Trey Pipkins beginning his long-term growth journey with Chargers

Chargers offensive lineman Trey Pipkins stretches before a game.
Chargers offensive lineman Trey Pipkins made his first NFL start during the team’s loss to the Kansas City Chiefs in Mexico City.
(John McCoy / Getty Images)

Trey isn’t his given first name but rather a nickname since he is, legally speaking, James Earl Pipkins III.

And James Earl Pipkins II isn’t shy about offering advice to his son, a rookie left tackle for the Chargers.

“My dad gets on me a little bit,” Pipkins said Thursday. “He tries to critique me. I’m like, ‘Dad, I have an O-line coach. He’s got me. I’m good, I promise.’ It’s just normal dad stuff.”

The Chargers lost their previous game, a Week 11 matchup in Mexico against Kansas City.

But in falling in the final 30 seconds 24-17, they survived a night on which their starting offensive tackles — Pipkins and Trent Scott — were relative kids out of, respectively, Sioux Falls University and Grambling State.


Pipkins, a third-round pick in April, made his first career start with regulars Russell Okung and Sam Tevi out with injuries. The start for Scott, undrafted and in his second year, was No. 10 overall.

“A rookie playing tackle in this league … I don’t care who you are, first-round pick or whatever it is, it’s tough,” offensive coordinator Shane Steichen said. “Trey’s a smart guy. He works at it. He’s tough. He battles everyday in practice.”

Pipkins’ father played defensive back at Iowa and also has been a football coach. He no doubt noted the two clear times Trey was beaten by Chiefs’ defensive end Frank Clark.

Philip Rivers is only under contract with the Chargers through this season, although he’s indicated he’d like to continue playing beyond this year.

Otherwise, his son mostly blended in, which is about as good as it gets for an offensive lineman, especially one starting in the NFL for the first time and just seven months after being drafted as more of a longer-term project.

“I think he’s doing a good job of comprehending as much as he can,” left guard Dan Feeney said. “He’s going to be a good player. It happens to all of us. Sometimes, you gotta be blessed by fire.”

Okung (groin) and Tevi (knee) have been limited in practice this week. The status for each regarding the Chargers game Sunday in Denver will be announced Friday.

If Pipkins remains in the starting lineup against the Broncos, his baptism by fire could continue in the imposing form of Von Miller, one of the league’s best pass rushers.

Chargers offensive lineman Trey Pipkins warms up before a preseason game against the Arizona Cardinals in August.
(Norm Hall / Getty Images)

But Miller has not participated in Denver’s past two practices because of a knee injury.

Should he find himself on the field Sunday attempting to keep a charging Miller from invading the personal space of quarterback Philip Rivers, Pipkins said he’ll try to keep the assignment as simple as child’s play.

And that should please Dad.

“You can’t be scared of any situation,” Pipkins said. “You have to go out there like you’re playing in the backyard. Just follow your techniques and fundamentals. You can’t put it above any other game.”

Justin Jackson trying to be patient

Chargers running back Justin Jackson carries the ball during a game against the Pittsburgh Steelers in December 2018.
(Justin K. Aller / Getty Images)

Exactly a year ago, the Chargers received a glimpse of what they might have in Justin Jackson, a seventh-round pick who suddenly emerged just when he was needed most.

Then a rookie running back, Jackson had two significant games — totaling 121 yards on 24 carries and scoring two touchdowns — as the Chargers won key December dates at Pittsburgh and Kansas City.

But Jackson’s sophomore season, after an encouraging start, has been even emptier than the Chargers’ 4-7 performance overall.

He has played in only four games and just once since Week 3 because of a calf injury that finally has healed.

“Learning how to be patient is the hardest thing,” Jackson said. “You’re in-season. You want to get back. But if you try to push a calf, that’s probably not real smart. That’s an experience I’m going to learn from.”

While Melvin Gordon was holding out in a contract dispute to start the year, Jackson shared time in the backfield with Austin Ekeler, picking up where his 2018 season ended.

Thomas Davis believes the Chargers’ defense — not the offense — is the primary culprit behind the team’s disappointing season.

He gained 116 yards on 13 carries through the first two games before things soured.

“It’s tough not being able to do what you love,” Jackson said. “I feel like I can contribute to this team. Obviously, when you’re losing, it hurts that much more.”

Late charge?

With Thanksgiving now in the past, the Chargers can move on to a month that has been particularly kind to them of late.

Since coach Anthony Lynn took over before the 2017 season, the Chargers are 8-2 in December and, including the playoffs, 9-3 after Dec. 1.

“I feel like we’re in great shape,” Lynn said. “We have the stamina to finish strong. We’ve always done a good job of finishing games in December. I hope we continue to do that.

“But what we’ve done in the past has nothing to do with what we’re doing right now. We have to go out and make it happen.”

After playing the Broncos, the Chargers visit Jacksonville, are home versus Minnesota and Oakland and then finish at Kansas City.


The Chargers are in a span during which they’ll go 41 days without playing a home game at Dignity Health Sports Park. On Sunday, they’ll conclude a 23-day stretch during which they played just once overall.… With four more catches, Keenan Allen will pass Hall of Famer Lance Alworth for fifth on the franchise’s all-time receptions list.