before. He is a lot more critical of himself.”

On mentoring the younger players in the locker room:

“When guys come up to me, I’ll give them what I have. That’s what I had to do with [Bears WR] Keenan [Allen]. I had to go up to him and take the things from him, which he eventually understood. So if guys want to do that to me, of course, I will help. I am not going to force it down everyone’s throat like, ‘Oh you have to be doing this. You have to be doing that.’ I have to learn this stuff, too. Everyone is in the same boat right now.”

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