5 observations from Chargers GM Tom Telesco’s NFL Scouting Combine press conference – Sports Illustrated

Following a heartbreaking loss to end their season, the Los Angeles Chargers know they have plenty of work to do.

That work begins with general manager Tom Telesco and the Chargers scouting staff at the 2022 NFL combine. While at Telesco’s media availability Tuesday afternoon, we dove into what exactly L.A. is looking at this offseason.

All things considered, here are five observations from Telesco’s combine press conference.

1. Telesco will not comment about contract talks

Jan 2, 2022; Inglewood, California, USA; Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert (10) connects with Los Angeles Chargers wide receiver Mike Williams (81) for a 45 yard touchdown pass in the second half the game against the Denver Broncos at SoFi Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Early in the afternoon, Telesco was asked more than once about the pending contract status of wide receiver Mike Williams. It’s also worth noting that right tackle Bryan Bulaga and defensive tackle Jerry Tillery were also grouped in with Williams as players for whom he did not reveal any future plans.

“All the contract plans, we’ll talk about down the road,” Telesco said.

When asked a handful of times about contract issues, Telesco refused to comment on the matter, stating that the team is focused on their active roster and questions surrounding what he could control as well as the combine.

2. Chargers are focused on helping Justin Herbert

Jan 9, 2022; Paradise, Nevada, USA; Las Vegas Raiders defensive end Maxx Crosby (98) pressures Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert (10) during an overtime period at Allegiant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

With quarterback Justin Herbert entering his third year in the league, there is plenty to be excited about. Telesco and the Chargers believe there is still a lot of room for Herbert to grow, and they are focused on surrounding him with the weapons to make that happen.

“It’s not rocket science, we got to protect the quarterback and make sure there’s enough weapons and that’s what we’re gonna do this offseason,” Telesco said. “The focus can’t just be on one side of the ball — it’s got to be on both. I want to make sure on offense we don’t take a step back.”

With the Chargers trying to keep up with the likes of Patrick Mahomes, the Bolts need to stay up to date, offensively. Although coach Brandon Staley is cut from a defensive-minded philosophy, L.A. has ambitions to allocate plenty of offseason resources to supporting their third-year quarterback with pieces that surround him.

3. Telesco recognizes the power of the AFC West

Dec 16, 2021; Inglewood, California, USA; Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert (10) throws a pass against the Kansas City Chiefs in the first half at SoFi Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

After Denver Broncos general manager George Paton spoke Tuesday morning on the power of the AFC West, Telesco reiterated his comments in the afternoon. Discussing the firepower of Mahomes and Kansas City, an up-and-coming team in Denver and the progress Las Vegas made in 2021, Telesco acknowledged the need to be successful in the West.

One of the biggest ways to do that may be by bulking up the Chargers’ pass rush. I asked Telesco about the depth at pass rusher in this draft, and while he didn’t mention anyone specifically or in free agency, he agreed that “it all starts with rushing the passer” which is especially important in the AFC West.

4. Chargers plan to show aggressiveness

Mar 1, 2022; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Los Angeles Chargers general manager Tom Telesco during the NFL Combine at the Indiana Convention Center. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Telesco notoriously stated after the 2021 season that he isn’t a believer in spending cap space solely because of a “window” based on the roster construction. However, Telesco has the third-most cap space in the NFL this offseason and the most since he inherited the general manager role in 2013. With that, he aims to help Herbert in any way he can.

“This year we can attack a little differently because we do have the cap space and a quarterback on a rookie deal,” Telesco said.

With plenty of depth in this free-agent wide receiver class, even a Mike Williams exit may not mean a decline in offensive weapons for Herbert. For one of the first times in nine years, expect Los Angeles to strike early and often with the cap space they have.

5. Chargers indicate they’ll be eyeballing tight end options and running back depth

Jan 9, 2022; Paradise, Nevada, USA; Los Angeles Chargers tight end Jared Cook (87) makes a catch against Las Vegas Raiders cornerback Nate Hobbs (39) at Allegiant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

Assisting Herbert is at the top of the Chargers’ to-do list, and Telesco spoke on a few areas that could be improved to make that happen. Both the tight end and running back position were discussed on Tuesday, with a starting tight end and second running back both mentioned.

With no clear number two behind running back Austin Ekeler, Telesco commented that “we need to get more at that spot for our offense to continue to evolve.”

With tight end Jared Cook set to hit free agency, Telesco spoke on behalf of the potential lack of veteran leadership at that position. While he once again refused to comment on Cook’s free-agent status, it sure sounded like he wants the veteran tight end back in Los Angeles.