View Original Notice ? Chargers’ top draft pick Zion Johnson makes a good first impression
COSTA MESA — First impressions being what they are, and they can be everything in a first-round draft pick’s first NFL training camp, rookie right guard Zion Johnson certainly made a good one on veteran center Corey Linsley over his first five days with the Chargers at Jack Hammett Sports Complex.
“Calm,” Linsley said.
“Collected,” he said.
“Smart as hell,” he said.
Johnson’s job is an important one, maybe one of the most important.
After all, Johnson, Linsley and the rest of the offensive line must protect quarterback Justin Herbert if the Chargers are to fulfill the lofty expectations placed upon them after a flurry of offseason activity resulted in an upgraded roster. Herbert can’t do the Chargers any good if he’s flat on his back.
Johnson certainly looked the part coming out of Boston College. He was a first-team All-American on the field and a dedicated student in the classroom. He left school with a bachelor’s degree in computer science and a master’s degree in cybersecurity policy and governance.
“He’s living up to the bill right now,” said Linsley, a nine-year pro from Ohio State. “First days in pads, but he’s everything we thought (he would be). He’s a really good player. He’s got a ton of raw talent. You could see he’s already put a lot together. The sky’s limit, man. He’s very talented.”
Johnson, Linsley and the rest of the offensive line are getting an extraordinary tutorial in the rigors of blocking NFL pass-rushers by facing all-pro outside linebackers Joey Bosa and Khalil Mack in practice. It’s likely to pay dividends when the season begins Sept. 11 against the Raiders.
“There’s been some great acquisitions all across our division (the AFC West), and yet it definitely helps us to go up against those two guys,” Linsley said. “Joey and Khalil have obviously made names for themselves in the league for a number of years now. It’ll be beneficial for us down the line.”
Apparently, the only thing holding back safety Nasir Adderley was the Chargers’ inability to hold him back in his first few seasons in the NFL. He was a bundle of energy on the field, a hyperkinetic player who simply needed to slow down a little bit to reach his peak performance.
At least that’s the way that defensive coordinator Renaldo Hill explained it.
“We knew when we got ‘Nas’ that he had a big engine,” Hill said. “He can run and cover so much ground. But that’s a lot of young guys. It’s like that dog that gets around and is just going fast. Now, he has a calmness to him. He understands when to use the gas and when not to. He’s becoming more of a quarterback back there. With Derwin (James) not back there, he’s the main signal-caller back there. It’s allowing him to express himself in this scheme. I really like what I see. There’s no second-guessing. He’s going to the right spots at the right time. He’s really looking sharp back there.”
Hill referred to James’ absence from practice while awaiting a contract extension.
Holding back, picking his spots, isn’t always easy for Adderley.
“Everybody knows that about me, like, I’m trying to go,” he said, prompting laughter from reporters during his post-practice media session. “It’s definitely been a process of learning. Like, this is the situation where I need to put on the brakes and here’s the situation where I can get on the gas.”
ODDS AND ENDS
The Chargers donned their pads for the first time in camp, focusing on one-on-one battles during an extended period of 11-on-11 play. Coach Brandon Staley said he liked what he saw, adding, “I thought that the way we practiced 11-on-11 is indicative of a good team.” …
Linebacker Drue Tranquill sat out of practice because of a groin strain suffered during the opening days of training camp. Said Staley: “He’s just dealing with the groin. It’s nothing long term, but we’re just going to make sure that he’s good before he gets back (on the field).” …
The Chargers signed Sage Surratt, an undrafted tight end from Wake Forest who participated in the Detroit Lions’ training camp in 2021 and, most recently, helped the Birmingham Stallions win the USFL championship. He caught 107 passes for 1,582 yards at Wake Forest.