NaVorro Bowman [608x342]
NaVorro Bowman [608x342] (Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports)

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LOS ANGELES -- NaVorro Bowman couldn't wait.

After the Chargers selected Michigan linebacker Junior Colson in the third round of last month's draft, Bowman left the draft room and stood behind a member of the team's communications staff with a wide grin as Colson addressed media on a video call.

"I stood on a table from day one for you, dawg," Bowman, the Chargers linebackers coach, said. "I'm happy you are here. We can hit the ground running fast, man."

For Bowman, who was an All-Pro linebacker in San Francisco under Los Angeles coach Jim Harbaugh a decade ago, it was a rare NFL first. It was his first time experiencing the draft as a coach -- he began his coaching career at Maryland as a defensive assistant in 2023 -- and he was fascinated by how scouts discussed players and how they analyzed other factors beyond playstyle. (Bowman jokingly admitted the process made him wonder even more why he wasn't drafted until the third round).

In his first draft, the Chargers got the player Bowman was most excited about. Colson joins a group that includes Daiyan Henley, Denzel Perryman, Nick NiemannĀ and Troy Dye. It's a position that has been underwhelming in recent years, with disappointing draft picks and signings. The Chargers are leaning on Bowman's experience to turn this position into a team strength.

"I think it benefits the players just having me here and just being able to give it to them both ways," Bowman said. "Just being able to [say], 'OK, you don't understand it this way. Let me break it down to you how you and your teammate will talk about it.' And I think that's relieved the guys a lot in our room. I love our room, it's a great room, a lot of competition, and I look forward to what's coming next."

The Chargers have consistently had dominant outside linebackers in Joey Bosa, Shawne Merriman and Khalil Mack; but their inside linebacker play has been inconsistent in recent years.

Los Angeles has tried to fix this: In 2020, it traded its second- and third-round picks to select ILB Kenneth Murray Jr. with the No. 23 overall pick. But Murray didn't pan out, as he struggled with missed tackles and in-pass coverage, never emerging as the star the Chargers hoped he would be. They declined Murray's fifth-year option, and he signed with the Tennessee Titans in free agency. The Chargers signed former All-Pro linebacker Eric Kendricks to a two-year, $13.25 million deal last offseason but released him after this season to save cap space.

Outside of Perryman, none of the Chargers' current inside linebackers have been consistent starters. Niemann started three games last season, while Murray and Kendricks had injuries. Dye has the second-most experience at four years but has primarily been a special teams player. Bowman expects Henley, a third-round pick in last year's draft who contributed mainly on special teams, to have a more prominent role this year.

"He was here, so you get the first shot to own this position; just don't give it up, man," Bowman said. "It's early right now, but the level of group one and group two -- anybody can go out right now and play."

Bowman's experience -- four first-team All-Pro honors -- made him a respected voice in the Chargers room before his coaching tenure began. But how he navigates relationship building thanks to his experience makes learning from him seamless, Perryman said.

"He's a player's coach," he said. "They understand the game and it makes it a lot easier for us to go out there and play."

As for Perryman, he and the Chargers are hoping he can accelerate the learning process for the inexperienced group and regain the form that earned him a Pro Bowl selection in 2021.

That year as a member of the Las Vegas Raiders, Perryman had a career-high 154 tackles. Perryman hasn't played to that level since, but he's been effective as a run-stopper. He finished last season with the Houston Texans with 76 tackles, his lowest since 2020.

"I've been watching Denzel for a long time. He plays the right way. When I knew that he was out there, I wanted to get him," Bowman said. "... I just know the way that he's going to come in and work, come in and set the example for guys like Daiyan [Henley], like Junior [Colson]. He's a 10-year vet and he's doing the things that a lot of 10-year guys that I played with wouldn't do. He's approaching it the right way, and we're glad to have him."