Despite some of the good joint practices between Dallas and the Chargers this week, this game was a rough one for the Chargers as they lost 18 to 32. Below, let’s look at what went right and what went very wrong.
Special Teams (Still) Needs Improvement
Brandon Staley said during his post-game press conference that it was a poor first half “about as poorly as you can play” and he was right. The big takeaway from this game has to be the return touchdowns by KaVontae Turpin. Each time Turpin broke through all the Chargers players, there was always one last soul trying to chase him down as he sailed to the end zone. The first time that person was J.T. Woods during the kickoff return, and the second time it was J.K. Scott during the punt return. Special teams has been a big focus of the Chargers this year, especially with the addition of Ryan Ficken to the coaching staff, and it definitely seems to be a work in progress. During his press conference on Day 15 of training camp, which was the first day of joint practices with the Cowboys, Austin Ekeler thought that maybe the second or third spot for running back may be determined by special teams work, and based on how they played today, it feels like that should be a large part of determining the other running back positions. Special teams is an area that’s going to need some fine-tuning before the season starts to make sure the Chargers aren’t giving up points.
Easton Stick Takes A Step Back
Easton Stick was unable to build upon his solid preseason debut last week and seemed to take a step back this week. Chase Daniel remains ahead in the battle for Justin Herbert‘s primary backup almost by default. Part of that can be attributed to the pressure that both quarterbacks were under today, but Stick seemed to let the pressure get to him more. He made some deep throws that didn’t connect, including one that was intercepted by Israel Mukuamu. And he couldn’t really trust the pocket tonight and had to escape it here and there. He was struggling and that can’t be completely attributed to the lack of protection.
Daniel seemed to do better with the pressure as he did make a completion to Michael Bandy for the last touchdown of the night, while still being pursued outside of the pocket. Daniel does have that veteran presence and is used to playing in these types of games and that showed tonight. So it seems like there’s a bit more separation happening between these two this week.
Michael Bandy At It Again
With another preseason game, comes more Michael Bandy touchdowns. He was a reliable target for Daniel during the second half, catching several passes, and also helped to keep a drive alive by making a catch on fourth down to give the Chargers a first. Daniel Popper of The Athletic stated last week as he was looking at Joe Reed and Bandy before the Rams vs Chargers preseason game, “And the goal for those players is to show up in the preseason games and make the coaching staff consider keeping six wide receivers” and I think Bandy is definitely making his case to be number six.
Carlo Kemp A Bright Spot
Carlo Kemp was making his presence known this week on the defensive line, as he had a few takedowns during this game. In particular, he batted down a pass from Ben DiNucci at the end of the third quarter and on another play almost got him down in a tackle until he spun out of it. He hasn’t made a huge impression during camp like Chris Rumph, but he’s been pretty consistent during these preseason games when he gets an opportunity. So depending on how he performs in the next game, maybe he’ll find himself a spot on the roster.
Offensive Line Struggles To Gain Its Footing
The offensive line just couldn’t seem to hold against this Dallas defense this week. Storm Norton was beaten at least once, which contributed to Stick getting hit and his pass going over the head of Joshua Palmer during the first drive. Zack Bailey was also beat for a sack on Daniel. Daniel also had multiple passes batted away. The pocket just kept collapsing and especially with Norton being beat, I had a flashback to a few games last season where that exact thing happened to Herbert. I don’t know if we’re any closer to seeing what we need to in the right tackle position battler since Trey Pipkins hasn’t really distinguished himself in these last two preseason games either. Here’s hoping the last few training camp practices and the last preseason game will be the determining factor.
Josh Palmer Continues To Make Waves
Josh Palmer has been really consistent in training camp and it looks like that consistency has translated well to live games. Palmer made quite an impact in this first half. In addition to the touchdown, he had that deep, 41-yard completion from Stick, and had a great spin move after making another catch, allowing him to get just a few more yards. He was the victim of some out-of-sync passes in the first preseason game that didn’t really allow him the opportunity to make his presence felt but he definitely changed that with this one. As he’s someone who’s put in the work in the offseason in terms of training, it’s great to see some of that pay off.
Chargers Preseason Recap: Struggle Against The Cowboys – Via Ty Nowell