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Tyrod Taylor ready to start Chargers’ hopeful march to playoff spot

Chargers quarterbacks Tyrod Taylor (left) and Justin Herbert take practice snaps.
Chargers starting quarterback Tyrod Taylor (5) will have roookie Justin Herbert (10) as his backup.
(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

He signed a two-year contract in March of 2019 to join a team with a starting quarterback expected to last at least two more years.

Tyrod Taylor walked into his introductory news conference two days later and announced he would do whatever was asked of him to help make the Chargers better.

“I didn’t think too much into the future when I made that decision,” Taylor recalled Wednesday. “I just thought about what was right for me. … I felt that coming out here to L.A. was the best fit in my career at the time.”

That notion of “best fit” takes on added meaning as the Chargers turn their offense over to Taylor, who, on Sunday, will end Philip Rivers’ streak of consecutive starts for the franchise.

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Eighteen months ago, the expectation was that Rivers would stay with the Chargers through the 2020 season, if not longer. He was coming off a productive year and his team just had made the playoffs.

But everything changed when the Chargers stumbled to a 5-11 finish, Rivers struggling mightily en route to throwing 20 interceptions.

In a rematch of last year’s playoffs, the Houston Texans and Super Bowl champion Chiefs kick off the season in Kansas City, with some fans allowed.

In February, he and the team decided to end their relationship, opening an opportunity for Taylor to start for the first time since early in the 2018 season, when he was with Cleveland.

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“I’m very hungry,” Taylor said. “I’m excited to lead this group of men but, at the same time, be able to show what I can do. I know what I’m capable of doing. My teammates know.”

Taylor, 31 and entering his 10th season, started three games for the Browns before suffering a concussion and being replaced by Baker Mayfield. He has thrown only seven passes in NFL games since.

His teams are 24-21-1 in his 46 career starts, the first 43 coming with Buffalo, where he was paired with Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn, who was then a Bills assistant.

“I’m excited to see him play,” Lynn said. “Our guys really trust and believe in him. I’m just excited for the young man because he’s very persistent. He’s very patient. He’s waited for his turn.”

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Rivers was the Chargers starter from the 2006 opener, a string of 224 games in the regular season, 235 counting the playoffs. When the streak began, Morten Andersen was still in the NFL. Today, Andersen is 60 years old.

On Sunday in Cincinnati, Taylor will become the first quarterback other than Rivers to start for the franchise since Drew Brees in the 2005 finale.

The game will mark the latest awaited opportunity for a 2011 sixth-round pick who spent four years with Baltimore before being given a chance to start in Buffalo.

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“When it comes to my football career,” Taylor said, “I’ve just had to work for everything, like a lot of guys in that locker room and across the league.”

Against the Bengals, he’ll be backed up by Justin Herbert, the No. 6 overall draft pick in April. With the preseason canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Herbert’s only action as a pro has come in practice.

Still, the Chargers are ready to enter the regular season with the rookie on their game-day roster over Easton Stick, a 2019 fifth-round pick who never has been active for a game.

“He’s our No. 2,” Lynn said of Herbert. “If something happens, he’s in.”

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But for now, this is Taylor’s job and his team, the long-recognized leader officially named a team captain Wednesday.

Just like two years ago, Taylor will open the season as the starter as his team’s first-round rookie quarterback preps just off stage.

“It doesn’t add any extra pressure,” Taylor said. “Me and Justin, as well as Easton and the whole quarterback room, we have a great relationship. We all teach each other.”

Pouncey watch

Center Mike Pouncey (hip) did not practice Wednesday, his status for Sunday in doubt. The four-time Pro Bowl player missed the final 11 games last season because of a neck injury that required surgery.

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If Pouncey can’t play, the Chargers are expected to move Dan Feeney to center and start Forrest Lamp at Feeney’s normal left guard spot.

The Rams have agreed to terms on a five-year with Jalen Ramsey. A person with knowledge of the deal said it is worth up to $105 million with $71.2 million in guarantees.

The opportunity would be a big one for Lamp, a 2017 second-round selection whose career has been marred by injury. He started two games last season before being hurt again.

Wide receiver Mike Williams (shoulder) was a limited participant in practice but appears closer to playing than might have been expected when he hurt his shoulder last month.

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Captain, Captain

The Chargers’ other captains for the season are Pouncey, tight end Hunter Henry, defensive end Melvin Ingram and cornerback Casey Hayward. The recognition is a new experience for Henry, who is entering his fifth season.

“Huge honor,” he said. “Kind of took me by surprise a little bit when I found out. To be respected and voted on by your teammates means a lot. It’s definitely a big honor that I’ll carry proudly.”


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