Jeromey Clary sunk his hips toward the ground, his body leaning forward as his right hand touched the synthetic grass at Gillette Stadium.
This needed to be different, he knew, staring at a 290-pound defensive end.
This would be different.
The Chargers right tackle wears the jersey and pants, the socks and cleats, the helmet and strap of every other player on the team's roster. But a hidden piece of apparel explains why Clary was one of the most improved Chargers in Week 2 against the Patriots.
And it is why he's entirely unsatisfied as the Chargers prepare to host the Chiefs on Sunday at Qualcomm Stadium.
“I always have a chip on my shoulder on Sundays,” Clary, 28, said. “It's just who I am. I kind of put myself down to make myself work harder, to get ready. It's probably not a really good technique. I wouldn't (recommend) it to a lot of people because it's way better to have confidence. But in my mind, I kind of doubt myself.”
In the season opener against the Vikings, doubts gained ammunition.
Matched up primarily with defensive end Brian Robison, Clary conceded, according to Pro Football Focus, six quarterback pressures and a sack. On a second-quarter screen pass, Clary's cut-block attempt nipped Robison's shoes, and the defender quickly recovered to stop running back Mike Tolbert for a 5-yard loss.
Clary has always been his harshest critic.
He was setting too flat, he said. His punch wasn't where it need to be. He had to improve at using his hips and throwing his hands.
Clary is also his toughest grader.
“Week 1, probably an F-minus,” Clary said. “I was disappointed. I had a pretty good camp, and I practiced really well. I played pretty good in the (preseason) games and didn't have any of those problems that surfaced. Just disappointment. The whole game, it was disappointment and then frustration. Then just real focused and determined to move on.”
Preparation is Clary's strength.
The sixth-year veteran is a grinder, practicing pass sets on his Tuesday off-days. During the work week, he takes reps before practice begins. For better or worse, his doubts fuel his drive — no, that technique wasn't good enough; no, I would have been beaten there.
The chip Clary carries now is to prove he's worth the four-year contract he signed in July.
Chargers center Nick Hardwick called Clary's work ethic “out of control.”
“Nobody can really keep up with him as far as how long and how hard he can work,” Hardwick said. “That alone will get you through all the downsides of most games. He's the first one on the field. He's the last one to leave. He's in here super early in the mornings, watching film. He's just a consistent preparer, if that's a word.”
Offensive line coach Hal Hunter is a pastor at preaching technical details to the group.
Clary was a faithful follower in the second game.
While still not perfect, he made strides across the board against Patriots defenders, including veterans Shaun Ellis and Andre Carter.
Clary gave himself a B-minus for the performance.
For the turnaround, Chargers coach Norv Turner would probably reward an A.
“That's one thing, I think, you look for,” Turner said. “He wasn't happy with the way he played, and he came back, and I thought he had an outstanding game … There's a mindset on the team: If you don't get your job done, you're letting everybody down.
“Jeromey has always responded. He's always come through. You're not going to be perfect every game, but he certainly works as hard on it as anybody in the game.”