Chris Harris Jr. and Bryan Bulaga will be playing on different sides of the ball for the Los Angeles Chargers, but both cited a familiar trait about why they decided to sign with the team early in free agency — familiarity.
Both players will be reuniting with their former position coaches. Defensive backs coach Ron Milus coached Harris Jr. during his first two seasons in the league (2011 and ’12) in Denver while offensive line coach James Campen was Bulaga’s coach from 2010 through ’18 at Green Bay.
Being reunited with Milus wasn’t the only reason why Harris Jr. left the Broncos for their AFC West rival after nine seasons. A big factor was going back to mainly playing as a slot corner after predominately playing the outside last year for the first time in his career.
Harris Jr. said he received plenty of interest from other teams. The Chargers were not thought to be a landing spot until they made a late bid.
“There were teams that offered the same amount or more money, but it wasn’t the right fit. The main thing the Charges brought me in for was to bring me back to playing all over the field,” Harris Jr. said.
The four-time Pro Bowl selection joins a secondary that includes cornerback Casey Hayward and safety Derwin James. There’s also Milus, who has coached the Chargers secondary since 2013.
“He is a great technician and put us in a spot to make plays. He was able to make my game better,” Harris Jr. said. “I took a lot of what he gave me my first couple years and added it to my game.”
Bulaga said he was hoping that he would be able to work out a deal with the Chargers after Campen was hired. Campen was with Cleveland last season after leaving Green Bay.
Bulaga said the one thing he liked about Campen was that he realizes linemen have different styles.
“He has ways he wants guys to do things in terms of footwork and hand placement but he also realizes every guys is not built the same way. He is not going to fit guys in a cookie-cutter mode,” Bulaga said. “He refines that and works on the things that you do. He works with guys and allows them to use things they are comfortable with.”
Bulaga is expected to help improve an offensive line that struggled last season because of inexperience and injuries. Pro Football Focus rated the Chargers line as the second-worst unit in the league on pass blocking.
Guard Michael Schofield and center/guard Dan Feeney were the only ones to start all 16 games while center Mike Pouncey was lost after five games because of a neck injury.
Bulaga played left tackle in college at Iowa but has been strictly at right tackle in the NFL.
One player who would love to have even a semblance of stability is linebacker Nick Vigil, who comes to Los Angeles after four seasons in Cincinnati. Gus Bradley will be Vigil’s fifth defensive coordinator in four seasons.
“There was a lot of change and turnovers during the past couple years (in Cincinnati),” Vigil said. “We had a lot of veteran players there that helped my first couple years, but then we went through a learning curve with younger players and new systems.”