By Cameron Buford, Whatsgoodinsports.com

The Los Angeles Chargers welcomed the San Francisco 49ers to camp for a joint practice in their third week of training camp. Chargers Head Coach Brandon Staley made it clear throughout training camp that their practices would mean to them for their evaluation process than any Pre-Season game would. The San Francisco 49ers Head Coach Kyle Shanahan would echo the same thoughts.

When asked why was the Chargers the right team to do the joint practice with, Shanahan responded by saying, “You definitely don’t want to do something in your division; I’d rather avoid the NFC. You’d rather do something with someone from the other side and I’d love to do something with someone that does differently than you practice with. They (Chargers) have a really good scheme that’s opposite ours, so I think that helps.”

My takeaways from the first day of the joint practice were that the Chargers’ defensive line dominated the 49ers’ offensive in the position drills. Though 2nd-year receiver Brandon Aiyuk appears to be having a great camp thus far, not sure he dropped a pass thrown his way. The speed and quickness of 3rd-year wide receiver Nsimba Webster also flashed on the first day of their joint practice.

Their Rookie quarterback Trey Lance appears to be pressing veteran Jimmy Garoppolo for the starting quarterback role; however, it seems as if it’s Jimmy’s to lose at this point. I would be extremely surprised if Lance, supplants Garoppolo in the course of their 8 weeks training camp. Though the Charger’s defense overall appears to have the advantage on the day, as they have had over their offense.

On the second day of joint practice, it was apparent that the Chargers’ defense turned up the pressure on the San Francisco 49er’s offense. Rookie cornerback Asante Samuels showed some growth, while 2nd-year linebacker Kenneth Murray made it tough for both Jimmy Garoppolo and the young Trey Lance to move the ball. Derwin James Jr. put an exclamation on his camp when he closed down practice when was guarding George Kittle and took Garoppolo’s pass to the house for the pick-six.

The Chargers offense didn’t enjoy the same success on the second day of the joint practice, in fact during the 11 on 11 drills the Chargers offense couldn’t move the ball against the boisterous 49ers defense, who had no problem telling them about their offensive struggles. Though the Chargers were without tackles rookie Rashawn Slater and veteran Bryan Bulaga, their revamped offensive line led by Corey Linsley and Matt Feiler were unable to curtail the pressure of that vaunted 49ers defensive line. It was a different story once the offense and defensive match-up were reduced to 7 on 7, though as we know, that’s not how football is played!

Understanding that football is a game of emotion, the 49ers defense displayed considerably more emotion, passion, and intensity during this practice. When Coach Staley was asked about the difference in enthusiasm displayed between the units has said, “I think that’s part of how they play over there, just cause they’re talking a lot, I don’t think that means the results are translating.”  Staley added, ‘I thought it was a really good evaluation for us the last couple of days.” When asked if he was encouraged by their offensive play Staley told me, “That front is a Top 5 defense in the league… I felt this was a good measuring stick for us.” 

Although the Chargers played without many of their starters as expected. Nonetheless, the Charger’s offensive line largely underperformed against the 49er’s defense, as they did in practice, averaging only 2.4 yards per carry, on 22 carries, in addition to allowing five sacks to this stout defense. They were also 2 for 11 on third downs and when asked about what concerned him more Chargers Head Coach Brandon says, “they go hand in hand; against that team, they are really difficult to run the ball against because they get guys close to the line of scrimmage. We got to be more physical at the line of scrimmage, we got to work better in our combinations.”

Even though the Chargers were not very successful moving the ball on the evening, their defensive backs did snatch a couple of interceptions early in the game. One by the Asante Samuel Jr. and the other by Tevaughn Campbell. Samuels would say post-game, “I was just trying to play fast and run to the ball. It hit off his hands and I just wanted to make a play and kept my eyes on the ball. After the interception, Asante Samuels Jr. was penalized for taking off his helmet before getting back to the inside the 30-yard line out of bounds. About that he would say, “I honestly didn’t think that was a penalty because I was off the field. But I know now so it won’t happen again. It was a rookie mistake.”

After a rough start, the 49er’s first-round draft pick Trey Lance finished the game with a couple of Touchdown passes. In his first action against the Chargers, Trey Lance went 1 for 5 with an Interception before settling down to throw a 5-yard TD pass to Mohamed Sanu and a 16-yard bullet to, former Charger, Travis Benjamin for his second TD pass of the game.

Even though their starting offensive line was standing on the sideline for this game, I’m concerned about their continuity and how quickly they can come together without playing any games during this shortened pre-season. This hasn’t been Bryan Bulaga’s best training camp and their rookie hasn’t practiced all week due to strained back. Because of that, I believe they will be looking for an upgrade at the offensive tackle position once rosters are reduced to 53 around the league on August 31, 2021.

Kindly share your thoughts on what you’ve seen from these newly formed Chargers and what you think their potential may be. You can reach out to me on Twitter @whatsgoodnsport or shoot me an email at info@whatsgoodinsports.com. 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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