DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR TODD BOWLES
(On what he has seen from Chargers rookie QB Justin Herbert)
"He has two games under his belt and I think he has a lot of poise in the pocket. He can make some great throws, he definitely doesn't feel pressure around him, he keeps his head down the field, he can run with the football [and] he makes great reads. I think he's off to a great start."
(On how often he has faced young quarterbacks who are adept at facing the blitz)
"We don't look at young or old quarterbacks – we just look at the team we're playing and try to stop some of the things that they do. I think he does everything well in their system. Like I said, he can run, he can throw the ball, he takes great reads [and] he's a first-round pick for a reason. He's 6'5", athletic and we know we have our work cut out for us. Defense isn't as easy as 'blitz the young guy' – we have young guys, too. We're trying to worry about our own guys and try to do things we know how to do."
(On if pressuring the quarterback is more complicated when facing a quarterback who gets the ball out of their hand quickly)
"It's always a challenge regardless. Every week is different for us. We can dial it up or we can dial it back depending on who we're playing and how we game plan. It's just a matter of understanding what we do and taking care of what we have to do to win the ballgame."
(On how the defense growing impacts the amount of trust he puts in his players during games)
"I think it's just their second year in the system and them trusting each other on the field. I think as coaches, it's our job to put try to put them in the best positions possible for them to make a play. Believe me, we're no masterminds over here at all. We just try to coach good football and good football players. We work hard every week. Sometimes you have a good gameplan and it sucks, and sometimes you have a bad gameplan and it works out well. We're just going to keep grinding and working. We have a lot of kinks to still work out. We try to win while doing it."
(On two new looks the defense presented with more down linemen and what he calls those looks)
"One is 'four down' and one is 'five down', generically. We go down that way. It's a good question, but it's probably too much information for my part if I answer it. It's a heck of a question. Off the record we could probably talk, but [not] on the camera."
(On where he comes up with the idea for various blitz concepts the defense utilizes)
"They're common – it's not just me, it's the coaching staff as a whole. We try to make sure we cover our bases from the week before and the week before that and we try not to look the same without jeopardizing each player and keeping their strengths as their strengths and their weaknesses as their weaknesses. It changes sometimes – it varies. It can be all-out [blitz], it can be simulated pressure [or] it can be zone. It's not just a blitz thing – we don't consider ourselves just a blitz team. Last week was kind of an anomaly that it worked out that way in the second half. Obviously, we watched tape and we did some things we don't normally do. We'll go back and see what we can do [to] try and win the ballgame."
(On if he develops his pressure schemes in the offseason or if it is during the season when strategizing against particular opponents)
"Usually it's in season, but because we had a longer offseason you get a lot more time to watch film, think and tinker with things. So, you come up with a little more in the offseason this year."
(On the depth the team has at certain positions and what it says about how the team was built)
"It's a credit to Coach [Bruce] Arians, Jason Licht and how they bring guys in here that can do multiple things and play multiple roles. It helps out to have versatile ballplayers. For them to recognize that, draft and sign these type of guys for us, it says a lot about them."
(On S Jordan Whitehead playing the 'money backer' position)
"I think Jordan is a very tough player. He's probably one of the hardest working guys we have over there. He's a little unsung along with [William] Gholston. Jordan's tough, he plays down low very well, you know he can tackle, he's going to hit anything that moves. He's a very bright player, so we're allowed to move him around some and put him in some different situations."
(On if he prepares for both Herbert and QB Tyrod Taylor)
"We try to plan for everybody on the roster. With injuries occurring in the game and out of the game, you always want to know who goes in – not just at quarterback, but every position. It's our job to understand who we may be playing against if something happens, so yes – we prepare for him as well."
OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR BYRON LEFTWICH
(On the team starting fast offensively and how the offense maintains that production in the second half of games)
"It's just constant execution and what you said – it's really happening early in games. We all know each football game comes with 50, 60, 70 plays and you've got to be able to execute consistently down in and down out. I think we've done a great job of that coming into football games. I think we did a good job of that, really, training to execute in the second half. I think what's happened is the third quarter has been a big quarter for us when we've gotten a lot of penalties and we're in a lot of second-and-20s, first-and-20s. In this league, that's going to always put you in third-and-long, and you try your best to stay out of those situations because obviously you're not going to convert a high percentage of those. We're just trying to be smarter on first and second down to put us in a better position for third down, so we aren't in so many third-and-longs. That's what was killing us in the second half of last week – really, in the second half of the week before. The penalties that we've gotten in the second half just put us in bad positions."
(On if it is his job as a play caller to get TE Rob Gronkowski and TE O.J. Howard more involved offensively)
"Yeah, but you can't control what the defense does. If they want to put three [defenders] on Mike [Evans], they're going to put three on Mike. If they want to do what they want to do, they're going to do what they feel they have to do. We have to be structured in a way that the guy who gets the one-on-one matchup [and] the guy that the ball does go to makes the play. I think that's what we're trying to develop. Like I tell you – don't force feed it. We'll get guys the ball. I'm always trying to put these guys in positions, so everything is thought out all the time. Sometimes the ball doesn't come his way, but obviously it came [their] way last week and we'll see."
(On what he remembers from when he faced QB Tom Brady as a rookie quarterback in 2003)
"I remember it being extremely cold. That's what I really remember about that. They were a good football team. At the time, we had no idea he would be who he became at the time. Really, as the quarterback, you're worried about the defense. You're worried about the guys that you're competing against for the most part, because you never really get the opportunity to see the opposing team's quarterback [and] to see the opposing team's offensive film. You're really more concerned about the defense and what they're doing and how you're trying to execute."
(On if he remembers any interactions he had with Brady that game)
"I remember us talking after the game [and] I remember us talking after a playoff game where we lost to those guys. We had great conversations when we saw each other all the time – even 20 [or] 17 years ago. We've always been in a good spot when we saw each other. We always communicated and we just so happen to be working with each other."
(On why the offense is struggling with penalties in the second half of games)
"Just not executing. Some of them were earned, to be honest with you. When you play football, sometimes there are penalties, especially post-snap penalties. The ones that really kill you are the pre-snap penalties. We've got to do a better job of just not having pre-snap penalties and trying to limit as many post-snap penalties as possible. What I do like about our guys [is that] our guys are being aggressive and they're playing in an aggressive way. Sometimes those penalties come about, so you try to teach through those penalties without stopping the guys from being aggressive. I love the aggressiveness that we're playing with – we just have to do a better job with our technique to put us in better situations."
(On if Brady completing passes in tight windows is a sign he's becoming more comfortable with the offense)
"Maybe. I don't know about those specific two throws, but each day I see him more comfortable, I see his body language [and] I can see the way that he's moving. He's beginning to learn everything more. He's really beginning to learn our guys more and just learn where to put the ball [and] when to go to certain guys. It's still a learning process, really, for all of us. It's not really all about him having to do the learning. I think we as coaches have to do some learning [and] I think we as players have to do some learning because it's all different. We're having some instances happen for the first time in football games where we're just having opportunities to talk about them because they're unique to what happened that day [and on] that play. That always happens, so we understand that. We'll keep communicating – we're just trying to execute every play as much as possible and then hopefully that's good enough to win the football game."
(On the offense not frequently using play-action despite Brady's historical success in doing so)
"I don't really know. I don't know what percentage we were at first and where we should really be at from a percentage standpoint. I'm fine where we're at as an offense and what we're doing. We're doing things that are putting us in position to be successful. Everything we try to do, we try to do to have success. We'll do the right things that we feel as though we need to do to win each individual ballgame. Whichever ballgame that is, whatever gameplan that is, we'll try to execute it to the best of our ability to be successful."
(On what he saw on film when watching TE Rob Gronkowski catch passes during Week 3 vs. Denver)
"You've got to think [about how] it's new for him, too. Everything is new for everybody, really, in the huddle. Learning an offense, it always takes some time. It's not just about learning the X's and O's and knowing it on paper. Sometimes things have to happen on the grass where you can learn. I think we're all getting better. I think I'm doing a better job of learning Tom, learning Gronk [and] putting these guys in better positions. I think the players are doing a better job of getting better [and] getting in position making plays. I think if we just stay at that pace, stay at that rate, keep getting better [and] trying to do things we can to win football games, I think we'll be fine."
(On replacing WR Chris Godwin and WR Scotty Miller if neither are available to play on Sunday)
"First, I just go about it like I tell you guys – I trust in everybody on this team. Especially on the offensive side of the ball, I know what the guys can do [and] I know what they bring to the table. It's just really my job to put these guys in position to have success, regardless of who it is. If it's Mike [Evans], Chris [Godwin], Scotty [Miller] – if it's not those guys [and] if it's other guys – just constantly trying to put them in position to be successful. That's what the game of football is really all about. Going out there [and] playing football. There's a lot of guys in this league that can play good football that guys just know of, [who] just need opportunities. We don't mind giving guys opportunities to be their best self, play the game that they love and try to play it at a high level. I don't really see it that way. I see it as whoever's out there, I trust and believe [in]. There's been enough coaching [and] there's been enough reps to trust that these guys can get the job done. That's the only way I do it as a coach."
(On if rookie WR Tyler Johnson is where he needs to be to contribute in games)
"I don't know if any rookie is where they need to be right now across the league. It's just been such a different year. I think he's better from a health standpoint – that was first and foremost. Unfortunately for the kid, he hurt himself badly early in the year and he had no training camp. Coming off of no OTAs [and] no summer, to have no training camp – I like where he's at. He's functional to be out in the game. Now, he's just got to learn how to insert himself within the offense and make plays that come his way. But, I think he's doing a heck of a job trying to go to work [and] learn. He's working hard at it, but he's still a rookie. We understand that [and] we understand that there's going to be some growing pains. We just want him to keep working, keep getting better and keep making plays when they come his way."
(On how not having WR Chris Godwin and WR Mike Evans on the field together for an extended period of time has stunted the offense's growth)
"It's just been different. These guys, they're so reliable. When they're in the huddle, you're a better football team. 10 days before the opening day, I think we lost Mike. [For] a week, week and a half, Mike didn't practice before the first game. Then, we lose Chris the week after and he's down now. It's been different, but it's given guys opportunities to come in, play [and] make plays. It's given guys some experience – obviously, you're a better football team anytime you have both of those guys out there. But, we'll have to do what we have to do. We're just going to continuously work our butts off and just try to keep putting our hand in the pile and add. Guys get opportunities – they just have to make plays."
(On if Brady is taking extra time with players who haven't gotten many reps to try and get them up to speed)
"I think he's always done that. He's done that now for months now. That's who he is [and] that's how he operates. That won't be [any] different from that standpoint because that's something that he's continuously done since he's been here."
(On if the Chargers missing key defensive players changes his gameplan)
"Not really. You cut the tape on it and you see how well they're playing [and] you know they're well coached by who's there coaching them. This is a well-coached team [and] this is a team that plays hard. They play hard, they play physical [and] they show up on tape all the time, constantly. We understand what we're up against. This is the National Football League. We preach all the time 'Next man up' here. We believe in it, so we assume everybody else believes in it, too. We'll give everybody their due respect. This is the National Football League [and] this is players [who are] the best in the world. There's a lot of guys out here who know how to play the game of football and can play the game at a high level. We respect all those guys [and] we don't care who they are. We understand that they're good enough to have success in this league, so we prepare that way."
QUARTERBACK TOM BRADY
(On starting fast in the first quarter)
"We've got off to a good start in all the games. We've got to figure out how to just keep that consistency over the course of the 60 minutes. It's one thing to one thing to get off to a good start, [but] you want to play well at the end of every half, too, [and] you want to start the third quarter fast – really, you want to play a great 60 minutes every week. It's a pretty small sample size still. But yeah, absolutely we want to get off to a fast start every game. You want to pay from ahead [and] you want to play on your terms. We're certainly going to have to – as the year goes on – continue to gain consistency and dependability over the course of the whole game. That's going to be the goal."
(On what he remembers from starting as a young quarterback as Chargers QB Justin Herbert will be doing on Sunday)
"It feels like a continuation of college, I think, for a lot of the younger players because they're getting into the league and the game probably has morphed a little bit into what the college game kind of has been. Some younger quarterbacks can play and kind of do some of the things that they did in college, which makes the transition a little bit easier. It's a little different than when I started, although the school I played at (Michigan) was probably more of a pro-style team, so it was a little easier for me than it was for some others. It was a long time ago that I was in that situation, but it didn't feel too big for me. I played at a school where there was a lot of expectation. We played in front of 100,000 people every week, so it was a big-time college program. I think Justin [Herbert] played at a big-time college program too (Oregon), so they had a big following. Now you come in, there's not a lot of media attention – you don't see them on a daily basis. Training camp – there wasn't a lot of people [and] there is no one at the games, so it kind of feels a little different. [It's a] unique situation for all of us, and certainly for him playing this year, but he's done a great job in the time he's been in there and we're going to have to play good to beat this team."
(On if he ever wonders 'what if' in terms of going to the Los Angeles Chargers this past offseason rather than joining the Buccaneers)
"No, I love where I chose to play. I love playing with our coaches and playing with the players we have on this team. I made a great decision and I love what we have going here. We have a lot of work we're putting into it. We didn't have the benefit of the offseason program or training camp, so we're going to continue to be kind of a work in progress and try to get better every week, every day, every meeting, every walkthrough [and] every time we can talk about football. [We have to] figure out how to put all the pieces together, which we are working on, on a daily basis. This is a great organization. I've loved every minute that I've been here. Other than losing a game against the Saints, we've had a lot of great days."
(On working with Coach Tom Moore)
"It's been great. He's just an amazing guy and has so much football knowledge. I competed against him for quite a while with teams that he coached for. He sits in all our meetings, we talk a lot of football [and] it's great having him around. He sees football in a very unique way and I think everyone always appreciates the insights he brings."
(On how injuries have slowed the development process for the offense, and whether it can be a good thing to get other players involved in practice)
"I think you've got to take advantage of that situation. I think you'd ideally like to have everybody out there practicing. The only way to get better is to practice together. You can't walk through or talk through everything – you've got to practice. There are a lot of things that happen out there that are happening in the moment. You've got to make really critical decisions [and] everyone has to be on the same page. The more you practice together, the more those things are going to come up. I always think it's a benefit to practice and practice well. When certain guys can't [practice] for injury – this is a contact sport and things happen – it is good for the other guys to get reps and for them to get in there and prove to everybody that if they did get the chance to be in there, then they've got to take advantage of it and do a great job. That's how a lot of guys get their positions – guys get injured and guys never get their job back. That's just the way football is."
(On the process of moving forward from one game to the next)
"I like to move on pretty quick for sure. Yes you're thinking about the wins and the losses, but you're also thinking about improvement, how it felt, what we need to do better, what I can do better and how I need to communicate better. The win is a win or the loss is a loss. You probably think about the loss more than you think about the win. The win is probably more of a relief than a joyful feeling. You feel like, 'OK, I'm glad we won. Let's start making improvements.' I get after it pretty quick, and my mind is [moved] on pretty quick. I kind of know how I did as soon as I did it, so even watching the film, I feel like I pretty much [know]. Two hours after the game, I'll watch the film [or] on the flight home I'll watch the game. I'll watch it a few times and then move on from there."
(On how to get players up to speed for the games who might not have been getting many reps in practice prior to someone going down with an injury)
"I think all of that stuff just comes with practice. You can spend time with each other in the locker room or whatever – this year we can't do much – but getting to know people is one thing [and] getting to know them on the football field is most important. Ultimately, we're all here to do a job. Our job is to win football games. To win football games is very demanding – everything is important. They just don't magically happen. It's not about, 'Let's clap our hands together and scream.' It's about doing the right thing consistently, gaining the trust of your teammates, being dependable every day in practice and through every game. The more people that are doing that, the better you're going to be. The less people that are doing it, the less good you're going to be. It's got to be a commitment by everybody to show up every day with an attitude to work and to put the work in. It all pays off. When you win, it's all worth it. When you lose, you've got to do better. The thing about sports is there's a scoreboard. At the end of every game, you know how you did. At the end of every season, there's a record and you know how you did. If it doesn't measure up, you've got to make improvements. If it does measure up, you better get started on the next year. That's football."
LINEBACKER LAVONTE DAVID
(On what has allowed him to start the season strong and win NFC Defensive Player of the Month)
"The thing that has enabled me is just the confidence that I have in the guys that are out there with me. Understanding and knowing everybody's going to be where they're supposed to be and everybody's going to play with an intensity level that helps me level my play. That was the main thing these first couple of games defensively."
(On lining up at outside linebacker and what that presents to opposing quarterbacks)
"It's different. Seeing me on the edge and then seeing me sometimes in the box, it's just giving different looks to different offenses and getting to call out certain pressures in certain ways and getting to call out our defense in certain ways as far as who's at the MIKE and who's not at the MIKE. It's just a different look that Coach [Todd Bowles] throws in every once and a while. Sometimes I'm off the edge and sometimes I'm in coverage – you never know what you're going to get. The thing that I like is I'm moving around. As you all know, sometimes as a backer, you can be stationary. But, when you move around, it gives offenses a hard time of identifying where you're at and what you're going to do. Coach [Bowles] does a great job at that and moving everybody around."
(On the biggest differences with the defense from this point last season to the current season)
"I think the confidence level. Guys understanding what Coach [Todd Bowles] wants out of us. It's like it was laid out already. We kind of had pretty good performances toward the end of last season, but now we want it to roll over to this season. That's just what we're trying to put out there and put on tape. [We are] understanding what coach wants us to do as far as the job and understanding what's expected from us when we're out there on the field. Just holding everybody accountable and making sure that guys know what they're supposed to be doing and [that] guys know where they're supposed to line up. Also, with the communication aspect of it – when guys talk, we can be the best defense out there. When we're talking and when we're flying around, it makes everything easier and it makes everybody's job easier. When you overcommunicate and when you talk and have confidence in the guy next to you, it gives everybody an opportunity to just play fast, have trust in the guy next to you, knowing what they've got [and] that he's going to do his job in the correct way. It does bring your confidence level a little higher."