If there’s one position on the football field where you want week-in, week-out stability, it’s at quarterback. Timing has to be precise, defenses need to be identified and decisions have to be made with pinpoint accuracy.
Thrust people who aren’t used to doing all those things on Sunday, and you’re taking quite a gamble.
“I don’t worry about risk,” Buffalo first-year coach Sean McDermott said. “I just worry about the direction our team is going and where we’re trying to get to.”
It’s why the Bills didn’t hesitate to make a surprising quarterback change Wednesday, benching Tyrod Taylor for rookie Nathan Peterman, a move that Chargers coach Anthony Lynn called “a little surprising.”
A little less surprising? Quarterback uncertainty with the Chargers — something that skyrocketed when Lynn said Philip Rivers was in the league’s concussion protocol as of Monday — has settled down.
“I’d bank on him playing,” running back Melvin Gordon said.
The odds are certainly looking good that Rivers will indeed be back on the field to face the Bills. During Wednesday’s portion of practice open to the media, Rivers threw passes to receivers and went through individual drills, signs that he’s close to being cleared for full participation.
The team listed Rivers as a limited participant.
If Rivers can’t go, backup Kellen Clemens will face the Bills.
“It’s no different this week than any other week. I have to be ready if I’m called upon,” Clemens said. “Everybody hopes that Philip’s going to be out there and ready to go; hopes that he’s OK physically. [That’s] the most important thing. But if called upon, I’ll be ready to go.”
Clemens hasn’t thrown a pass in a regular-season game since 2015, but as far as the practice regime there shouldn’t be much disruption.
Skill position players such as wide receiver Tyrell Williams and Gordon said they don’t need Rivers on the field to work on details such as timing — they’ve had enough reps for that.
“It’s just to mainly go over the plays,” Williams said.
And if the team has to do that with Clemens instead, it might not feel all that different. Rivers and his backup share the long commute to Costa Mesa from San Diego County, breaking down game film in a mobile office. Clemens said it allows them to see the game similarly.
“I would hope that that’s a benefit. And again, that’s a testament to him. He’s an open book,” Clemens said. “A lot of guys aren’t, and they don’t have to be. But he’s an open book. If I have a question, he takes the time to answer it. If I don’t understand it, he explains it a different way. So it’s just a testament to him while he’s preparing to get himself ready. If I have questions, he helps me as well.”
It certainly makes game week easier for the Chargers than the Bills, who will be turning the keys over to a rookie with a totally different style of play than the mobile Taylor.
In the Chargers’ case, the two quarterbacks are working together more than they’re competing, and building a strong relationship.
“I’ve benefited from it in ways that haven’t been seen yet,” Clemens said of his work with Rivers. “Hopefully we don’t have to see it. I know everybody wants to see him out there, including myself.”
The Chargers injury report was packed full of names Wednesday. Tackle Joe Barksdale, whom Lynn already ruled out for Sunday, was joined by defensive end Chris McCain (quad), linebacker James Onwualu (quad) and Hayes Pullard (neck) as players who didn’t practice. Tight end Antonio Gates also had the day off for rest. … Defensive tackle Corey Liuget (toe), safety Adrian Phillips (hamstring) and center Spencer Pulley (knee) were all limited, e and linebacker Denzel Perryman (ankle) was a full participant in practice. … Lynn said that there weren’t going to be any changes at the top of the depth chart at running back, where the team is still committed to Gordon with rookie Austin Ekeler serving as a complement.