COSTA MESA, Calif. -- Philip Rivers handled his top priority in 2017, curbing turnovers.
After throwing a league-high 21 interceptions in 2016, Rivers finished with just 10 interception last season.
Still, the offense for the Los Angeles Chargers sputtered at times under Rivers last season, struggling to score points early in the year during the team’s 0-4 start.
Rivers said the team’s struggles were due to a lack of execution, and one of his priorities during this offseason is focusing on doing the little things better to improve the Bolts on offense in 2018.
“Early on, the first five or six weeks of the season, there were too many missed plays,” Rivers said. “We weren’t playing terrible. We were 0-4, but it was just, ‘Gosh that was a huge first down. I just missed the throw.’ Or, ‘This was a huge opportunity with a touchdown, but we missed it.’
“We talked about not scoring enough points those first few games -- we were just not scoring enough points. And so I think it’s gotten to the point now, and you hope it’s this way, it’s more now about the approach and the little fine details of how to convert another third down, not kick a field goal in a key situation [and] continue to take care of the ball.”
While paying attention to the little things on the field, Rivers also will go through a change in the quarterback room. Good friend and backup quarterback Kellen Clemens did not return to the Chargers in free agency.
“He’s already jumped in big time as far as learning it,” Rivers said last week of Smith. “We did a lot of formations today, and to me, he was ahead in terms of on the first day. It wasn’t, ‘Whoah.’
“That just goes to show you he’s been in this league. He’s been in a few different offenses. The demeanor that he had, and the way he’s approaching it, it’s positive. And Cardale, his second year now in this offense [is] a little more comfortable.”
Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn served as the running backs coach for the New York Jets during Smith’s first two years in the league, so he is familiar with Smith’s skill set.
“I know what he’s capable of doing,” Lynn said. “I think he lost his focus there for a little while, but he’s hit the reset button. He’s refocused. We’re glad to have him.
“I think last year, the things I've heard from the coaches in New York, he’s over the mental hurdle if he ever had one. I’m just glad he’s here.”