Ken Whisenhunt: "Our Guys Have Played Well as a Group"

Chargers OC addresses the media about QB Philip Rivers' stellar start to the season

On QB Philip Rivers:

“Gosh, you know, he's been pretty good since I've been with him, since we've been — in my time with him, that's what I've seen. You know, he really is one of the best players in the league, and he really works at it. That's what you admire so much about him — but this year, this offseason, he really worked hard at his conditioning, his fitness. I think it’s one of the things, when you get a little bit older, that becomes more important, and you can see it just in him progressing through the offseason. Not that he hasn't worked in the time before, but, you know, I think he's very comfortable and pleased with the guys that are around him. We had a good feeling at the end of the season last year with this group, and it was pretty much a lot of the same guys back so that certainly helped a lot.”

On quarterbacks extending their careers:

“You know what, I think you maybe could have said that a few years ago, but it seems like now with some of the other guys that are doing — you know, a lot of it has to do, I think, with some of the protection that the NFL has given these guys, which I think is important. I think the other thing is having a nutritionist here who talks about things to be healthier, and work, and hydrate — not that, once again, hadn't been talked about before, but I just think the focus now is more on taking care of your bodies. Guys are in better shape at an older age, and he's really playing good football.”

On if changes in offensive scheme have prolonged careers of quarterbacks:

“It's interesting. I think offenses have changed because defenses have changed. You get some guys over there that are incredible players that you're having to scheme things to try to get to keep them from getting wrecked in a game. So sometimes you're attacking different games will change based off what you have to do, but I think quarterbacks like Philip that can adapt — and you look at what he was doing 15 years ago as opposed to what he's doing now, the type of passes, the different things that are going on, it's probably a little bit different. I know the terminology for him because he was in the same system for a long time, but the one thing that's been consistent the whole time is he's been a good football player. I don't know. I don't know the answer to that question. I talked a lot, didn't say anything.”

On increased scoring and completion percentage across the NFL this year:

“You know, honestly, I couldn't tell you. I don't know. The short passing game has come up, but you look at our yards per attempt or yards per completion, or you look at the number of plays, pass plays that we've had over a certain amount of yards, there are still a lot of plays down the field that are in there. I think, once again, maybe because of the rule changes, maybe because of the way defenses are playing, because they're able to do more things because they have better athletes. They're playing different coverage schemes. You know, you're going through a progression. You take what's there instead of some of the differences that have been there in the past.”

On the Browns defense:

“Well, we've played them, I guess, for the last two years. This will be the third time in three years, they've just gotten a lot better. I think they've got a scheme there that's very complex. [Browns Defensive Coordinator] Coach [Gregg] Williams does a great job with that and you can obviously see that he's had some guys that have been there now for a couple of years that are getting it. They have some talented players. A pretty good defense. 

On the Browns defensive pressure:

“[It’s] through the roof. I think that's part of what they do. I'm certainly not an expert on what [Gregg Williams] does, but he's a good football coach. Granted, he's a great football coach, and he's always had a pressure package that involves a lot of different things and it makes it tough on offense.”

On Rivers’ completion percentage:

“You know, I think that's kind of what the game, not just us, the game is has evolved to. Having possessions, being able to convert third downs, that's a big part of it. Not having third-and-longs, maybe some of it is because when you get in those third-and-longs, you're seeing a lot of different pressures and things that make it difficult for you. You know, on the surface to sit here as we're talking, it's easy to say that as part of the conversation, but I just think that sometimes you're wired to get into a rhythm of this guy's here, this is where we're looking to go. We didn't get that coverage — okay, I'll get it to the back. Philip's probably been one of the best ever to get it to the backs. He's done that with [Hall of Fame RB LaDainian] L.T. [Tomlinson], he's done that with [former RB] Ryan [Mathews], he's done that now with [RB] Melvin [Gordon III], and that's a big part of it, too. I think we've got some guys here that are very versatile as receivers. Not just the backs or the tight ends or the wide receivers, and they're able to do more things. [WR] Keenan [Allen] is a guy that you can plug in in a bunch of different spots and he can catch a short pass and make it go a long ways and he can win, and if we get it to [WR] Tyrell [Williams] in some of those crossers, there are all kinds of different things that you do. He's able to manage that and go through the progressions and get it done, so a lot of it is because he just operates so fast mentally.”

On T Trent Scott and T Sam Tevi:

“You know what, they have done a good job. We went into that game with two tackles last week that were — Sam has played well. He's done a nice job. His first start obviously last year was against the Jets. Having played for a stretch now, he's doing a much better job. You know, I could give credit to these guys. I think a lot of it has to do with the chemistry of the o-line, and just the fact that the next guy steps up and has to do it. He's got some communication from [G Michael] Schofield [III] and [G Dan] Feeney — that really helps. Those guys are good about communicating with the tackles, but, look, it's a credit to those guys. It's not easy to do what they did. Trent last week, for his first game as a rookie, to come in here as an undrafted guy from the start and play and do a good job. You know, we're lucky to have that. [General Manager] Tom [Telesco] and his staff did a great job with those guys.”

On receivers and tight ends blocking:

“Well, last week wasn't one of our better games that way. We, up until that point, had been doing pretty good. Some of our issues last week in the run game where we weren't as efficient as we've been is because some of our blocking down field. Some of it was the scheme that we were facing and some changeups that we've done, but I would guess that if you asked those guys, our guys, that's what they'd say. We can be better with some of our blocks down field. Up until that point, you know — [RB] Austin's [Ekeler] catch that went for 40-something yards, tremendous block by Keenan [Allen] on that one, great job. That was a big part of the reason why he was able to get in, but there were a number of others in the runs where we let guys get on our edge or get past us, which we've got to do better with.”

On running third down plays short of the line-to-gain:

“I tell you what, it's all different. You can't put one thing on it. Some of it is protection. Some of it is the pressure. Some of it is we've had a history here of getting into guys underneath and being able to run for the first down, and they've been very effective with it. You know, there are a lot of guys with examples of that whether it was a back, whether it was a receiver, part of the scheme is that. A lot of times you have different checks, and that's one of the ones that you get to and we expect it. Now quite honestly, we had two last week that should have been first downs and we didn't execute our technique the right way. So, you know, that's where we've got to continue to get better — but it's literally a combination of it all.”

On Rivers’ interception rate:

“I think if you look back — and you hate to talk about the past — in 2016, we were pretty good offensively, but we turned the ball over way too much and that hurt us. I think if you can see a marked improvement over the last two years in us being able to be better in that way. You know, it's always a work in progress. We make it a point of talking about that every week. [Running Backs Coach] Alfredo Roberts stands in front of the offensive guys and talks about it every week. Of course, [Head] Coach [Anthony] Lynn really does a good job of that. Hopefully that will continue.”

On Rivers throwing fewer interceptions:

“You know what? I wish I could tell you. The natural inclination is to say he's taking less risks, but he's made some tremendous throws that you would say, ‘Wow, that was kind of a risky throw.’ Well, he got it in there, so it worked. You know what? I don't know. I think maybe we've — our guys have played well as a group. Our line has done a good job. Our receivers, like I said, have done a bunch of different things, whether it's blocking, lining up in different spots, tight ends are contributed and our running backs in have done well. All of those guys together have been playing at a high level, so I think that's helped.”

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