Chargers’ new defense leader Renaldo Hill is well-coordinated with Brandon Staley

Denver Broncos defensive backs coach Renaldo Hill takes part in drills.
Renaldo Hill, above, worked closely with new Chargers coach Brandon Staley when both were assistant coaches with the Denver Broncos.
(David Zalubowski / Associated Press)

They spent the 2019 season together in Denver, as in really together.

Renaldo Hill explained that his office was next to Brandon Staley’s, and the two frequently swapped ideas.

“I think we probably spent more time in the other person’s office just talking and game-planning than our own,” Hill said Wednesday. “It was important to us.”

They now are teaming up again, Staley as the Chargers’ new head coach and Hill as his defensive coordinator.


Barely a year ago, they were position coaches for the Broncos. Staley worked with the outside linebackers and Hill the defensive backs. Neither has been in the NFL long, Staley only four seasons and Hill three.

But in 2021, they will combine efforts to oversee a defense led by Joey Bosa up front and Derwin James everywhere else.

As the Chargers’ new offensive coordinator, Joe Lombardi says he will build around Justin Herbert and apply what he learned during a doomed stint with the Detroit Lions.

Jan. 26, 2021

Staley, who was hired away from the Rams after one year as their defensive coordinator, will call defensive plays during games while Hill manages the operation.

“We’ll collaborate,” Hill said. “[Staley has] always been open to listening and receiving. I’m looking forward to the opportunity. But, in the meantime, I definitely will lean on Staley and be able to sit back and learn.”

The setup is similar to what they experienced in Denver, where head coach Vic Fangio has called the defense the last two years with Ed Donatell serving as coordinator.

The Chargers will be switching to a hybrid 3-4 scheme that is expected to present various fronts, often employs more defensive backs and emphasizes versatility.

“We want to uniquely shape it around our guys,” Staley explained last week. “I think that’s probably the hallmark of the way we play, that agility that we have to feature our premium players.”

Under former coordinator Gus Bradley, the Chargers blitzed as little as any team. Though they are expected to bring extra pressure more in 2021, the Chargers don’t figure to be blitz heavy.

Derwin James has a catch during a Chargers camp practice.
The Chargers’ new defense centers on utilizing the skills of versatile players such as safety Derwin James.
(Joe Scarnici / Getty Images)

Staley and the Rams ranked 19th in blitz percentage this season. Using a similar 3-4 system under Fangio, Denver finished in the bottom half of the NFL in blitzing in 2019-20.

Hill, 42, was drafted in the seventh round by Arizona in 2001 and had a decade-long career. His playing days ended when the Broncos cut him in late July 2011. During that summer, he met Chris Harris, an undrafted rookie cornerback the Broncos had signed out of Kansas. Harris was with Denver for nine years and now is entering his second season with the Chargers.

“I heard about some of the noise, that this young guy was flashing, making plays all over the field,” Hill recalled, smiling. “And, you know, 10 years down the road he’s still doing the same thing.”

Hill’s coaching tenure began in 2012 as a graduate assistant at Wyoming. Two years later, he was out of coaching and spent time visiting various college programs. He said he went to his alma mater, Michigan State, as well as Alabama, Utah and North Dakota State.

“I just wanted to continue to build while I was out of the game,” Hill said. “I was always trying to find out how I could advance and move forward.”

Brandon Staley’s introductory news conference revealed little about the man whose rise into the Chargers’ head coaching job remains a bit of a mystery.

Jan. 22, 2021

He got a job coaching defensive backs at the University of Pittsburgh in 2015 and spent three years there before reaching the NFL as an assistant with Miami. Hill was with the Broncos the last two seasons.

Now, he’s a coordinator entering just his fourth year in the league and with a team that is transitioning to a new staff but has enough promise to be considered beyond rebuilding.

“It may have been a fast move up, but I felt like I was preparing myself,” Hill said. “You have to say there was some luck there. But I’m thankful for every opportunity I’ve been in.”

Though the Chargers have announced nothing officially, Hill indicated that Giff Smith, who has coached the team’s defensive line the last five years, will remain on staff.

He also said Derrick Ansley and Tom Donatell will be joining the Chargers. Ansley had been the defensive coordinator at the University of Tennessee and Donatell, an ex-UCLA assistant, a quality control coach for Seattle.

The Chargers also have hired defensive line coach Jay Rodgers and Joe Barry, who is expected to be the defensive run game coordinator.