Chargers Drop First Game to Arizona Cardinals

With running back Melvin Gordon still holding out and starting quarterback Philip Rivers in street clothes on the sidelines, the Los Angeles Chargers opened their preseason schedule with a 17-13 loss in Phoenix to the Arizona Cardinals. Gordon and Rivers were among the many starters that either sat out the game or saw little action. Head Coach Anthony Lynn needed to use this first preseason game to "find the right 53 guys and to get better."

The starting offensive line continues to be a work-in-progress with starting left tackle Russell Okung out indefinitely due to a pulmonary embolism caused by blood clots. He has not yet been cleared by doctors to play and may miss the first few weeks of the season. Okung was replaced at left tackle by Trent Scott, who did a solid job along with the rest of the starting offensive line of Sam Tevi, Dan Feeney, Michael Schofield and Forrest Lamp.

With backup quarterback Tyrod Taylor starting in place of Rivers, the Chargers took the opening kickoff and drove 73 yards plays in eight plays. With a first-and-goal at the two-yard line, Austin Ekeler fumbled, and the Cardinals recovered, ending the drive. Ekeler had been very effective on the drive, gaining 21 yards on four carries, along with a 15-yard reception on a pass from Taylor.

The Chargers came back and drove 87 yards in nine plays, this time finishing the long drive when running back Justin Jackson scored on a four-yard touchdown run to give the Chargers a 7-0 lead early in the 2nd quarter. The first two offensive drives of the game netted a total of 160 yards of offense and the Chargers had outgained the Cardinals 160-33 in total yards.

Gordon, who is holding out for a contract extension from the Chargers, should not feel good about what he saw in the game. Ekeler gained 40 yards on five carries and caught three passes for 29 yards. Jackson gained 22 yards on five carries, including running over a Cardinal tackler for a touchdown. Ekeler and Jackson look more than capable of replacing Gordon, as they did last season.

Taylor, signed as a free agent during the offseason, completed 6-of-6 for 72 yards and added 34 rushing yards, including a 23-yard run. The veteran Taylor has started 46 games in his career, was selected to the pro bowl in 2015, led the Buffalo Bills to the playoffs in 2017 and collected a super bowl ring in 2013 when the Baltimore Ravens won the championship.

Taylor was a backup to Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco on that super bowl championship team. He is arguably the best backup Rivers has had in his career as a Charger. Taylor was signed to a two-year, $11 million-dollar contract, with $6 million guaranteed. Coach Lynn is happy to have Taylor, stating: "I thought the offense was really efficient with Tyrod. He's a luxury to have on this football team. He's a starter in this league."

Third string quarterback Cardale Jones did little to improve his prospects of making the roster. Jones was sacked twice, including a sack that was clearly preventable had he just stepped up into the pocket. Jones completed four of six passes for 47 yards, with the highlight a 25-yard completion to tight end Andrew Vollert.

Rookie quarterback Easton Stick, the Chargers 5th round pick in the recent 2019 NFL draft, rushed for 51 yards on two carries, including a dazzling 31-yard touchdown run. He also completed 7 of 11 passes for 78 yards but threw a costly interception that led to a Cardinal touchdown. Stick, who had a 49-3 record as a starter at North Dakota State, holds the record for most wins by a starting quarterback in NCAA Division I FCS history.

On the defensive side of the ball, the Chargers held the Cardinals to 289 yards and were able to get a lot of playing time for the younger players. As Coach Lynn stated: "We've got to see what the young guys can do because you're only as good as your depth, later in the season when those guys are going to play, I need to know we can count on them."

The one turnover from the defense came from an interception by rookie 4th round pick Drue Tranquill, who also had five tackles. Coach Lynn had some good things to say about the rookie linebacker from Notre Dame: "He's been practicing well, and he was in position tonight. He's a former safety so his coverage skills did show up and it was a good thing to see."

The Chargers will be at home for their second preseason game of the year when the New Orleans Saints come to Southern California. The game is on Sunday at Dignity Health Sports Park, starting at 1PM.

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