Chargers coach Brandon Staley on the Falcons: ‘They play really hard’

FLOWERY BRANCH – The Chargers (4-3) are set to play the Falcons (4-4) at 1 p.m. Sunday at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

Here’s what Chargers coach Brandon Staley had to say on a conference call with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Thursday.

On preparing for the Falcons: “This will be our third day of it. Outstanding team that is playing at a high level, first in their division. I have a lot of respect for their coaching staff and their players. Definitely a difficult preparation for sure.”

On coming off the bye week: “I think it can be an advantage to be in the middle, and we’re just about halfway. We’ll try to take full advantage of it and be ready to play on Sunday.”

On how Justin Herbert’s playing: “Justin is one of the top players in the league. He’s playing at a really high level. He has experienced a lot this season. For the first time, you know, starting with the (rib) injury that he had to deal with. His first time as a pro that he’s had to deal with one of those. He showed a lot of resiliency as a player. Led us to a three-game winning streak after that injury and has just shown a lot of the intangibles that make him special. He has had to do it without a lot of key weapons. We’ve had a bunch of receivers down, tight ends, backs and a couple of linemen. So, he’s been able to really prove himself under some tough circumstances, and that’s what the NFL is about. So, he’s having, you know, another outstanding season for us.”

On the play of rookie Jamaree Salyer from Georgia at left tackle: “Jamaree is one of us. He’s tough. He’s rugged. He’s smart. He’s versatile. I have a really good relationship with (Georgia coach) Kirby Smart. We’re sure glad that we drafted him. He’s played at a really high level for us and has really been a bright spot for us in the first half of the season.”

On the Falcons’ defense: “They’ve got a lot of quality players that I have a lot of respect for in the league. I mean, Grady Jarrett has been one of the top interior lineman for a very long time, and he’s still playing at a very high level. I’m very familiar with Lorenzo Carter and Rashaan Evans. Those guys have been really good players in the league. They’ve got a lot of young players that I think are up-and-coming. Done a lot of work on A.J. Terrell in the past. I think he’s one of the top young corners in the game. Darren Hall from San Diego State, we did a lot of work on him coming out (and) liked him. Richie Grant from Central Florida. The two young rushers, (Arnold) Ebiketie and DeAngelo Malone, we did a lot of work on those guys, too. Then one of the guys just left, Dean Marlowe, I coached him in college at James Madison, but he was having a quality season as well. So, it’s a group that’s coming together. They play really hard, and they’ve been able to be opportunistic. I think it’s a well-coached group. Dean Pees is an outstanding coordinator. So, we have a lot of respect for them, and we’re gonna have to be ready to play.”

On the Chargers’ run defense vs. the Falcons’ rushing attack: “They are an outstanding running team. (Falcons coach) Arthur (Smith) has done a good job in that phase since he’s been coaching. He’s brought that group together nicely. It’s certainly a strength of theirs. He’s got five runners with over 50-plus carries. They are all carrying it at a high level including the quarterback. They work really well together. They do it in a lot of different ways.”

On if Cordarrelle Patterson is back, what will it add to the operation: “He’s one of the top playmakers in the league. As dangerous of a player as there is in the league.”

On the play of Khalil Mack at this point in his career as he appears headed to (the Pro Football Hall of Fame): “I certainly view him that way. I wouldn’t be the head coach of the Chargers if I hadn’t had an opportunity to coach him in 2018 with the Bears. He’s one of the top competitors that I’ve ever been around, regardless of sport. Certainly one of the top players in the NFL (over the last) decade. He’s just a complete player. I think at this stage of his career, he’s just doing a great job coming to a new team and expressing that leadership and showing that example every single day. He’s having an outstanding season. When Joey (Bosa) got hurt, Khalil has just really led the way up front. … I was with him in 2018, when I thought he should have been the Defensive Player of the Year. He’s the first-team All-Pro that year, and he’s playing as well or better now than he was then. That’s just how he is, he’s the ultimate model of consistency. When I got this job, you know, you’re trying to hopefully build it with people like him. We were fortunate to acquire him in the trade. He’s a captain for us. He just embodies everything that you can look for in a pro football player.”

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Atlanta Falcons 2022 schedule

Sept. 11: Saints 27, Falcons 26

Sept. 18: Rams 31, Falcons 27

Sept. 25 Falcons 27, Seahawks 23

Oct. 2 Falcons 23, Browns 20

Oct. 9 Buccaneers 21, Falcons 15

Oct. 16 Falcons 28, 49ers 14

Oct. 23 Bengals 35, Falcons 17

Oct. 30 Falcons 37, Panthers 34 OT

Nov. 6 vs. Los Angeles Chargers, 1 p.m.

Nov. 10 at Carolina, 8:15 p.m.

Nov. 20 vs. Chicago, 1 p.m.

Nov. 27 at Washington, 1 p.m.

Dec. 4 vs. Pittsburgh, 1 p.m.

BYE WEEK

Dec. 18 at New Orleans, TBD

Dec. 24 at Baltimore, 1 p.m.

Jan. 1 vs. Arizona, 1 p.m.

Jan. 8 vs. Tampa Bay, TBD