Philip Rivers trotted onto the field at State Farm Stadium for the Chargers’ opening preseason game … wearing shorts and a baseball cap.
Still, the team received an impressive performance Thursday night from its starting quarterback.
Tyrod Taylor took over against Arizona in Rivers’ absence and directed the offense to a pair of drives that netted 160 total yards and a touchdown in a game the Chargers would go on to lose 17-13.
Rivers was among several regulars who didn’t dress, giving Taylor an opportunity to show why Chargers coach Anthony Lynn has spoken so glowingly of the veteran quarterback since he signed as a free agent in the offseason.
Geno Smith was Rivers’ backup last year. And, although Rivers hasn’t missed a start since taking over in 2006, Lynn and the Chargers were interested in upgrading the insurance policy behind him.
The Taylor-Lynn pairing represents a reunion since they also worked together in Buffalo. A starter for three seasons with the Bills, Taylor won a Super Bowl as the backup in Baltimore and began last season as the starter in Cleveland.
In his first action as a Charger, he finished six for six for 72 yards and ran twice for 34 yards. Both of Taylor’s scrambles picked up first downs and the latter set up the Chargers’ first score.
Early in the second quarter, Justin Jackson capped a nine-play, 87-yard drive with a four-yard run for a touchdown. Immediately before that play, Taylor had dashed for 11 yards.
“Tyrod, he’s a luxury to have on this football team,” Lynn said. “He’s a starter in this league. It didn’t surprise me at all that they moved the ball.”
Entering his ninth season, Taylor, 30, is content to be the second-stringer to a future Hall of Famer.
When he joined with the Chargers, Taylor said one of his primary motives was the team’s Super Bowl potential.
Already in training camp, he has spoken highly of the opportunity to learn daily from Rivers.
“Philip is a smart guy, very smart,” Taylor said last week. “He’s seen a bunch on the football field.… There’s a lot I can take from him.… I’m always writing things down and just trying to pick his brain on how he sees the game.”
The Chargers’ first drive with Taylor on Thursday also moved to within striking distance until Austin Ekeler fumbled inside the Arizona five-yard line.
With starting running back Melvin Gordon not here because of a contract dispute, Ekeler and Jackson both had flashy moments. Ekeler carried five times for 40 yards and Jackson five times for 22.
Both benefited from the work of the Chargers’ under-construction offensive line, a group that is missing left tackle Russell Okung, who suffered a pulmonary embolism in June.
Center Mike Pouncey also didn’t dress for the game. Instead, incumbent left guard Dan Feeney started at center and Forrest Lamp moved into Fenney’s spot. Feeney and Lamp have been battling for the starting job at left guard.
Like all preseason games, this one featured plenty of young players receiving chances. Chargers rookie quarterback Easton Stick, a fifth-round pick, had a 31-yard run for a touchdown.
The other Chargers starters who didn’t play included wide receiver Keenan Allen, defensive end Joey Bosa and edge rusher Melvin Ingram.
This ultimately was a preseason game. After being called for no penalties in the first quarter, the Chargers were flagged for four onone play in the second quarter.
The night also marked two notable exhibition debuts for the Cardinals: head coach Kliff Kingsbury and quarterback Kyler Murray.
Kingsbury was going to be USC’s offensive coordinator until Arizona hired him away just a month after he accepted the Trojans’ offer.
Murray, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2019 draft, was six for seven for 44 yards.