The Chargers, as a group, haven’t made positive strides in 2019.
But, as individuals, there has been progress.
“It’s been a good season for learning purposes,” Scott Quessenberry said. “Obviously, we’re not where we want to be team-wise. But I got a lot of valuable experience, which is a good thing for me.”
A fifth-round pick in 2018, Quessenberry has been the Chargers’ No. 1 center the second half of the season. He moved into the starting lineup after Mike Pouncey was lost to a neck injury and Forrest Lamp went down with a broken right fibula.
Before entering in the second quarter of the Chargers’ Week 7 loss at Tennessee, most of Quessenberry’s game experience had come on special teams.
Then Lamp was injured against the Titans and the former UCLA Bruin suddenly found himself working closer with quarterback Philip Rivers than he had since training camp.
“As soon as I saw Forrest hit the deck, I was ready,” said Quessenberry, who played at La Costa Canyon High in Carlsbad. “Me and Phil have taken snaps together in practice. So there was no disconnect there. That was a pretty easy transition.”
Still, having never played for an extended period in the NFL, Quessenberry admitted he wasn’t certain how things would go until he actually began taking live snaps.
When the season began, he was entrenched behind Pouncey — a Pro Bowler who signed a contract extension in September — with starting left guard Dan Feeney established as the backup center.
When Pouncey was injured, Feeney moved to center and Lamp became the starter at left guard. That alignment lasted for two starts.
“You always tell yourself to prepare like you’re the starter, be ready for anything,” Quessenberry said. “But when that time finally comes, I’m sure anyone who has been in that moment would tell you the same thing: You’re never completely, 100% ready for it.”
After finishing the game against Tennessee, Quessenberry has played every offensive snap, except for a handful in a blowout victory at Jacksonville.
Given the severity of Pouncey’s injury, the Chargers remain unsure if he’ll be able to continue his career. With Feeney still an option at center, Quessenberry’s status for next season also is very much undecided.
He’ll enter the off-season at least secure in knowing that he can play center in the NFL.
“I always trusted myself and believed in myself,” Quessenberry said. “My goal was to have the guys around me believe in me. I think we’ve accomplished that.”
Left tackle Russell Okung will miss his second consecutive game because of a groin injury suffered in a Week 15 loss to Minnesota.
The veteran was limited to six starts in 2019 because of health issues. He was out for the first seven games after suffering a pulmonary embolism in June and missed another game because of a separate groin injury.
Okung is finishing up his 10th season and is a two-time Pro Bowler. He is under contract for one more year with a base salary of $13 million.
Rookie Trey Pipkins will start at left tackle against Kansas City, with Trent Scott also expected to play.
Pipkins was a third-round draft choice in April out of Sioux Falls. He was taken as more of a longer-term project, but has been needed because of all the Chargers’ injuries.
“To be honest with you, I wasn’t expecting him to play at all this year,” coach Anthony Lynn said. “These reps are going to do wonders for him coming into next year as far as his comfort level. It’s been good because I like the way he stepped up and the way he has responded.”
Locked into last place in the AFC West, the Chargers’ 2020 opponents are set.
Along with the playing division rivals Kansas City, Las Vegas (formerly Oakland) and Denver home-and-home, their home games will feature Atlanta, Carolina, New England, Jacksonville and the New York Jets.
The Chargers will travel to play Buffalo, Tampa Bay, Miami, New Orleans and Cincinnati.
Entering Week 17, they have the No. 7 overall pick in the 2020 draft. They still could move up one spot ahead of the Jaguars depending on results Sunday.
The Chargers drafted wide receiver Mike Williams at No. 7 in 2017. The only other time they’ve picked in the top 10 since 2004 was 2016, when they took defensive end Joey Bosa at No. 3.
With 50 more yards, Austin Ekeler would become the second Chargers running back to reach 1,000 yards receiving in a season. Lionel James did it in 1985. … Keenan Allen needs five catches for 100 for the season. … The Chiefs have won five in a row by an average score of 27-10.