Chargers Conclude Preseason Schedule Against Seahawks
The Los Angeles Chargers struggled in their preseason finale against the Seahawks, losing 27-0 Saturday night at Lumen Field.
The Seahawks jumped out to an early lead behind their aggressive defense and never looked back. The home team finished with five sacks, seven quarterback hits, and created pressure all game long. The Los Angeles offense was held under 165 yards for the second consecutive week and was unable to match Seattle’s energy.
Head Coach Brandon Staley will now have some tough decisions ahead as he and his staff must trim their roster to 53 players before Tuesday’s deadline at 1 P.M. With the team’s starters sidelined for much of the preseason, the players battling for roster spots received plenty of chances to impress. Many of those position battles came to a head Saturday evening.
Backup Quarterbacks Duke it Out
One battle that has been entertaining to monitor has been the competition for backup quarterback between Chase Daniel and Easton Stick. The pair split signal-calling duties Saturday with unfortunate results.
Daniel began the game, but his first drive ended horribly. The Seahawks dialed up a safety blitz on third-and-7 from the Los Angeles 29-yard line. Daniel seemingly anticipated the incoming pressure and called an audible in protection, but the blitz still found its mark. Linebacker Cody Barton came untouched up the middle and forced a fumble. Safety Marquise Blair recovered the ball and walked into the endzone for the easy score.
After his opening drive, it appeared Daniel had injured his hand. He showed off his toughness, eventually returning to action a few drives later before leaving the game entirely late in the second quarter. Overall, his play was underwhelming as he completed nine of his 12 passing attempts for 70 yards. Despite his lackluster play, his veteran presence and familiarity with Joe Lombardi’s offense make him an unlikely cut candidate.
Stick took more snaps Saturday but didn’t fare much better than his running mate. He went 10-for-17 with 76 yards and a 69.7 quarterback rating. Still, his athleticism has been on display throughout training camp and is enticing when compared to the aging Daniel. General manager Tom Telesco has recently stated that the team is “more than likely” going to keep all three quarterbacks. Does that mean Stick will count against the active 53? That is yet to be seen.
Niemann Continues to Shine
One of the few bright spots for the Chargers was the phenomenal play of rookie linebacker Nick Niemann. Niemann entered Saturday as the Bolts’ leading tackler, totaling 14 in the first two preseason games. Against the Seahawks, he added 13 more including eight solo tackles and a sack. Los Angeles boasts a very competitive linebacker room, but it seems Niemann has carved out a role as a depth/special teams piece. His reliable tackling and natural nose for the football make him too valuable to be left off the final roster.
Fans who have been following the team are aware of the Chargers’ issues at the kicker position. Michael Badgley has struggled with accuracy most of his career and is not known for having the strongest leg. The team signed Tristan Vizcaino this offseason to compete for the job and unfortunately, the heated battle was not resolved Saturday night.
Trailing by 14 early in the second quarter, the Bolts were able to march the ball into Seattle territory before settling for a 47-yard field goal attempt from Vizcaino. His kick had plenty of distance but still missed right, narrowly missing the upright. Vizcaino had emerged as the front runner to land the starting spot early on in camp but has lost some steam the past two weeks.
This left the door open for Badgley. The Money Badger has now put together two great weeks in practice and made a clutch kick last week against the 49ers. He is yet to miss this preseason despite taking fewer attempts than Vizcaino.
Signing a veteran free agent like former Carolina Panther Joey Slye also remains an option.
Running Back Competition
Second-year man Joshua Kelley and rookie running back Larry Rountree have been locked in their own position battle for the RB3 spot. Kelley got the nod as the starting back yet again but it was Rountree who stole the show.
Rountree has looked much more explosive in preseason action and the numbers support that. Against Seattle, he was one of the team’s most reliable offensive weapons. He paced the team with 27 yards on six carries, displaying great vision and patience. Rountree also added two catches and picked up a blitz in pass protection.
Kelley has been hesitant when running the football this preseason and against the Seahawks, he only managed two yards on three carries. He did haul in his lone target that he turned into a solid 12-yard gain. It is also worth mentioning that both have been running behind an underperforming offensive line for most of the preseason.
Justin Jackson has been dealing with a nagging injury but is still the front runner to be Austin Ekeler’s primary backup. One could make a very good argument to keep five total running backs, including a fullback. It will be interesting to see how the front office prioritizes the position.
At this point, the receiver room is basically shored up. Keenan Allen and Mike Williams have always been locked to make the final roster. Due to each of their successful offseasons, Jalen Guyton, Josh Palmer, and Tyron Johnson have also proved they should make the cut.
Whether or not the team carries six players at the position is still uncertain. K.J. Hill has handled the team’s punt return duties for most of training camp but missed the Seattle game with an injury. For what it’s worth, Michael Bandy fielded punts Saturday night in his place and added five catches for 27 yards.
Tough Cuts Await Along Defensive Line
The interior defensive line has been creating consistent pressure this preseason and has really set the tone for this Los Angeles defense. Cortez Broughton, Joe Gaziano, and Breiden Fehoko started the game for the Bolts, with all three competing for a spot on the backend of the roster.
Broughton is the most likely to make the cut given he has been with the team since 2019 and has had the most impressive training camp thus far. Gaziano had the best performance Saturday night, finishing with five total tackles against the Seahawks. Fehoko has made plenty of plays in his own right but given the depth at the position, he will have a tough time making the cut.
With exhibition play now in the rearview, the Chargers will focus their attention on the start of the 2021 regular season. The Powder Blue open the year on the road against the Washington Football Team. Kickoff is scheduled for Sunday, Sept. 12 at 10 A.M.