Back in early spring, Chargers coach Anthony Lynn began talking about playing his regulars less this preseason, following what has become an NFL trend.
But with his team set to open exhibition play Thursday night in Arizona, at least two offensive linemen who figure into the team’s plans should be busy this month.
Trent Scott and Forrest Lamp both lack the sort of experience desired when protecting someone such as Philip Rivers, a franchise quarterback not known for his blinding mobility.
“Not every starter is going to sit in preseason,” Lynn said Tuesday. “I got to get the guys what they need to get ready for Week 1, and every player’s different. Trent’s a young tackle. He needs reps. Forrest basically has been out for a couple years. He needs reps. Those guys are going to get plenty of playing time.”
Lamp, a second-round pick in 2017, has had his career derailed by a knee injury. A guard, Lamp is competing mostly with incumbent Dan Feeney for the spot on the left of Rivers.
Okung remains sidelined after suffering a pulmonary embolism in June. His treatment includes blood thinners, meaning he won’t be able to play until receiving medical clearance.
His next checkup is scheduled for late this month, which has the Chargers preparing to begin the season without him. Okung is entering his 10th year and has made two Pro Bowls.
Because left tackle — the most important position on the offensive line — is unsettled, Lynn said the exhibitions become particularly vital.
“It’s very important just to get those reps for experience, just the games up front and the communication with one another,” Lynn said. “That’s the most important thing with those reps.
“We get a lot of quality reps in practice. Those guys go up against two pretty good pass rushers [Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram] every single day. So I’m not worried about the competition. But they need to work together in a game environment.”
The Chargers have veteran starters at center in Mike Pouncey and right guard in Michael Schofield. The right tackle is Sam Tevi, a former sixth-round pick who started 15 games in 2018.
Jatavis Brown returns
A deep linebacker group grew even deeper Tuesday when Jatavis Brown was activated from the physically unable to perform list and practiced for the first time since last season.
He missed the playoffs after suffering an ankle injury in the regular-season finale. Brown started 10 games in 2018 and proved to be a significant contributor as the Chargers suffered several linebacker injuries.
“It’s good to see him out there,” Lynn said. “He’s picked up pretty much where he left off. He’s had a good offseason. He’s had a good camp so far. We’ll see if he can take it into games.”
Earlier in camp, Lynn indicated that Brown likely would return for the Chargers’ third preseason game, Aug. 24 against Seattle.
The team’s first unofficial depth chart released this week has Brown listed as a third-teamer, though defensive coordinator Gus Bradley figures to employ several linebackers in a variety of packages.
Along with holdovers Denzel Perryman, Uchenna Nwosu and Kyzir White, the Chargers signed free agent Thomas Davis and drafted Drue Tranquill and Emeke Egbule.
Their linebackers also include Kyle Wilson and Nick Dzubnar, who is more of a special-teams stalwart.
“It’s very encouraging only because how we ended up last year with no linebackers available,” defensive back Desmond King said. “Having everybody back getting healthy, I think that’s a very good asset.”
The Chargers’ defense has been impressive in training camp. White had a one-handed interception against Rivers on Tuesday.
“We’ve been making plays,” King said. “That’s the thing about having everybody back and everybody healthy. There’s really nothing we can’t do. I feel like we’re a great team as a defense.”
Philip Rivers won’t play
Rivers is among the Chargers’ starters who won’t play Thursday. The veteran entering his 16th season estimated that he threw 80 passes during two practices with the Rams last week and afterward said the joint workouts are more valuable than preseason games.
The Chargers’ top two draft picks, defensive tackle Jerry Tillery and safety Nasir Adderley, also won’t play. Tillery just began team drills in practice as he works back from offseason shoulder surgery. He spent time Tuesday with the first team. Adderley has been slowed by a hamstring problem.
The Chargers’ unofficial depth chart lists Rayshawn Jenkins as starting at free safety and Michael Davis at left cornerback. Those are two of the positions with the most competition. White’s brother, Kevin, is a wide receiver for Arizona.