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Below are three takeaways from Chargers Head Coach Brandon Staley, quarterback Justin Herbert, safety Derwin James, Jr. and outside linebacker Chris Rumph II following their media availability on Wednesday:
Bolts get back to work
The Chargers have turned their full attention to Week 3’s road contest against the Vikings.
Both teams currently sit at 0-2, and both teams have endured a pair of close losses to start the season.
The Bolts two losses have come by just five combined points while Minnesota’s point differential at the moment is minus-9.
As preparation for Week 3 ramped up Wednesday, Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert liked what he saw on the practice field.
“The energy has been great,” Herbert said. “We’re professionals here and these guys show up every day to work and do their best. It’s an honor to share the field with them.”
Chargers Head Coach Brandon Staley added that Minnesota and Vikings Head Coach Kevin O’Connell — whom Staley coached with in 2020 — have their full attention.
“Ton of respect for their team, the year that they had last year in Kevin’s first year,” Staley said. “A lot of dangerous players on both sides of the ball and in the kicking game. They’ve had two tough games this year.
“They had a fantastic season last year and a lot of the key guys that were the engine in that season are still there. A lot of experience and a lot of dangerous players. A lot of respect for them,” Staley added.
Offensively, the Bolts have put up 58 points through two games, which ranks sixth in the league. The Chargers also rank fourth at 387.5 points per game and are fifth in EPA per play (0.102).
But with both games coming down to the wire, Herbert said the offense is focused on better execution at the end of games.
“It’s on us as an offense to be better. The coaches have done a great job in putting us in a position to win,” Herbert said. “We just have to execute better.”
Defensively, the Bolts have had their moments, too. But some ups and downs have helped play a part in the back-to-back losses to start the season.
“I’ve got all the faith in the world,” James said. “Everyone is focused on the result and we know the sense of urgency that we’ve got to get.
“We’ve got to play harder and get better … but I’ve got all the confidence in the world in my guys,” James added.
With Week 3 on the horizon, the Chargers are focused on bringing a collective effort in order to get their first win of the season.
“We believe in everyone in this organization. Things haven’t gone our way the past couple games but panicking is never going to fix anything,” Herbert said.
He later added: “It’s up to us as a team to play together.”
A Rumph reunion
Chris Rumph II and his family have an interesting, but special, week ahead of them as the Bolts prepare to travel to Minnesota.
The Chargers outside linebacker’s father, Chris Rumph, is the Vikings defensive line coach and will be on the opposite sideline Sunday. He is in his second season as the defensive line coach in Minnesota and had previous stops with the Texans in 2020 and Bears in 2021.
Rumph II says that he talks to his father a lot all the time, as his perspective as a coach in the NFL is something that is unique.
“We talk every day, whether it’s about football or checking in on each other,” Rumph II said in the locker room. “Anytime we’re off the field, it’s father and son.
“It’s kind of cool that we’re both in the league, so we talk ball with each other, doing the things we’re supposed to do,” Rumph II added.
The moment will be a special one for the Rumph family — but still a competitive one, as the lead up to this game between them has gone on since they knew this game would be on the schedule at the end of last season.
“We talk every day. It’s been a lot of trash talk,” Rumph II said. “I think the schedule came out last year, so there’s been talk since last year and now the week is actually here.
“We know who mom is going for, we know who little bro is going for, so we just have to get there,” Rumph II said with a smile. “But it’s going to be a good time to see pops and everybody.”
If Rumph II plays, it’ll be the first time he will go up against a team his father coaches in the NFL. Rumph II was limited in practice on Wednesday, as he has missed the first two weeks of the season with a hamstring injury.
Even while being out, Rumph II is approaching this game as he has the prior two, staying engaged and mentally preparing like he’s going to go out there — something that holds major value as the season progresses.
“I’m preparing like I’m ready to play,” Rumph II said about approach. “It just hasn’t been that way in the past two weeks, but the preparation is there. It’s a long season, most of these teams we might see again, so I’m always staying locked in.”
“The physical is going to come, but the mental part, that’s something that’s got to maintain to the standard of our defense,” Rumph II later added. “Staying involved mentally and engaged is crucial and if you can’t do that, you’re not a professional.”
Plenty of respect for Smith
The Chargers have a do-it-all safety in the back end of their defense in James.
But the Vikings have a pretty prolific safety of their own, too, in veteran Harrison Smith.
“He’s very smart,” Herbert said. “He’s had so much success in the league and he’s such a great defensive player that is so instinctual and athletic.
“He poses a lot of threats and he’s one of those guys you have to be aware of whenever he’s on the field,” Herbert added.
A 2012 first-round pick out of Notre Dame, Smith’s resumé is up there with the other top safeties of his generation.
A six-time Pro Bowler who earned All-Pro honors in 2017, Smith certainly has the respect of Staley.
“Harrison’s one of the most underrated safeties of his kind of era,” Staley said. “I have a lot of guys who coached him, [Cardinals Head Coach] Jonathan Gannon, who’s one of my best friends, and [Chargers Linebacker Coach] Jeff Howard, that group of guys.
“To me he’s one of those safeties that’s set a real standard at the position,” Staley added.
Staley has seen Smith work his magic up close, too, given the fact that the head coach went against Smith four times in 2017 and 2018 while both were in the NFC North. Staley also went up against Smith in 2019 when he was with Denver.
Staley recalled a 2017 game when Smith picked off then-Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky in a tie game, giving the Vikings the ball at the Bears 28-yard line. Minnesota would kick a chip shot field goal for the win.
“We’ve played Minnesota a lot of years since I’ve been in the league and he’s just always been in the way,” Staley said. “I can remember my first year in Chicago, he had a game-winning interception at Soldier Field in [Mitchell] Trubisky’s first start and he’s just one of those guys who’s a problem.”
Staley has coached his fair share of elite safeties, whether it’s James, Eddie Jackson, Justin Simmons or others.
He puts Smith near the top of that group.
“He’s so smart, he’s seen all the looks, he can do everything well, pass defense in the deep part of the field, blitzer, open field tackling, he’s a commander,” Staley said. “So much respect for him.”
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