Chargers vs Rams Key Matchups
The NFL preseason is here, finally. With it, the Los Angeles Chargers are set for their first preseason game against the Los Angeles Rams at SoFi Stadium (where else?) The matchups are going to be key for the first game all the way throughout as players fight for their roster spots.
The hype surrounding the Chargers has been high, and for good reason. A new coaching staff, talented offensive line, and a stunning rookie class have fans buzzing about the potential of Brandon Staley’s group.
Ironically enough, Staley’s first head coaching appearance will be against his former employer, where he was the defensive coordinator no more than 9 months ago.
As the game gets ready to kick-off, it is time to examine some key matchups for the game. For the sake of conversation, let’s examine some of the position battles to watch during the Chargers’ first preseason game. (Once the regular season gets started I will be focusing on more game-specific matchups.)
Chargers Matchups #1: Justin Jackson vs the rest
To no surprise, Austin Ekeler is far and away better than the rest of the Chargers’ running backs. After that, it is a toss-up, and Jackson should have every opportunity to snag the job.
Larry Rountree and Joshua Kelley are the other competitors for the No.2 running back spot on the depth chart. Kelley underwhelmed towards the end of last season, and Rountree was a sixth-round draft choice by the Chargers.
However, this should be Jackson’s job to lose. The problem is, he hasn’t been able to stay healthy. It remains to be seen how much run the starters get, but we should see a mixture of the other three running backs as they pioneer for the backup spot.
Some have talked about Kelley being let go, but that seems more and more unlikely by the day, especially considering how high he was drafted in 2020, and how well he seems to be performing at training camp.
Rountree has garnered the attention of everybody and has shown to be the bruiser everybody had thought when they selected him out of Missouri. What the Chargers have lacked recently is exactly that, and Rountree being the complement to Ekeler isn’t out of the realm of possibilities by any means. Rountree also offers some juice as a special teams player and averaged 21 yards per attempt as a kick returner during his freshman season.
However, for what it’s worth– and this could be nothing– but Jackson was listed as the backup on the Chargers depth chart that was released, so something to monitor as they decide the pecking order.
This is one of the more interesting Chargers matchups to watch over the next few weeks.
Chargers Matchups #2: Breiden Fehoko vs Cortez Broughton
A defensive line battle? Indeed! The trenches are a huge focal point for this Chargers squad, and rightfully so.
The battle between Fehoko and Broughton has been one of the more interesting ones during training camp, and has arguably become the most heated battle on the roster. Brandon Staley is trying to figure out how to fill out the depth on the defensive line, and we all know how important that is to him.
Fehoko is a fan favorite that went viral last season, but he has a good shot of making the roster and potentially being a rotational player.
On the other hand, Broughton has also been impressive.
WATCH: Folks asking for #Chargers IDL improvement. DT Cortez Broughton blows up the pocket and puts Oday Aboushi into Herbert’s lap. Guyton drops the pass later, but that’s a sack.
Broughton has shown promise in camp. pic.twitter.com/HAc07sS0fR
— Dan W. (@ChargersHomer) August 9, 2021
Daniel Popper of The Athletic also mentioned Broughton’s impressive performances in camp, and it looks like he has the edge– as of now, at least– over Fehoko (sorry fans).
Broughton, meanwhile, won both of his reps. He beat Quessenberry with a spin move on his first rep. I thought it was the best move from any pass rusher in the period. Then he got past Feiler toward the end of the period with a commendable second effort after Feiler stopped Broughton’s initial burst.
That certainly bodes well for Broughton. However, there is a ton of time left and the game action will be a huge factor in the coaching staff’s decision to sway one way or the other.
*note: Broughton missed practice on Thursday and his status for this game is TBD.
Final Chargers Matchup (for now): Kicker, Kicker, Kicker
The kicking battle has been touted as one of the most important for a long time. Michael Badgley has quickly grown out of favor in Los Angeles, and the Chargers brought in Alex Kessman and Tristian Vizcaino to compete with the Money Badger.
For now, per Daniel Popper, it has become a two-man competition between the incumbent Badgley and Vizcaino, as Kessman has not performed very well in camp so far.
The kicking battle has really turned into a two-man competition between Badgley and Tristan Vizcaino. They both kicked Wednesday. Badgley’s inconsistencies showed up again. He went 3-for-5, missing from 33 and 50 yards and making from 38, 42 and 46 yards. Vizcaino went 5-for-5 from the same distances.
The bottom line is this: whoever makes the kicks gets the job. Simple, right? Not exactly, and Chargers fans know just how brutal the kicking situation has been for the last few years, at least. It will be interesting to see how the team handles the kicking situation in their first preseason game, but Badgley needs to improve quickly if he wants any shot at keeping the job.