COSTA MESA, Calif. (AP) — Jerry Tillery is trying to make up for lost time in his first NFL training camp.
The Los Angeles Chargers defensive end, who was the 28th overall selection in April's draft, didn't participate in offseason workouts due to shoulder surgery. He didn't play Thursday night preseason opener at Arizona but is likely to make his debut when the Chargers host New Orleans on Aug. 18.
Tillery has started to see more snaps with the first team and is beginning to show why he was a first-round pick. Defensive coordinator Gus Bradley said Sunday's padded practice was the first time where he stood out in 11-on-11 drills.
"You're like, 'Oh, okay! We just saw a flash of Jerry Tillery.' I think he just needs the physical part of it now. You know, the lining up, the block-reaction and things like that," Bradley said.
Tillery — a second-team AP All-America choice last season at Notre Dame — said the biggest hindrance hasn't been his conditioning. He suffered a torn labrum early last year but didn't opt for surgery until the end of the season.
"It's just the technique, fundamentals," he said. "What we work on every day is what the challenge is. I hadn't played in a game since (last December against) Clemson."
Bradley said the coaching staff has been deliberate in bringing Tillery along, especially during team drills.
While defensive ends Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram will be counted on to provide the majority of the sacks for the Chargers this season, Tillery gives the defense an athletic pass rusher up the middle. He led Notre Dame in sacks (eight) and forced fumbles (eight) last season as the Fighting Irish made it to the College Football Playoffs semifinals.
Justin Jones, a third-round pick last season, is listed ahead of Tillery on the depth chart while 13-year veteran Brandon Mebane is the projected starter at nose tackle.
Jones saw limited snaps against Arizona but earned plaudits from Bradley for continuing his strong start to training camp.
Bradley also said that Tillery has some versatility because of his length (6-foot-7) where he could line up at times as an edge rusher.
Tillery will get plenty of snaps this week. The Chargers will have joint workouts with New Orleans Thursday and Friday before their game two days later.
"I'm feeling great and moving even better. I'm looking forward to these next practices," he said.