Another former Ram, Troy Reeder, is part of Chargers’ scheme to rebuild defense
He changed teams and conferences but not languages, Troy Reeder’s new job still allowing him to speak Staley.
Familiarity has been a theme of this offseason rebuild for head coach Brandon Staley and his Chargers defense, the addition of Reeder just the latest move.
The linebacker reunited with his former defensive coordinator with the Rams by signing as a free agent last week, Reeder joining the Chargers already comfortable with the verbiage, concepts and techniques of Staley’s system.
He arrived after the Chargers added two other former Staley defenders: edge rusher Khalil Mack in a trade with Chicago and tackle Sebastian Joseph-Day via free agency from the Rams.
“You’re kind of looking for some familiarity,” Reeder said Monday of shopping for a new team. “There’s always a comfort aspect to it.”
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On the same day the Chargers officially opened their offseason program, they introduced their newest free-agent signees in Reeder, tight end Gerald Everett and kick returner DeAndre Carter.
While attempting to upgrade a defense that struggled particularly against the run and on third down in 2021, Staley has brought in three players he trusts and who know the scheme.
Mack will start opposite Joey Bosa on the outside of the defensive front, and Joseph-Day will start inside.
Reeder gives the Chargers another option in a linebacker rotation that includes Drue Tranquill and Kenneth Murray Jr., while also offering a veteran presence on special teams.
New defensive lineman Austin Johnson said he played all along the Giants front last season and is looking forward to fitting everywhere on Chargers’ revamped defense.
Murray announced on social media last week that he had undergone ankle surgery. The Chargers allowed linebacker Kyzir White, their leading tackler last season, to depart in free agency.
Asked about the importance of being familiar with Staley and his defense as it relates to improvement next season, Reeder said, “I think it’s just going to let us hop in quicker and have success early.”
One of the issues the Chargers had last season was a learning curve that stunted the defense’s growth. In a scheme that relies on all 11 players working in unison, the Chargers too often had crippling individual breakdowns.
Reeder explained that communication — that is, ensuring that everyone is executing the same Xs and O’s — is vital. He said communication is particularly important at safety and linebacker. Pro Bowl safety Derwin James Jr. is the Chargers’ defensive play caller.
“The more guys that know it, the better,” Reeder said. “Communication has to be at a premium if you want to do what we want to do.”
Undrafted out of Delaware, Reeder spent the first three seasons of his career with the Rams. Under Staley in 2020, he finished with 81 tackles and three sacks while appearing in 16 games and making seven starts.
Coach Brandon Staley’s defensive revamping has focused on edge and corner, meaning the Chargers couldn’t afford to keep linebacker Kyzir White.
That performance came after Staley installed his defense through an offseason program that was conducted virtually because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It was his first experience being a defensive coordinator, but it didn’t feel like it,” Reeder recalled. “He instantly just grabbed us with his attention to detail. The effort that he was putting in was contagious. We felt like he took us to the next level. I feel that here … guys have bought in to him as a leader. This defense and this team, I think, is ready for the next step.”
Last season Reeder played a career-high 59% of the Rams’ regular-season defensive snaps and started three of four postseason games as they won Super Bowl LVI.
Along with the presence of Staley, he said he was drawn to the Chargers by the team’s potential.
After the Chargers finished 9-8 and were eliminated from playoff contention in the season finale, their defensive moves have included signing Pro Bowl cornerback J.C. Jackson. Offensively, they are led by dynamic quarterback Justin Herbert, another Pro Bowl selection.
“Every time there’s a good team with good structure, a team that’s ready to win right now that enters your vision,” Reeder said, “it’s just exciting.”
He added: “I wanted to play with another team that had just as good a shot. … Just from afar, watching this team grow, they’re dangerous. Happy to join.”
Reeder also will be reuniting with safety Nasir Adderley, who played at Delaware, and defensive tackle Austin Johnson. Reeder and Johnson spent one season together at Penn State. The Chargers signed Johnson as a free agent last month.
Like Reeder, Everett spent the 2020 season with the Rams and Staley. He played last season with Seattle.
Everett said he’s “ecstatic” to have the chance to team with Herbert. He also said he doesn’t view himself as a traditional tight end, instead describing himself as an “athlete, playmaker and a team player.”
After signing Everett, Staley spoke of his potential to line up throughout the formation, including in the slot and backfield.
Carter gives the Chargers a veteran returner. He was with Washington in 2021 and also has played for Houston, Philadelphia and Chicago.
“You go out there to make a play, not to not mess up,” Carter said. “Try to bring some excitement to the unit …being explosive, being fun.”
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