Not too long ago, the Los Angeles Chargers and Los Angeles Rams held a week of joint practices at the Rams’ facility in Irvine, California. Fans might remember a series of fights from that week, mostly involving the Chargers’ receiving core and Rams’ defensive backs.
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While the fights ultimately mean little in regard to the season, they’ll be present in the minds of those involved when the two teams face off this Saturday night. They’ll certainly be present in the minds of the local and national media, who coined the hashtag #FightforLA when the teams moved into town together, opportunistically brought it up after the actual fights, and will almost certainly dial it up to eleven to hype the game for its CBS primetime presentation.
For fans who keep training camp fights and hashtags in proper perspective, however, there’s still plenty of reason to tune in for the inaugural #FightForLA.
Developing stories to watch on Saturday:
1.) It was a concern after the Chargers’ last game that they started slowly on both sides of the ball, losing nine yards and punting after three downs on offense only to immediately give up a 50-yard touchdown run on defense. Some teams have slow-start problems – some iron it out in the preseason, for others it’s just habitual. It’s one of the bad habits sports teams can have (and sometimes get away with), but we need a more protracted sample size to know if/how badly the Chargers have it.
2.) Last week’s victory over the Chargers broke a 10-game losing streak the Saints have had in preseason games. While that win might mean something to the Saints fandom in spite of it not ultimately mattering, it’s hard to feel bad on the Chargers’ side. You can’t convince anyone that you’re making an earnest effort to win the game when Kellen Clemens is playing quarterback from the first snap.
While some of that’s a tongue-in-cheek remark about the nature of preseason wins, Clemens has been a disaster as Rivers’ presumed backup. Cardale Jones, who has looked intriguing but very much like a project, is the only justification for Clemens having been on the field. Although Rivers is among the NFL’s premier ironmen, the dearth of backup security for him is startling. It would be nice if someone on the roster could win the job via anything more than default.
3.) Russell Okung sat out last game to nurse an enigmatic left-leg injury. Joe Barksdale sat out to nurse an ankle injury. Tyreek Burwell broke his hand, while Max Tuerk left the game with a finger injury before being given a four-game suspension from the league for violating the performance-enhancing drug policy. Counting Forrest Lamp, that’s five offensive linemen that the Chargers opened camp with now on the sideline.
Okung and Barksdale may be fine and simply protecting themselves as presumed starters, but that’ll still impact the 53-man roster race. The Bolts can field an interior between Matt Slauson, Kenny Wiggins, Spencer Pulley and Dan Feeney, but they need better performance on the outside. If not, they’ll be combing the market for swing tackles when cut day rolls around.
4.) Another position of concern: inside linebacker. Denzel Perryman will be nursing an ankle injury into the regular season, and the team can’t wait for his return to find a run defense. Nick Dzubnar was elevated to the top of the depth chart against the Saints, only to prove he has no business being there. For at least four to six weeks, Korey Toomer or someone else will have to hold down the job. If they could prove capable of handling it against the Rams, that’d be ideal.
5.) For every bad story you’ve heard about anyone in Chargers camp, it’s likely you’ve heard at least one good bit about Desmond King. As a draft prospect, King was dinged for not having the long speed and fluidity to play cornerback like he did at Iowa, but he was praised for being a willing run supporter and having top-tier ball skills. In Los Angeles, the latter traits have been on full display – he has six combined tackles, a sack, two pass breakups and an interception through two games.
Prospects fall in the draft for various reasons, sometimes not very good ones, but King appears to be a steal. He’s establishing himself as a dynamic back-end player on the defense, and should once again be exciting to watch when he takes the field against the Rams. As the unofficial ‘dress rehearsal’ game of the preseason, the third game should offer King an extended opportunity to play against the Rams’ starters.
–Andy Hammel is a staff writer for cover32/Chargers and covers the Los Angeles Chargers for cover32