The Los Angeles Chargers took ‘Round One’ in the Fight for L.A. on Saturday evening with a 21-19 win over the L.A. Rams. The Chargers tasted victory for the first time this preseason, and highlights were plentiful at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum during this contest. However, the game did expose some things that Chargers’ coaches, and the team’s front office, will get a chance to look at on film.
As they head into their final preseason tilt before the results season kicks off, here are some of the lessons we learned about the Bolts in their preseason win over their cross-town rivals.
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The First Team Offense and Defense look Ready to Strike
The Chargers looked to be in midseason form on both sides of the ball in the game’s first quarter.
Starting quarterback Philip Rivers was a perfect six for six on his passing attempts for 85 yards and a touchdown. The starting defense looked equally as impressive by causing a great deal of difficulty for Rams quarterback Jared Goff. They began by quickly sacking him for a loss of 16 yards. In the highlight of the night, defensive end Joey Bosa strip-sacked Goff, which outside linebacker Melvin Ingram recovered and returned for a 75-yard touchdown.
However, once the starters came out of the game, the Rams took advantage and made the rest of the Bolts look underwhelming. The home team scored 19 unanswered points to close within two points of tying the game. At one point, the Chargers had enjoyed a 21-0 lead. Therefore, one can assume that head coach Anthony Lynn and his staff will be examining the second and third team reps this week to work on solutions for their sharp drop-off in production from that of the starters.
The Back-Up Quarterback Battle is Not Yet Over
Chargers coach Anthony Lynn did not play veteran backup Kellen Clemens on Saturday. This provided the newly-acquired Cardale Jones an opportunity to make a case for him being Rivers’ backup. The former Ohio State signal-caller completed nine of his 13 pass attempts for 74 yards. While he was unable to get the Bolts back on the board, he did show the promise and athleticism that made his acquisition so exciting for Chargers fans. However, one cannot ignore that Jones’ failure to lead the Chargers into the end zone, allowed the Rams to make it a game.
Lynn has made it clear that he plans to keep three quarterbacks on the regular season roster. At this rate, there are arguments to be made for Jones and Clemens. Clemens has struggled mightily in the preseason, but does have the edge in experience over Jones. If Jones hopes to earn the number two spot on the quarterback depth chart, he will need to find a way to score points when given the opportunity in the final preseason game. Either way, look for a lot of Kellen Clemens and Cardale Jones on Thursday night.
Jason Verrett is Back…and so is the Chargers’ secondary
Chargers fans were elated to see Pro Bowl cornerback Jason Verrett return to action in for the first time since suffering a partially torn ACL injury in Week 4 last season against the New Orleans Saints. The former TCU standout was back in the field, and he did not disappoint. Verrett picked off Goff in the first quarter, which helped to set up a Bolts’ touchdown. Verrett has yet to share the field, this year, with fellow cornerback Casey Hayward. Hayward did not play due to a hamstring injury, and hopes the extra rest will have him ready for Week 1. If healthy, there’s no doubt that the Chargers have one of the best backfield tandems in the NFL.
Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram are as good of a Defensive-End Combo as there is in the NFL.
Rams quarterback Jared Goff can attest to just how fearsome a Bosa-Ingram pairing can be at defensive-end. As he dropped back for a critical third down in the first quarter, Bosa hit Goff and knocked the ball loose. Ingram instinctively scooped it up and was off to the races.
If Bosa and Ingram remain healthy, they will be a tough defensive force. Bosa, the Chargers’ first-round draft pick in 2016, missed his rookie training camp in a contract spat and then missed the first four games with a hamstring injury. He finished with 10 1/2 sacks in 12 games and was voted Defensive Rookie of the Year. Ingram, who signed a four-year deal that can be worth up to $88 million, posted eight sacks last year. He has compiled 18 1/2 sacks in two years. With the two of them clicking on all cylinders, defensive coordinator Gus Bradley will be putting a fearsome pass-rushing unit on the field each down in 2017.
On Thursday night, keep your eye on…
…the entire Los Angeles Chargers team.
As a whole, the Bolts have had an enigmatic Preseason in 2017. At times, they look like a team that will certainly challenge for a postseason berth. However, they have also resembled a team that could finish in last place in one of the toughest divisions in the league, the AFC West. The Chargers really haven’t put a complete game together, as of yet. Look for them to strive for that against the San Francisco 49ers this Thursday. The second and third units will be the majority, if not all, of the playing time. With so many having so much to prove, the Chargers will have the better depth in this game. Playing a complete game on both sides of the ball will definitely boost the enthusiasm of Chargers Nation as they #BoltUp for the 2017 season.
– Mike D’Abate is the Managing Editor for cover32/Chargers and covers the Los Angeles Chargers.