Rashawn Slater had quite a rookie season.
The Chargers tackle earned a Pro Bowl bid and finished as the eighth-best tackle in the entire NFL, per Pro Football Focus. But if you asked him, he’d tear his film to shreds.
“I watched the tape. There were all sorts of things,” Slater said Monday. “I look at the tape and a lot of it kind of makes me cringe. There’s detail and technique, and sometimes I’ll be this close, but there’s always that little room for improvement that can make a big difference. For me, I just try to focus on what I can do to get better; a little thing every single play.”
Add another title to Slater’s already impressive resume: champion of constructive criticism. Slater outperformed the other top tackle in his class, Lions lineman Penei Sewell, and put together a strong season from start to finish. At a position at which most rookies often look overwhelmed, Slater was a natural, filling an important need and providing the Chargers with a trusty left tackle to protect franchise quarterback Justin Herbert.
And yet, Slater isn’t content. He didn’t even get to enjoy his first trip to the Pro Bowl.
“I actually ended up getting food poisoning while I was there,” Slater said. “We’re in Vegas, so no one believed me [laughter], but I was kind of just staying in my room for a little bit of it. But it was a lot of fun, still.”
The Northwestern product is extremely focused on improving entering his second season, one which he enters armed with additional tips gained from his trip to the Pro Bowl. Slater said he spoke with fellow all-star selections Wyatt Teller, Joel Bitonio and teammate Corey Linsley, picking their brains “because there’s some stuff that I’ve always seen on film that I’ve wondered about, so whenever there was an opportunity, I’d ask a question or something.”
Slater feels as if he’s better equipped to handle the upcoming season than the last, a campaign he began after spending a year sitting out of football due to the COVID-19 pandemic. He valued the reps he saw against elite teammates like Joey Bosa and appreciates the process in which “it all kind of blended together for me.”
“It was a journey, every single week being able to challenge myself,” Slater explained. “Being a part of the offense that we were, it was so exciting every single week because I knew that if I did my job, everyone behind me was going to make explosive plays and stuff like that. I was really just focused on me. It was a lot of fun, though.”
He has an even better teammate to battle with in practice this season: All-Pro edge rusher Khalil Mack, who joined the Chargers via offseason trade with the Chicago Bears.
“I think it was the day after that trade happened, I was on my honeymoon and Coach Staley had texted me, ‘Get your mind right,’ or something like that [laughter],” Slater said when asked if he was excited to face Mack. “I’m trying to enjoy this right now, but I’ll be ready.”
If a year’s worth of learning and a camp’s worth of practice reps produces the improvement Slater expects, the rest of the league will have quite a challenge when Slater lines up at his usual left tackle. A Pro Bowl appearance might just be the beginning.