Alohi Gilman of the Chargers maintains his calm demeanor amid higher expectations

If Alohi Gilman feels any increased pressure or expectations over being one of the Los Angeles Chargers’ starting safeties, he has done a good job of not showing it.

“I think ‘Lo’ has been calm, as cool as the other side of the pillow,” defensive coordinator Derrick Ansley said.

At first, Gilman didn’t quite know how to take Ansley’s compliment. After thinking about it for a minute, though, he took those words to heart.

“That means a lot, coming from Coach (Ansley),” Gilman said. “I just try to come out here and be me. That’s been my mentality since I was in high school. Everything flows the way it should be if you put the right mentality to work.”

Gilman is expected to start at safety with Derwin James when the Chargers open the season on Sept. 10 against the Miami Dolphins. Gilman started six games last season, including the AFC wild-card game at Jacksonville.

Gilman, a sixth-round selection in the 2020 draft out of Notre Dame, moved into a starting role late last season. When Nasir Adderley retired after four seasons, that solidified Gilman’s status.

“He’s a guy that has been here for three years now, so a lot of reps have been invested in him, and he’s invested a lot into the defense. You can see some of those dividends paying him now,” Ansley said.

Gilman and James got plenty of work together during offseason workouts, which has helped build on-field chemistry throughout training camp. That didn’t happen last season when James was recovering from shoulder surgery. James also sat out the first two weeks of training camp last season before signing a contract extension.

Coach Brandon Staley lauded the communication between James and Gilman during the early stages of camp when the installation process of putting in the defense is heavy.

James described Gilman as a “ball hawk.” Last season Gilman picked off Cleveland’s Jacoby Brissett in the end zone during the fourth quarter to help preserve a 30-28 victory in Week 5. He also had two fumble recoveries and a forced fumble during the season.

During a Week 3 game in Kansas City in 2021, Gilman’s fourth-quarter interception set up a game-winning drive.

Gilman’s knack for interceptions has continued during training camp, where he has picked off Justin Herbert a couple of times during team drills.

“It’s the same approach since I stepped in here with the Chargers. Everything has to be earned here. I don’t take that for granted,” Gilman said. “Even when I was a reserve guy, I felt like I was a starter. Some people may not have agreed with it, but I have viewed myself that way. I prepared myself that way so when I did get my shot, and I was out there, it was easy for me.”

Ansley said Gilman’s biggest strength is making adjustments before the snap.

“The game post-snap is a lot easier for him, a lot calmer for him. That’s a testament to his work ethic on the field and in the classroom. He’s one of those guys that studies,” Ansley said.

Gilman will play limited snaps, if any, on Saturday when the Chargers have their preseason opener against the Los Angeles Rams. His most extensive preseason tests will come on Aug. 17-18, when the Bolts host the New Orleans Saints for two days of joint practices before their Aug. 20 game.

Despite what challenges may come, Gilman figures to be ready for it.

“Yes. I mean, we all get those butterflies, those nerves, I guess. But when I’m out there, I feel like a kid,” he said. I feel like playing football for me is fun because it’s creative like I can get creative. I can play the game, I can have fun. That’s what drives me to just keep playing.”

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