Philip Rivers won’t play as Chargers test depth in preseason opener at Arizona
Russell Hansbrough had a 12-yard run, Nic Shimonek completed eight passes and Nelson Spruce caught one ball.
Looking back a year later and knowing what the 2018 Chargers became, nothing too memorable happened in their preseason opener.
The 2019 version of the team arrives at the start of another preseason Thursday in Arizona for an affair that will explore depth more than display potential.
“You’re going to learn a lot about some of these guys,” coach Anthony Lynn said. “You see them all OTAs, minicamps, two weeks of training camp. Now you get to see them in a live game. This is the real evaluation. We’ve had a lot of exposures, but this is the big one right here.”
Last August, in that first game — also played on the road against the Cardinals — the Chargers’ final touchdown in a 24-17 loss was scored by an undrafted rookie named Detrez Newsome.
Four months later, Newsome rushed for 34 yards and caught two passes to help the Chargers to a significant 29-28 victory at Kansas City.
So important glimpses can be flashed in these games that otherwise don’t count. Lynn and his staff are about to see who, particularly among the newcomers, might look best in a Chargers uniform in Week 1.
Justin Jones, through changed diet and a new regimen, has dropped nearly 20 pounds. The Chargers’ second-year defensive tackle is ready for a bigger role.
“We’ll learn a lot about the depth that we have,” Lynn said. “We expect that depth to continue to get better. [We have] a lot of young guys right now, and they’re going to play. I don’t want to put too much into Thursday, but it will be the first time we get a chance to see these guys in a live game.”
Most of the Chargers veterans will play little, if at all. Quarterback Philip Rivers will be held out. Veteran Tyrod Taylor, signed as a free agent in the offseason, should start. Cardale Jones, a backup last season, and fifth-round draft choice Easton Stick should see playing time.
Melvin Gordon also won’t play but for an entirely different reason. The team’s Pro Bowl running back hasn’t reported because of a contract disagreement, leaving the team no option but to proceed without him.
The NFL’s collective bargaining agreement allows for the Chargers to fine Gordon a regular-season game check for sitting out a preseason game, something the team probably will do, though such fines can be waived when a dispute is settled.
Gordon’s agent also has requested a trade, which still appears unlikely. To date, general manager Tom Telesco has dismissed the notion of dealing Gordon, noting how much he aids their chances of winning a Super Bowl.
Along with the gaping hole left by Gordon’s absence, the Chargers are trying to mitigate the loss of left tackle Russell Okung, who remains out after suffering a pulmonary embolism in June.
Okung won’t be reevaluated again until the end of August, meaning the Chargers are preparing to go into the regular season without him. Second-year undrafted free agent Trent Scott is occupying Okung’s spot.
The environment offered by a preseason game should help in the development of the Chargers’ young tackle, and likewise in the development of third-year guard Forrest Lamp.
Offensive linemen Trent Scott and Forrest Lamp will play a lot in the Chargers’ preseason opener against the Arizona Cardinals because they need experience.
“It’s loud and you gotta communicate,” Lynn said. “That’s what we’re lacking. As far as physical talent, those guys are pretty talented. But they just need more experience.”
From a national perspective, the game will mark the debut of Kyler Murray, Arizona’s quarterback and the No. 1 overall pick in the 2019 draft. Though he isn’t expected to play long, Murray’s performance will be dissected in the coming days.
“It will be exciting to watch him play,” Lynn said. “I think he’s a heck of a football player. That’s why he was the first pick in the draft.”
Murray and Lynn are from the same part of Texas and the Chargers coach said he knows Murray’s father, Kevin, a former quarterback at Texas A&M. Lynn played running back at Texas Tech.
“I know he’s raised right,” Lynn said of Murray. “He’s a solid young man. He’s been a winner on every level, you know, high school, college. I don’t see that stopping in the pros. He’s just a winner.”
The winner in the game Thursday will be irrelevant. But, for a lot of the younger players, what happens en route to that final score could matter plenty.
Go beyond the scoreboard
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