For Chargers, joint practices with Rams are ‘priceless’
Two teams met on the practice field Saturday at UC Irvine.
But it was the presence of a third jersey that pleased quarterback Philip Rivers most.
“I got more work in these last two days than I’ve gotten in probably the last 10 preseason games combined,” he said, following the Chargers’ second joint practice with the Rams. “I just didn’t get touched today, which is nice.”
The Chargers wore blue and the Rams white. The quarterbacks on both teams, as is the custom in these affairs, wore red to signify that they were off limits from contact.
These teams also shared the practice field Thursday at the Chargers’ training camp in Costa Mesa.
Coach Anthony Lynn called the sessions “priceless,” particularly noting the quality of the opposition, the Rams having reached the Super Bowl last season.
“You get to put guys in game situations against a real good opponent and see how they respond,” he said. “You’re in a somewhat controlled environment where you can protect them a little bit.”
The Chargers have two more joint practices scheduled, with New Orleans on Aug. 15-16. The Saints are coming off an appearance in the NFC title game.
Sean McVay and Jared Goff weren’t thrilled with how the Rams performed against the Chargers, but the quarterback finds value in joint practices.
All of which means Rivers and many of the team’s starters will play less in the preseason than in past years. Lynn has had that plan in place since early in the offseason.
“I mean, I’ve thrown 80 passes in two practices,” Rivers said. “That’s like two [regular-season] games. It’s been awesome.”
Against the Rams, the Chargers faced a defensive front that features, among others, Aaron Donald, Dante Fowler and Michael Brockers.
The challenge was a stout one for a young offensive line that is still being pieced together.
“The first thing you got to do is care a heck of a whole lot and they all do,” Rivers said of the linemen charged with protecting him. “They’re all fighting and scrapping like crazy. ... It’s a group that we’re excited about.”
The Chargers are without veteran left tackle Russell Okung, who will be out for a still unspecified amount of time after suffering a pulmonary embolism in June.
On Saturday, they started Trent Scott, an undrafted rookie in his second season, in Okung’s spot. Sam Tevi, in his third year, started at right tackle. The guards were Dan Feeney and Michael Schofield, with Mike Pouncey at center.
Especially in the early phase of 11-on-11 drills, the Rams managed to put pressure on Rivers and neutralize the Chargers’ running game.
“You’re going against the best front probably in the league, one of the best for sure, with the best player [Donald] in the league,” Rivers said. “He gets most of the attention, as he should, but the other guys he’s lining up beside are pretty dang good too.”
With Melvin Gordon’s holdout into its second week, Justin Jackson and Austin Ekeler split time at starting running back in a joint practice with the Rams.
Rivers called the joint practices “a good changeup” from the normal training camp routine. The Chargers opened with six consecutive practices before taking a day off.
He called the offense’s performance in the two workouts against the Rams “up and down” but added that the experience of just seeing a different defense can be vital in preparing for what’s ahead.
“It’s not really about who won today,” Rivers said. “There’s a lot that we can learn from. The bad too. There’s plenty of mistakes we made. You’d rather learn from them now with no consequence than when we get to September.”
The Chargers play the first of their four preseason games Thursday in Arizona. They open the regular season Sept. 8 at home against Indianapolis.
The majority of the quarterback snaps in those exhibitions will go to Tyrod Taylor, who, as Rivers’ backup, is in his first season with the Chargers, and Cardale Jones and Easton Stick, who are battling for the No. 3 job.
“I think there is some value in the preseason,” Rivers said. “Speaking personally, it’s not as valuable as maybe it was 10 years ago for me. But this is. This is super valuable. I feel like this is enough for me.”
Keenan Allen hobbles but is ‘fine’
Wide receiver Keenan Allen was hobbling after stretching out for a long pass from Rivers near the end of practice and met with team medical personnel. Lynn afterward said, “Keenan’s fine.”
Tight end Hunter Henry was limited because of an illness, and wide receiver Travis Benjamin finished practice as a spectator. Lynn said he was unaware of anything physically hampering Benjamin.
“I was told that everyone’s going to be OK,” he said.
Among the Chargers who didn’t practice were tight end Virgil Green and safeties Nasir Adderley and Jaylen Watkins. Adderley has been slowed by a hamstring issue. ... Taylor was intercepted twice and cornerback Michael Davis picked off Jared Goff during 11-on-11 drills. ... The closest thing to a skirmish involved Chargers receiver Artavis Scott and Rams receiver Jalen Greene getting entangled during punt coverage.
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