This past week was the most entertaining of the preseason so far as coaches and fans alike got to watch two exciting football teams go to battle against each other leading up to Saturday night’s contest.
Playmakers ran rampant throughout the joint practices as 1-on-1 drills became just as exciting as the actual 11-on-11 drills and other scrimmage situations.
When the first whistle finally blew signaling the start of play, the Bolts wasted no time getting the fans on their feet as the defense got a turnover off the jump. On the offense’s first two drives of the game, the starters looked phenomenal as they marched right down the field both times. Unfortunately, they only came away with seven points combined. However, although the first drive ended in a turnover-on-downs, I like the guts to go for it so early on fourth, especially within the Saints’ five-yard line.
Rivers attempted to get Mike Williams a jump ball in the back of the endzone but unfortunately the coverage was just too tight. I like the idea and that aggressiveness could eventually payoff in the regular season.
Now, here are the rest of my thoughts about last night’s game against Brees and the Saints.
Austin Ekeler continues to dazzle and show that he can be the best running back on the team.
I know this is crazy to some casual fans. It’s even crazier to those who have spent the time scouting Melvin Gordon in college and have now become a fan of him in the NFL. By all means, Gordon is and has been the best back on the team for the last several years but what the former UDFA RB continues to do cannot be ignored for much longer.
After all, he is putting up these efficient numbers with the same everything that Gordon gets. Ekeler consistently looks quicker through the hole and can grind out extra yardage with the best of them. Not surprising for the guy who is arguably the strongest on the team, pound-for-pound.
Last night, Ekeler racked 63 total yards on nine touches. That’s an even seven yards per touch. Seven of those came on the first drive as the offense marched straight down the field without much resistance.
Heading into the regular season, it would be a travesty to withhold Ekeler’s playmaking potential because the staff feels obligated to get Gordon his touches. The absence of Henry should allow them to run more 3 receiver, 2 back sets and maximize the explosiveness on the field at a time. After Ekeler’s performance last night, I’m not sure they have many more excuses to act on the contrary.
Desmond King and the other young defensive backs are holding their own against top competition.
Drew Brees was at an advantage in last night’s game as the first-team defense was missing several key players, including both starting cornerbacks. In their place, young cornerbacks Mike Davis and Jeff Richards got extended looks and were able to keep the explosive Saints passing game under wraps through the first few drives.
Safety Derwin James snagged his first professional interception in his first professional start. As the single-high safety, James was roaming the back end of the defense before Brees pulled the trigger on a pass to Ted Ginn Jr. up the seam. James diverged on the ball and used his powerful frame to snatch it and haul it in through all the contact between his teammate and Ginn.
That INT was a great example of how he needs to play when roaming on the back end.— Michael Peterson (@ZoneTracks) August 26, 2018
See Ball, Get Ball.
King was his usual self, showing up like a scheduled transport whenever a Saint’s player was up-ended. The former-Hawkeye continues to be a hell of a player in run-support and an overall crafty defender from his slot cornerback position. He added a quarterback pressure to his stat line as he led the team in tackles with six on the night.
CB Jeff Richards doing his best King impersonation. pic.twitter.com/mx3Gp3ximU— Michael Peterson (@ZoneTracks) August 26, 2018
While rookie linebackers Kyzir White and Uchenna Nwosu continue to impress, Jatavis Brown has done nothing to help his case.
It’s one of the saddest realizations I’ve had to endure while covering the Chargers up to this point.
I’ve been a big fan of Jatavis Brown since his days at Akron. My best friend played defensive end at the University of Iowa before finishing his last two years of eligibility at Akron, his first year there being with Brown. He told me time and time again that Jatavis was the best defensive player he had every seen, and that includes all the Big Ten talent that came through during that time.
The hype for Brown only grew as he was a sparkplug for the defense during the 2016 season. His performance in the color rush game against the Broncos is the first thing that comes to mind. He forced a fumble by Demaryius Thomas to help swing the momentum in the Bolts’ favor as it all eventually led to the first win over Denver in several years.
Last year, Brown’s sophomore slump was largely attributed to a combination of the new playbook and a nagging injury he just never quite got over. It was made known that Brown was back to 100% earlier this offseason and he should be much improved after a full year in Gus Bradley’s system.
So far, this is not the case. Against the Saints’, Brown was still in the game with the third-stringers as White and Nwosu got plenty of reps ahead of him. Even against the worst talent on the field, Brown missed tackle after tackle. His abysmal play was just one piece of a dumpster fire that was the defense in the fourth quarter.
When Hayes Pullard, the worst rated player by Pro Football Focus in 2017, is looking more explosive and overall like a better player than you are, something major has got to change.
Here’s to hoping he fixes whatever happens to be broken.