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Winners and Losers from preseason week one

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NFL: Preseason-Los Angeles Chargers at Arizona Cardinals Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

Thank goodness that game didn’t count towards their actual record, because as a guy who lives on the East coast, I would have hated having to stay up until 1:30am my time to watch the Chargers drop a game to the lowly Cardinals. Also it being a weekday night would have only added to my frustration.

But it wasn’t. Thankfully it was a rare occasion where fans don’t have to riot and “be mad online” following a loss. Everyone, together, is able take a deep breath and collaboratively discuss what went well, and what didn’t go so smoothly in the team’s first live-action contest of the year.

There were more studs than duds, in all honesty. The back-up offense went about as smooth as we could have all expected while the “third-string” quarterback was almost the lone factor in the offense sputtering in the middle quarters of the game.

A pair of offensive linemen played the entire game, one being former second-round pick and fan-favorite, Forrest Lamp, and Dan Feeney, who started the game at center in place of veteran Mike Pouncey who got the night off.

Other notable veterans who got then night off (due to injuries or coach’s choice) were Philip Rivers, Thomas Davis, Keenan Allen, Casey Hayward, Joey Bosa, and Melvin Ingram.

Winners

Easton Stick

Other than the mind-numbing interception that the rookie threw straight into the arms of a defender, Stick enjoyed a better night than most of the quarterbacks taken before him in this year’s NFL draft.

He finished with 78 passing yards on 7-of-11 throwing and the aforementioned pick but he made up for it with this prowess on the ground. On just a pair of scrambles, Stick finished with a game-high 51 rushing yards, including a 31-yard scamper for a touchdown in which he knifed through the entire Cardinals defense.

He most-assuredly outplayed Cardale Jones which should make the coach’s decision an easy one when it comes to cutting down to three quarterbacks by the start of September.

Drue Tranquill

One of the most exciting things to see during the slate of preseason games is a rookie making a big play for their team right from the get-go. Tranquill created a memory he will likely cherish for the rest of his life as he recorded the first interception of his professional career during the fourth quarter.

Going against the Cardinal’s fourth-string quarterback, Tranquill baited the passer into pulling the trigger on a deep route towards the left sideline. The linebacker’s trickery was successful and the unsuspecting quarterback inadvertently threw the ball right into number 49’s arms for the team’s only takeaway of the game.

Tranquill shined in his first professional action while getting the majority of his reps at MIKE linebacker. He joined Nick Dzubnar with the team-lead in tackles with five.

Tyrod Taylor

You don’t need to have been a Chargers fan for long to understand the woes the team has withstood at the back-up quarterback position over the past few seasons. Gone is Kellen Clemons and the Geno Smith experience. The Chargers actually have a starter-quality player behind Rivers and it made the first preseason game that much more fun to watch.

Taylor and the offense mixed things heavily to start the game, coming out in a variety of offensive formations and was equally effective running or throwing the ball. The former Bills and Browns quarterback was a perfect 6-for-6 for 72 yards while adding 34 rushing yards on a pair of scrambles.

The Chargers have never had to worry about Rivers getting hurt, since he hasn’t missed a game since he became the starter. However, should the worst-case scenario come to be. I have never felt better about another QB taking the reigns of this team.

Losers

Cardale Jones

Staying on the topic of quarterbacks, I think it’s about time the curtain fell on the Cardale Jones experiment. He has been in the CHargers’ system for over three years now and looks no better now than he ever did throughout his time in Los Angeles.

Jones showed a severe lack of awareness and ran himself into a sack just one play removed from threading the needle for a 25-yard gain to tight end Andrew Vollert.

When weighing which players will return the highest R.O.I, Anthony will recognize quickly that the team has spent a roster spot on Jones for the last three years with almost zero returns to show for it. Expect Jones to be out the door the second cuts are able to be made.

Geremy Davis and Artavis Scott

Both David and Scott were the team’s top wideouts during last year’s preseason. Each receiver took turns leading the team in receptions or yards throughout the month of August and many expected the two to do the same with the same amount of opportunities headed there way.

To all of our dismay, Davis found himself leaving Thursday night without a catch while Scott managed just a single reception for three yards. But to be fair, no one but Austin Ekeler caught more than two passes, with newly-signed receiver Malachi Dupre leading the team with 32 yards receiving on the night.

Overall, the running backs and tight ends dominated the target-share in the team’s first preseason exhibition and the rest of the wide receivers will look to bounce back in their next contest against the New Orleans Saints.

In The Middle

Austin Ekeler

Just by glancing at the stat sheet, one would immediately assume that Ekeler absolutely crushed it with his limited amount of playing time against the Cardinals. He averaged eight yards per carry, taking five totes for 40 yards, and turned a trio of catches into another 29 yards.

He probably would have had a touchdown on the evening, as well, had he not allowed Arizona linebacker Jordan Hicks rip the ball out on the two-yard line.

Either way, Ekeler probably should have been one of my “winners” from last night’s game, but seeing him continue to struggle with ball security so close to the goal-line is still extremely worrisome.