By Cameron Buford, whatsgoodinsports.com
In the matchup between SoFi stadium roommates, the Los Angeles Chargers and Rams would face off in their first preseason game of the season. This would also be the first time that SoFi stadium has been open to NFL fans, a reported 68,791 fans were in attendance for this clash of teams that will be sharing the building for the foreseeable future. Even before kickoff, players on both teams enjoyed an atmosphere that was much different than last season when they pumped in artificial crowd noise for the empty seats.
Days before their initial pre-season game, in his NFL Coaching debut Chargers Head Coach Brandon Staley, made it clear that he and the organization would put more emphasis on what’s going on the practice field, than any of their preseason games. He also stated that none of their high-caliber players will be playing in these pre-season games. Guys like Joey Bosa, Derwin James, Keenan Allen, Austin Ekeler, and of course, Justin Herbert will not be seeing the field in any of their pre-season games.
Coach Staley justified his logic by saying, “I wasn’t in college too long ago. They don’t have preseason in college and it seems to work just fine there. Last year, we didn’t have it and teams did just fine without it. There are a lot of factors that go into the preseason timetable that I think are a big consideration; travel, logistics.” With this being said, the preseason will be a good time for them to evaluate their offensive line and running back depth, their cornerback depth, as well as identify which wide receivers will round out their team.
With their key starters not playing, fans and coaches were eager to see how the Chargers rookies would show up in this game. Their number one draft pick Rashawn Slater, out of Northwestern, anchored the offensive line on their initial series, as they drove 73 yards on a 21 play, 9:47 minute scoring drive for a go-ahead field goal. This would also end up being the longest drive of the game.
After being pulled after their initial drive, Rashawn Slater talked Chargers Legend LaDainian Tomlinson about his night, “It went well. Being able to come out here and be in front of everybody —I know that we’re not the home team, but I feel like being here in the stadium and being around the guys for the first time in a game setting, was amazing.”
Their third-round draft pick Josh Palmer, who is embroiled in one the toughest position competition on the team, was also an integral part of that initial drive for the Chargers. Palmer had 4 catches for 27 yards, before being sidelined after his contact lens was knocked out. Palmer would say post-game, “I had a lot of fun! When the balls kept coming, I tried to make my plays. I give a lot of credit to the coaches for helping me get to this point and the veterans that helped me to get to this point.”
Back this season for the Chargers is All-Pro Safety Derwin James to partner with Chris Harris Jr. to lead their secondary. However, second-round draft pick Asante Samuel Jr. would see his first NFL action as he suited up in a Chargers uniform for the first time. He would show the same aggressiveness and tenacity early in this game, that he displayed at Florida State University and so far in training camp. Derwin James would complement Samuel’s and his night when he told Tomlinson on the sidelines, “You all are seeing it firsthand. He came up and made a big hit. Like I told him, we’re going to feed off that energy and keep getting better every day. He has a bright future.”
After all the work the Chargers put into Special Teams, they have given up two big punt returns. Although the first punt return was called back due to a holding call. They gave up 46 yards on the next punt return. The Rams take advantage of that punt return by scoring on a 12 pass from Bryce Perkins to Trishnton Jackson. However, they would follow up by missing the point after to keep the score at 6-3 Rams, with 3:18 remaining in the first half.
Also, in competition for the Chargers’ number one field goal kicker role, Tristan Vizcaino would drill a 38-yard field goal, which completed a 47 yards drive just before halftime, to tie the game up. The Chargers would add another 70-yard drive to take a lead into this game in the third quarter after Darius Bradwell plunged into the endzone on a one-yard carry. This TD was set up by a 25-yard gain from Larry Rountree III, on a critical 4th and 1 “green-go” call, as described by Coach Staley. When asked Coach Staley would say after day 14 of training camp about their rookie class, “I thought [LB] Nick Niemann had a nice game the other day. [RB] Larry Rountree [III], physicality, special teams. [OLB] Chris Rumph [II] has really flashed, really like where he is headed. [TE] Tre’ McKitty is showing that he can do the jobs that we drafted him for. [G/T] Brenden [Jaimes], I think, has done really well on the O-line. He’s playing guard and tackle. We’re really moving him at both spots. I think that he had a really nice night last week, teaming up with [T] Rashawn [Slater] on that left side. He also has shown that as a swing guy, you have to be able to maybe go out and play some tackle. We’re using him that way, too. He’s been a lot of fun to coach. That whole group, we’re excited about them. Rashawn has been everything that we’ve hoped for and more.”
Although most fans only get to see the gameday product, these Chargers have been battling in training camp for the chance to get on the field and a show they deserve to be on the season’s 53-man roster. Kindly share your thoughts on what you’ve seen from Coach Staley’s Chargers and what you think their potential may be. You can reach out to me on Twitter @whatsgoodnsport or shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. I encourage you to forward any suggestions on what topics or angles about this new version of the Los Angeles Chargers you would like to see discussed this season.
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