Chargers confident Trent Scott can tackle job of protecting Philip Rivers’ blind side
When he discovered he would be starting in Russell Okung’s spot, Trent Scott reacted to the news the same way many Chargers fans did on social media.
Okung is entering his 10th NFL season and twice has been a Pro Bowler playing left tackle, the most important position on the offensive line.
Scott is entering his second season and has one career start — at right tackle — and, on his first NFL snap last September, was beaten by the Rams’ Ndamukong Suh for a sack.
“When I first stepped in for Russ, I kind of put a little pressure on myself,” Scott said Friday. “I had to get back to, ‘You dreamed of this your whole life, sure, but it’s just football.’ ”
This was back in the late spring, after Okung suffered a pulmonary embolism that has him sidelined indefinitely. Scott was moved up to the first team, where he spent minicamp and most of training camp before cementing the starting job in the preseason.
On Sunday against Indianapolis, he’ll be assigned to protect the blind side of Philip Rivers, the Chargers’ 37-year-old franchise quarterback whose release is much quicker than his feet.
“I’m very comfortable with Trent,” coach Anthony Lynn said. “He understands the situation. He’s got to step up. We’re going to do some things to help him out. We’re not just going to throw him out there and leave him on an island all day.”
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It was Rivers who encouraged Scott to “just go play” in the spring. Scott acknowledged he was trying to be too perfect on every play, trying to be too exact with each movement. Instead, he focused on his preparation and self-confidence, accepting that there would be plays when things went haywire. Soon enough, he said, the play around him began to slow down.
“In Trent’s case … it’s, ‘Shoot, you may get beat. You may miss a block,’ ” Rivers said. “I’m dang sure going to miss a throw. We’re going to keep going. We’re going to find a way. We believe in each other.”
Scott, 25, went to the same Huntsville, Ala., high school that produced another notable substitute: baseball reliever Craig Kimbrel, a seven-time All-Star and reigning World Series champion. Scott then walked on at Grambling State, where he emerged as a starter and allowed zero sacks as a senior.
He wasn’t invited to the 2018 NFL combine and, after going undrafted, was sitting with his sister when his agent called, telling him the Chargers had made a free-agent offer.
“Growing up as a kid, I was always in that situation where I was looked down upon or they didn’t think I was going to be the guy,” Scott said. “I’ve been in situations where I had to overcome. It’s just the grit that I bring to the game.”
After beginning last year on the practice squad, he played 125 offensive snaps, 99 of which came in two early season games when Okung was injured. Now, he will be the left tackle from the opening coin flip.
The Chargers’ offensive line is in a bit of flux entering Week 1. Along with Scott taking over at left tackle, third-year guard Forrest Lamp is excepted to play off the bench against the Colts. Lynn said he wants to build chemistry across the front and would like to eventually settle on the same five starters. But until then, there could be some careful shuffling.
“I don’t want a guy going into a game looking over his shoulder saying, ‘If I make a mistake, I’m out,’ ” Lynn said. “I don’t want that type of mindset.”
If he performs well, Scott could be more than just a short-term solution. Okung is on the non-football illness list and, as such, must miss at least the first six weeks of the regular season. His situation will remain unsettled until the blood clots that caused his embolism are cleared up and he is taken off blood thinners.
The Chargers have no guarantees that Okung will play this season.
“I’m not trying to prove everybody wrong or do anything like that,” Scott said. “I’m not trying to do anything special. I’m just trying to play my game. The rest will take care of itself.
“I’m not going to be Russell Okung. Great player, great guy. I’m not trying to replace him. I’m just trying to be me. This is about me and doing my job and taking care of my responsibilities.”
The Chargers had a potentially significant addition to their injury report Friday when kicker Michael Badgley was listed as questionable because of a groin problem. If Badgley can’t play against the Colts, punter Ty Long also will kick, the double duty something he did the past two seasons in the CFL.
“This is just normal,” said Long, 26, who will be making his NFL debut Sunday. “Same old for me. Nothing changes. It’s more just getting out there and doing it. I’m confident in what I can do.”
In two years with the B.C. Lions, he made 82 of 93 field-goal attempts and 58 of 65 extra points. His longest field goal was 52 yards.
Lynn called Long “a kicker by trade that can punt.” He acknowledged losing Badgley, like any starter, is concerning but expressed confidence in Long.
The Los Angeles Chargers hope to challenge for a Super Bowl, but they’ll start the season without Russell Okung, Derwin James and Melvin Gordon.
In the preseason, Long made one of three extra-point attempts, one of which was blocked. Normally Long is the holder so, if he has to kick, backup quarterback Tyrod Taylor would take over that job.
The Chargers also will have a long snapper playing in his first NFL game. Cole Mazza won a training camp battle with Mike Windt, who had held the job for nine years.
“I’m don’t think about it too much,” Mazza said of his debut. “I worry about the task at hand. I worry about getting 1% better every day.”
He spent four years at Alabama and then played in the now disbanded Alliance of American Football.
Mazza, 24, has a degree in kinesiology and, in his previous job, was a coach for two years at Orangetheory Fitness.
Cornerback Trevor Williams (quadriceps) was ruled out for the game Sunday. Linebacker Jatavis Brown (ankle), safety Roderic Teamer (hamstring) and wide receiver Geremy Davis (hamstring) are all doubtful. Linebackers Denzel Perryman (ankle) and Drue Tranquill (back) are questionable.
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