Though the 2021 Scouting Combine isn't taking place in Indianapolis as we normally know it, Chargers General Manager Tom Telesco held his annual presser in a virtual format that's becoming more normal as we move through this pandemic.
But as for change? Well, it can be a good thing according to Telesco who discussed how the lack of a typical combine this year has affected this part of the offseason.
"You just need to find the advantages," Telesco said. "We did our scouting meetings a different way this year. I kind of enjoyed it. Last year, we had the combine, so that was normal. This year, no combine at all, so that is going to be a lot different. Essentially, those pro days are going to serve as a combine for us, as far as how we're going to collect data on the players. It's different.
"In the end, when we go through this process, a bulk of our work - and I'm just talking about college scouting - the bulk of the work is done in the fall and the winter, between the players playing football in the fall, then maybe an all-start game in the winter, and then the two different sets of meetings that we have before the combine. That's where the bulk of the work is done. Then, we do some work with the combine numbers and some things after that. Any time you change something, it kind of changes your focus a little bit. I think that's a good thing so that you don't get stale. You look at different ways to do things. Maybe even innovate a little bit and try to change. I think it's a good thing to do."
But now, onto the nuts and bolts of the Chargers.
Telesco said the ultimate goal heading into 2021 is to "build a balanced football team." While Telesco admitted he's "encouraged" at where the team stands, there's still "work to do" whether that's done through free agency, the nine picks they hold in the draft, or taking care of their own.
"On offense, we weren't efficient running the ball," he reflected. "It's not so much about how many times that you run it, but how you do run it when you do. Our red zone and goal-to-go offense, we didn't score enough points, which is a big issue in close games. Some of the low red zone was because our run game efficiency wasn't very good. So, we have to get better in those three categories. On defense, pressure and takeaways, have to get a lot better there. Our two-minute defense really didn't play to where it needed to be. Field position on special teams has to improve. Those are the areas we need to get better at."
It's been a busy offseason for the Chargers already with the hiring of head coach Brandon Staley and his staff. Although he said they'll get more time together soon, and frankly, he admitted it'll take a year to fully gel, Telesco detailed how the coaching changes will translate to the field.
"(Innovative) just means something new, something different. Obviously, on both sides of the ball, it's going to be different. Brandon's defense is going to be different than we'd run in the past. Like I mentioned, as far as the type of players that we're looking for, that won't change that much. But, the style of defense will change. The offense, we're essentially building it in-house from scratch. So, that's going to change. Those are two pretty big differences right there that we have to work through. It's kind of a fun process to go through. But yeah, there are going to be some pretty significant changes there."
Telesco mentioned looking through the eyes of this new staff is "fresh" and "fun" and cited how the adaptability and acumen of the newest coaches is encouraging as they move through this offseason.
On 2021 NFL Draft class: "Overall, I think it's a deep draft. I really do. I don't know if the whole offensive line is deep in the draft, but there are certain areas that are better than others. We look at it probably different than you would. I know that the focus is on the first round, but we're looking through all seven rounds and trying to see where the depth is in different positions. It looks pretty good."
On 2021 salary cap: "At least we know the ballpark of where it's going to be. We're kind of good there. And, we would always aim low, just in case. But, we know the ballpark of where it's going to be. Could there be a lot of one-year deals? I'm not sure about that because a one-year deal is a one-year cap hit at the full amount. That may work for some teams and that may not work for others. Multi-year deal, you can prorate the numbers down so that the cap number is smaller. It remains to be seen how that plays out."
On Staley's defensive scheme: "I wouldn't get too caught up on the labels of 3-4 and 4-3. I really wouldn't ... There won't be too many changes, I wouldn't think, which is good. From a personnel standpoint, it'd be very hard right now to take everybody and kind of turn it over very quickly if guys didn't fit. That's a part of the head coaching process, as far as when you're talking about what you're going to run on offense and defense. What do we have that fits?"
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