Preseason is finally here! In their preseason opener, the Los Angeles Chargers faced off against hometown rival, the Los Angeles Rams, at SoFi Stadium. Both teams rested their starters, removing the risk of their core players getting injured in a meaningless game. Instead, fans got to see their favorite teams’ backups and young hopefuls prove their mettle. In the end, the Chargers came out victorious, beating the Rams 13-6. While the game was low-scoring, the Rams and Chargers both showed that they have some intriguing young weapons for their new-look offenses.
More importantly, though, Chargers fans finally got to see their new coach, Brandon Staley, in action. Though it was preseason, a win in Staley’s first game as a head coach is a welcome sign. Not to mention, it was against his former mentor, Sean McVay. It will be interesting to see how their respective seasons go.
With that out of the way, here is a look at what went right for the Chargers. The game was not a perfect one by any means, but there are certainly some things to look forward to for Chargers fans. Here are the Chargers’ takeaways from preseason Week 1.
If some fans still believed that Justin Jackson‘s spot as backup running back behind Austin Ekeler was secure, that belief was effectively squashed. Larry Rountree put up an impressive performance on Saturday, running for 63 yards on eight carries. With longs of 24 and 25 yards, Rountree proved that he could hit the hole and had above-average spatial awareness at the second level. In comparison, teammate Joshua Kelley had 19 yards on eight carries. In the same amount of carries, Kelley had 44 less yards. Kelley can still be a solid back in the NFL, but this performance certainly did not help. As it stands, the depth chart at running back likely stands as this: Austin Ekeler – Justin Jackson – Larry Rountree. While this was an impressive performance for Rountree, he needs to prove that he can continuously perform at this level, and that this is not just a surprise game.
Similar to Rountree, Josh Palmer proved that he was worth a pick, and that Tyron Johnson‘s job isn’t safe either. His statline wasn’t as eye-popping as Rountree’s, with six catches for 36 yards. However, he did that on seven targets, meaning that he was catching almost every ball thrown at him. That level of consistency matches what scouts saw in his tape. He can potentially be a reliable third option for Herbert in the pass game. Johnson has a strong grip on that WR3 spot though, so it may prove more difficult for Palmer to earn that spot than it will for Rountree.
It would be difficult to talk about this game without mentioning Stick. While some Chargers fans may have written him off after Herbert’s breakout year last season, Stick was being prepared to take over the quarterback job in case Rivers left or retired. However, thanks to Herbert’s incredible season, Stick was thrown to the wayside in favor of the rookie. However, Stick proved he was still hungry to prove the doubters wrong. Chase Daniel got the start and had decent numbers, putting up 104 yards on 15/24 passing. However, when Stick came in the game, everything changed. Stick played impressively, going a perfect 7/7 on passes for 63 yards. It will be interesting to see who will win that backup job between the veteran Daniel and Stick.
While there are certainly things to improve on, such as the special teams’ defense, a win in their first game as a unit should be crucial for building morale. It’s never a good sign if a first-time head coach’s preseason debut ends with a loss. Thankfully, Staley avoided that future, and the team can carry that excitement in practice this week. Defensive coordinator Renaldo Hill also did a great job shutting down the Rams offense, primarily through surprisingly aggressive playcalling. The Chargers defense was blitzing often, and the linebackers deserve praise. Cornerback John Brannon had the only turnover of the night on an interception, showing great ball awareness and burst speed to jump the route. If the team can improve on their special teams defense and continue to develop their plethora of young talent, this Chargers squad could be one to be feared in the AFC West. These were the Chargers’ takeaways from preseason Week 1.