SAN DIEGO -- Safety Jahleel Addae was at the front of a caravan of San Diego Chargers' defenders who were escorting fellow safety Adrian Phillips into the end zone after an interception during the team’s mandatory minicamp this week.
The emotional stir generated by the big play is something the Chargers usually reserve for games.
However, defensive coordinator John Pagano has encouraged his group to get excited after making a game-changing play, with the hope that his defense can create even more of those moments during the regular season.
“It’s great to see the guys celebrate like that, and when they do make a play, get excited,” Pagano said. “It’s about each teammate, when they do make that play, we celebrate as one as a unit. And that’s been positive. It’s been good to see that because it’s something that we’ve emphasized during the offseason, and we’ve got to see that carry over to the regular season.
“The coaches did a hell of a job of getting our guys prepared because we throw a lot at them. And when you throw a lot at them, you want to see what they retain. It’s been good. And what I like about it the most is we’re playing fast, and that’s most important.”
The Chargers have forced just 55 turnovers the past three years, last in the NFL over that period. Part of the reason for the lack of turnovers has been an inconsistent pass rush. The Chargers have just 93 sacks the past three seasons, second-worst in the NFL in that time frame.
That’s one of the reasons San Diego chose DE Joey Bosa with the third overall selection in this year’s draft.
Bosa missed the last three days of offseason work due to a dispute over his contract. And while the Ohio State product has been mostly lauded for his work ethic and for the improvement he made over the past three months at Chargers Park, he did miss some much-needed reps the past couple of days, according to coach Mike McCoy.
“It’s important that you can get as much work as you can with your teammates,” McCoy said. “We’re still installing a few things. The majority of the install went in the first 10 days of the OTAs, but there’s a review we’re going through, and a couple different wrinkles we are adding.
“I’ve asked the offense and the defense to put in a couple different wrinkles that the other side hasn’t seen, so it’s continuous development and learning what we want to do in our system, most importantly.”
Veteran defensive tackle Brandon Mebane has helped with the development of Bosa and the rest of San Diego’s young defensive line. Heading into his 10th NFL season, the former Seattle Seahawk quickly emerged as the leader of San Diego’s defensive line.
Mebane said the advice he offers younger players has been simple.
“I give them four things that work for defensive linemen across the board when you play for anybody -- focus on your eyes, your hands, your feet and your leverage,” Mebane said. “I tell guys on the D-line to focus on those four things. And if you focus on those four things, I guarantee you’ll be successful.”
Mebane says guys are listening to what he is telling them. And with Mebane helping the younger players in his position group, the Cal product says he’s being helped by new defensive line coach Giff Smith.
“He’s a good defensive line coach,” Mebane said. “He’s very smart -- probably one of the smartest defensive line coaches I’ve ever had. He’s got a great track record, too. I knew that track record, and actually just coming in here and listening to him and talking to him, I was like, ‘Wow, I’ve got a lot to learn, too.'”
With eight of San Diego’s 11 projected starters returning from last season, Addae said the defense has developed into a cohesive unit that’s ready to make plays on game day when the regular season begins.
“The group is so tight, from the DBs, the linebackers, to the D-line,” Addae said. “We hang out off of the field, and that’s the big thing. We don’t just come out here Monday through Friday, work out and practice and go home. We actually hang out. We’ve got love for one another. We’re competing as one and we get excited for one another.”