Ja’Sir Taylor intercepts spotlight among Chargers rookies

It was the best game on a day when Chargers training camp was closed to fans.

Instead, Ja’Sir Taylor had to settle for just hearing the screams and screams of his defensive teammates.

As the offense put in the two-minute drill and was looking for third, Taylor stepped in front of Keenan Allen in the right flat, intercepting Justin Herbert’s pass and returning it for a touchdown.

“He’s an accomplished guy,” said defensive coordinator Renaldo Hill. “He’s one of those guys that if he made a mistake that day, he’s not going to make that mistake again.”

As a rookie, Taylor was a sixth-round pick — No. 214 overall — from Wake Forest. Along with JT Woods in the third round and Deane Leonard in the seventh round, he was one of three defensemen the Chargers drafted in 2022.

Taylor’s interception capped another solid day of practice for the defense. Early in the 11-on-11, safety Alohi Gilman and tackle Breiden Fehoko both had tackles for loss.

Hill said Taylor made it a point to spend time with Bryce Callahan, the Chargers’ top slot cornerback, and try to learn from the veteran. In a system that values ​​defensive defenders, Taylor is trying to find a niche.

“His growth potential is really high right now,” Hill said. “We expect some good things from him. Once those lights come on we really want him to play at a high level because he has the mental and physical strength to do it.”

Taylor is expected to play a lot Saturday night when the Chargers open the preseason against the Rams at SoFi Stadium.

So does Woods and Leonard, since most Chargers veterans won’t appear in any preseason games.

Chargers safety JT Woods makes a snag in practice.

Chargers rookie safety JT Woods participated during camp.

(Marcio Jose Sanchez / Associated Press)

Hill said Woods’ game has improved in recent days after struggling intermittently last week. The Chargers have given him time with the first team, Hill explained, “to see if we can accelerate this development.”

After playing college football in the Big 12 (in Baylor), Taylor is still getting used to defending the run, Hill said. Against the pass, his range, speed, and ball skills are all plus points.

“The running game is here [in the Big 12], but they don’t ask her to put her face in there,” Hill said. “We ask him to read keys and be able to react. He’s coming with me. He’s really made progress in the last few days.”

Another issue for Woods is that as a collegiate hurdler, he also missed out on some football development that he would have received in a full offseason program.

Staly absent

Coach Brandon Staley was away from training as he was dealing with a family matter. His youngest son Grant underwent surgery on Tuesday to treat a broken toe and possible infection.

In Staley’s absence, Hill called the defense signals. Afterward, Hill explained that he would often call out signals during certain practice periods, particularly in two-minute situations.

Staley names the signals in games.

Several Chargers didn’t practice, including safety Derwin James Jr. (contract negotiation), wide receiver Mike Williams (undisclosed), tight end Gerald Everett (undisclosed), and linebacker Drue Tranquill (groin).

Edge Ruser Khalil Mack was also held up after the Chargers conducted an intrasquad scrimmage on Sunday. Linebacker Kyle Van Noy returned to individual practice.

Receivers go fast

Leading up to the draft, one of the Chargers’ oft-cited needs was speed at wide receivers, with Jalen Guyton being the only recognized burner.

The Chargers then didn’t draft wide receivers after bringing veteran DeAndre Carter into free agency, primarily to be their kick returner.

“It’s just the outsiders talking,” Williams said. “Obviously they see that JG runs from people and I run from people. That’s just the outside. During the combine you can see everyone running 4.2 [in the 40-yard dash] now.”

While Williams isn’t known for his speed, his height — 6ft 4, 218 pounds — and ability at 50/50 balls mean he remains a major threat. He led the NFL with an average of 20.4 yards per catch in 2019.

“Here on the team, everyone in the organization, they know what we have,” Williams said. “Obviously we didn’t get anyone else because we like what we have here. That’s just the outside noise. We don’t really listen to that.”

https://www.latimes.com/sports/chargers/story/2022-08-09/jasir-taylor-rookies-chargers-defensive-backfield Ja’Sir Taylor intercepts spotlight among Chargers rookies

Emma Bowman

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