Chargers fans flocked to beautiful SoFi Stadium on Sunday afternoon for the team’s 2021 Fan Fest. On top of some prime preseason football, fans in attendance also got the chance to hear some live performances from The Maine and The Offspring.
The on-field product was actually pretty good for the team’s first set of pseudo-game situations. The first-team offense scored several times, the first-team defense made their fair share of plays, and the kicking game....well....we’ll talk about that later in the article.
Without further ado, here are three quick takeaways from yesterday’s scrimmage.
1.) Justin Herbert wastes little time in getting his playmakers involved
This offseason, the Chargers’ new coaching staff has consistently stressed the amount of playmakers they will have surrounding Justin Herbert in his sophomore season. On Sunday, Herbert hit three different players for touchdowns: one to Mike Williams, one to Keenan Allen, and one to first-year Bolt, Jared Cook.
The first touchdown of the day came off a play-action pass to Williams who ran a perfect out-breaking route to the back right corner of the end zone. The defenders in coverage were caught flat-footed as they reacted to the fake and Williams was able to get that extra step on them as he headed to the sideline.
Allen’s touchdown was simple in nature but it’s not always the easiest to execute. Within a couple yards of the goal line, Herbert took a quick three-step drop before firing a bullet to Allen on a slant route. Slayer managed to snag the ball with haste and secure it even while Michael Davis was draped over his back. Again, not the flashiest of plays, but being able to score that close where the margin for error is so much smaller is going to be important in a year with high expectations.
Herbert’s third touchdown of the day was a rocket to Cook over the middle who ran an intermediate route with James in coverage. Cook was hit in stride and although James might have made the tackle short of the goal line, the former Saint played through contact and strode into the end zone.
A year ago, Herbert hit everyone and anyone for a touchdown en route to setting the single-season passing touchdown record for a rookie quarterback. This season, I have an inkling that the team’s stars will receive even more love than usual so don’t be surprised if Allen and/or any other player experiences a career year in 2021.
2.) Kickers couldn’t avoid boos after overall poor performance
A year after missing the second-most kicks in the NFL, Michael Badgley is facing competition for his job from the likes of Tristan Vizcaino and 2021 UDFA Alex Kessman. Sunday’s scrimmage was the first real opportunity for either of them to show that they can handle the pressure of the job by making their kicks in front of a crowd that is yearning for a consistent presence at kicker.
Unfortunately for those in attendance, neither of the three kickers were able to instill anything close to confidence within the fans.
Badgley finished the day going three-for-six with his misses coming from 41, 49, and 51. Tristan Vizcaino missed two — the least of the three kickers — with his missed kicks from 38 and 49. Lastly, Kessman went a dismal two-for-six.
Tristan Vizcaino goes 4-for-6. Misses from 38 and 49. A smattering of boos for him, as well. #Chargers— Daniel Popper (@danielrpopper) August 8, 2021
In his post-practice presser, Staley made sure to note that kickoffs are going to play a big role in who they inevitably choose as their starter in the end. Badgley has already conceded kickoffs to Ty Long, so if either Vizcaino or Kessman can keep things close with Badgley on field goals, their ability on kickoffs may end up being what can sneak them past the incumbent.
3.) Reserve linebackers saw notable snaps with, and against, first team units
From my limited view of the scrimmage, I was able to notice several times where backup linebackers Amen Ogbongbemiga and Nick Niemann were in on defense alongside the first team. On Derwin James’ interception along the sideline, Ogbongbemiga was in on the weakside of the play. Earlier in the scrimmage, Nick Niemann was in on goal line defense and got the chance to run into Corey Linsley but it ended up being irrelevant as Justin Herbert hit Keenan Allen on a short slant for the score.
During his post-practice presser, Staley talked up Ogbongbemiga as a physically-capable player who can communicate well and plays with a sense of calmness. He also noted his efforts on kick coverages but did end his comments by saying he’s “got a long way to go but he’s made a good first impression.”