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Brandon Staley on Jerry Tillery: ‘He’s still trying to establish himself as an NFL player’

The former first-round pick hasn’t been as advertised in his first three years as a pro.

NFL: Kansas City Chiefs at Los Angeles Chargers Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

The Chargers commenced their OTAs on Monday with the majority of their team in attendance. According to The Athletic’s Daniel Popper, Joey Bosa, Austin Ekeler, Mike Williams, J.C. Jackson, Jerry Tillery, and Kenneth Murray were the most notable players not in Costa Mesa.

When it comes to guys like Bosa and Ekeler, there’s no worry there. They’re proven veterans and they are trusted to be ready whenever they rejoin their team. As for Jackson, he had an issue with a flight out of Boston, according to Brandon Staley, and Murray is still working his way back from offseason surgery.

So that leaves the one question mark of the group: Tillery.

For Tillery, a player who has barely hung on to a starting job with the team through his first three seasons in the NFL, this is an atrocious look. It’s made even worse when you realize the team added three bodies to the interior defensive line group that are all arguably upgrades over the former first-round pick.

So with Tillery absent on day one, head coach Brandon Staley was, of course, asked about how he’ll fit in a now-crowded position group this season.

“He’s going to fit into that competition with those guys who have to earn a role. Those guys will have to duke it out to establish themselves. Sebastian (Joseph-Day) and Austin (Johnson) are proven NFL players. Khalil Mack is a proven NFL player. Derwin James is a proven NFL player. Then there’s a bunch of guys that are trying to prove themselves, to earn their way in the league, and I would put him (Tillery) in that category.”

In his three seasons as a pro, Tillery has career totals of 98 tackles, 12 tackles for loss, and 9.5 sacks. Nine of his tackles for loss and 7.5 sacks have come over the past two seasons as a full-time starter, but so have his 13 total penalties committed, good for second on the team over that span.

Aside from being a better player physically, Tillery must also become a smarter player if he hopes to continue his career with the team that drafted him. In a true make-or-break season, the first step to heading in the right direction would be maximizing your opportunities to impress coaches. As of now, that’s apparently not what Tillery is focused on at this point in the offseason.