Saints Rally over Chargers in Preseason Game

Seahawks Come to Town this week

When the Los Angeles Chargers drafted Easton Stick in the 5th round of the 2019 NFL draft, they saw qualities in him that reminded them of a quarterback from the New Orleans Saints. No, it was not Drew Brees. Chargers general manager Tom Telesco told the NFL Network that Stick had "a lot of the qualities that Taysom Hill has as far as his toughness, being able to run with the football."

On Sunday afternoon, the Chargers got a closer look at some of those qualities that Hill possesses and they can only hope that Stick turns into the player that Hill has become for the Saints. Trailing 17-3 to the Chargers at halftime, Hill directed three second-half scoring drives to help the Saints rally for a 19-17 preseason victory over the Chargers at Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson.

Hill completed 11 of 15 passes for 136 yards and two touchdowns. He also rushed for 53 yards on five carries. Charger head coach Anthony Lynn was impressed with Hill: "Taysom Hill, I take my hat off to him. He's a heck of an athlete. He's a heck of a quarterback. He just took that game over." Hill is the #3 quarterback on the Saints behind Brees and Teddy Bridgewater. His athletic ability has enabled the Saints to use him on special teams, as a receiver and as a runner.

Charger quarterback Stick, on the other hand, struggled. He completed 5 of 13 passes for 62 yards and an interception. The interception came shortly after the Saints had taken a 19-17 lead on a 28-yard field goal by Will Lutz with 65 seconds left in the game. If Stick makes the roster as the #3 quarterback behind Philip Rivers and Tyrod Taylor, it will have to be in a jack-of-all-trades role similar to Hill.

For the second straight game, the Chargers did not play key starters. Quarterback Rivers has not played this preseason. Neither has wide receiver Keenan Allen, center Mike Pouncey, linebacker Thomas Davis and pass rushers Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram. Running back Melvin Gordon continued to miss games due to his contractual holdout.

The Chargers played well in the first half, holding the Saints to 76 yards of offense. They also had an interception, fumble recovery and a sack by rookie first round pick Jerry Tillery. The play of Tillery was mentioned by Coach Lynn after the game: "I have to watch the tape to see how he played every down, but I like the fact that he got the sack. I mean it wasn't even close." If Tillery becomes the pass rusher that the Chargers think he can become, the Chargers could have the best pass rush in the NFL.

The Chargers also played well in the first half on offense, gaining 195 yards on offense. Quarterback Cardele Jones, who had a terrible game the week before in Arizona, played perhaps his best game as a Charger. On his first offensive series in the 2nd quarter, Jones took the Chargers 98 yards in 10 plays, the drive culminating with a 24-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Andre Patton. That gave the Chargers a 7-3 lead.

On his second offensive series, Jones took the Chargers 57 yards in nine plays, with the drive capped by a Mike Badgley 32-yd Field Goal. This gave the Chargers a 10-3 lead in the 2nd quarter. Jones looked very comfortable in the pocket, completing 10 of 14 passes for 111 yards. He is currently in competition with Stick for the #3 quarterback slot on the roster, assuming the Chargers keep three quarterbacks on their 53-man roster. He may not make the roster, but his performance could help him land a spot on another teams' roster.

Another player that helped himself in the game was running back Troymaine Pope, who had an 81-yard punt return for a touchdown. Pope's touchdown gave the Chargers a 17-3 lead late in the 2nd quarter. Pope, an undrafted free agent from Jacksonville State (Alabama), has bounced around the NFL looking for a permanent home. The Chargers are his fifth team in his three NFL seasons. Pope has 44 yards rushing in his NFL career, spending most of his time on practice squads.

With Gordon out and demanding a trade, Pope may get an opportunity to make the Chargers 53-man roster. Coach Lynn is a fan of Pope's, stating: "His first-step explosion is as good as a lot of backs I've been around. I saw that last year with him on the scout team. We gave him more opportunities this year, and he's taken advantage of it."

The Chargers are at home again this week to take on the Seattle Seahawks. The Chargers are likely to play most of their starters in the first half of this game. The game will start at 7 pm on Saturday Night at Dignity Heath Sports Park.

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