Michael Davis shows Chargers defense is turning the corner

Michael Davis shows Chargers defense is turning the corner

The play was a solid one, a cornerback in tight coverage edging in front of a wide receiver to secure a clutch interception.

What the play represented, however, was the reason Chargers coach Brandon Staley liked it so much.

Earlier in training camp, Michael Davis was beaten by Mike Williams with a back-shoulder throw on the same route.

In practice Monday, Davis read the situation correctly and this time picked off Justin Herbert’s pass intended for Jason Moore.

The play was a sign of progress — of a lesson learned.

“We wanted to make sure that we worked really hard on that back-shoulder [throw],” Staley said. “That was a good example of him [using] all the drill work that [the coaches] are putting in front of him each and every day. That’s exciting.”

Davis’ interception Monday was magnified in that it ended a desperate drive by an offense trying to score in the closing seconds. It was the sort of play that could win a game for the Chargers in just a few more weeks.

It also was the latest example of a defense that continues to show signs of promise. Staley is installing a more aggressive, more versatile system meant to exploit individual skills.

“It’s about making plays,” veteran edge rusher Kyler Fackrell said. “It’s not so much a strict structure with coverage lanes or anything like that …[Staley] wants guys to take their shots. That’s the way you like to play.”

The Chargers’ new approach was on display during the first defensive series in their preseason opener Saturday. After permitting the Rams to cross midfield, the defense tightened and pushed the drive backward.

On three successive plays, veteran lineman Christian Covington had a tackle for loss, linebacker Drue Tranquill pressured Devlin Hodges into an incompletion with a perfectly timed blitz and Kyzir White had a tackle for loss.

“I feel like I’m not thinking as much,” White said of his progress. “When you kind of cut that off and don’t do as much thinking and just play football, I feel like I’m better off. The past few years I was overthinking some things and it was making me play a little slower. Now I just try to go out there have a relaxed mind and just play football.”

With a new coaching staff and new systems on both sides of the ball, the Chargers have been experiencing an education, one that began during the offseason program.

On Monday, they were dressed in only shorts and helmets but still went through what Staley described as “a competitive script — about as competitive as we’ve had.”

Twice Staley became as animated on the field as he has been all training camp while trying to get players aligned correctly. Afterward, he said he was more “energized” and excited than anything.

“There were a lot of good things that were happening out there,” Staley said. “And then there were some hard problems that both sides had to solve, too, that we’re going to be able to learn a lot from.”

The Chargers are down to their final traditional training camp practice, set to begin at 2 p.m. Tuesday.

The players don’t practice Wednesday before returning for joint sessions Thursday and Friday with San Francisco. The Chargers and 49ers will play a preseason game starting at 4:30 p.m. Sunday at SoFi Stadium.

Fackrell, entering his sixth year, signed with the Chargers as a free agent after spending time with Green Bay and the New York Giants. He said he has been impressed by the methods of Staley, a rookie head coach.

“What I love probably the most about him is you can tell by the way he talks, by the way he coaches that he loves football,” Fackrell said. “He’s never dragging when he comes into the building. He’s all about it all the time.”

Etc.

—Rookie left tackle Rashawn Slater did not practice because of a lower-back issue that Staley described as not concerning. He said Slater should be able to return for the joint practices with the 49ers.

—Wide receiver Mike Williams (hip flexor) won’t practice this week and running back Justin Jackson (groin) likely won’t, either.

—Staley said he is unsure if cornerback Ryan Smith (core muscle) will be ready for the start of the regular season. Smith is expected to be a gunner in kick coverage.

—With Cole Mazza out because of a shoulder injury, the Chargers signed veteran long snapper Matt Overton. Ryan Langan also is in camp competing for the job.

—Defensive lineman Cortez Broughton, offensive tackle Trey Pipkins and edge rusher Chris Rumph II also didn’t practice.

—The Chargers released punter Lachlan Edwards, kicker Alex Kessman and wide receiver Michael Bandy. Edwards was signed to compete with Ty Long, who has been the Chargers’ punter the past two seasons.

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