Chargers’ struggles along the offensive line among Anthony Lynn’s biggest concerns
They are missing Melvin Gordon, their Pro Bowl center hasn’t played at all, and neither has their veteran starting left tackle.
Still, the Chargers’ inability to convert on fourth and short in the preseason serves as a fitting snapshot of the concerns over their offensive line.
“I wasn’t excited [the] first three quarters,” coach Anthony Lynn said after a 23-15 loss to Seattle on Saturday night. “Especially the fourth and ones.”
Twice in the first half the Chargers failed to execute in that situation. Backup quarterback Tyrod Taylor fumbled the snap to spoil the first chance and Troymaine Pope lost two yards behind a collapsing line on the second.
In their previous preseason game, the Chargers’ opening possession against New Orleans ended when Justin Jackson lost two yards on fourth and one as the line was shoved backward.
Defensive back Jaylen Watkins took his next step back from a knee injury by playing in a 23-15 preseason loss to the Seahawks.
“It’s the third time that I’ve put us in that situation,” Lynn said Saturday. “I expect us to get the job done, and we did not get that done.”
Gordon remains a holdout in a contract dispute that could extend into the season. Two weeks before the opener against Indianapolis, there has been little movement in negotiations.
Mike Pouncey, the center coming off his fourth Pro Bowl selection, will not play in the preseason as the Chargers have been reluctant to expose their veterans to the possibility of injury.
Left tackle Russell Okung missed all of training camp because he is on blood thinners after suffering a pulmonary embolism in June. The Chargers should know more about his availability after he is re-evaluated this week.
If Okung is deemed unfit to return anytime soon, he likely would start the season on the non-football injury list. In that case, he would have to miss at least the first six weeks.
Last season, no team in the NFL went for it on fourth down fewer times than the Chargers did. But when they tried, they were successful.
They converted seven of eight fourth-down attempts, their 87.5% rate tops in the NFL.
The Chargers also were sixth best in picking up first downs in short-yardage situations.
Without Okung, second-year tackle Trent Scott has taken over on the left side. He has one career NFL start. The right tackle is Sam Tevi, who is entering his second year as a starter.
At left guard, the Chargers have Dan Feeney, who has started 25 games over the last two seasons and started at center in Pouncey’s absence.
Forrest Lamp, a second-round pick in 2017, also has been working at guard with the starters. Against the Seahawks, Scott, Feeney and Lamp each played 44 snaps, the most of all Chargers on offense.
Michael Schofield remains at right guard. He has 50 NFL starts and his entering his sixth season.
Easton Stick impresses Lynn
The Chargers finally converted a fourth down Saturday, in the fourth quarter, when rookie quarterback Easton Stick connected with Jordan Smallwood for nine yards on fourth and eight.
The play came on one of the two touchdown drives Stick produced as the Chargers salvaged a bit of what was not a great night on offense.
“It was good to see Stick go in a game and move the ball down the field,” Lynn said. “He had the same opportunity last week, threw an interception, game over. This week ... he took it down the field and scored.”
Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck says an unrelenting cycle of injuries spurred his decision to retire from football at age 29.
Stick guided the Chargers to scoring drives of 75 and 45 yards. He hit Andre Patton for an eight-yard touchdown and then scored himself on a four-yard run.
“He made some nice throws throughout,” Lynn said. “I like the way he stayed in the pocket and the pressure came at him and he delivered the mail down the field.”
Stick is battling Cardale Jones for the No. 3 job. Both have had starring moments during the preseason. Stick finished 12 for 16 for 82 yards against the Seahawks.
His performance was such that Lynn twice called time out on defense in order to take one more shot.
“I did not want to use those timeouts at the end, but I wanted to see this young man get the ball back,” Lynn said. “I have a lot of confidence that he can move the ball down the field like he did.”
Said Stick: “It was fun going in there and getting in the huddle. The guys did a really good job of helping me out. Fed off the crowd’s energy, and we were able to make a push there at the end.”
Linebacker Jatavis Brown on his first action since suffering an ankle injury in last year’s regular-season finale: “It always feels good to be back out there playing what I love to play and to be out there with my teammates, my brothers.” He finished with seven total tackles. ... Lynn specifically cited the play of Pope and mentioned the consistency he has shown the past two weeks. Pope finished with 27 yards on five carries. ... Defensive tackle Corey Liuget signed with Oakland. He spent the first eight years of his career with the Chargers but appeared in only six games last year because of suspension and injury.
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