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Chargers vs. Saints: 4 winners, 2 losers in 22-17 loss

The Chargers got another strong effort from their rookie defenders, headlined by linebacker Daiyan Henley.

NFL: Preseason-New Orleans Saints at Los Angeles Chargers Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

The Chargers offense came back down to Earth on Sunday against a tough Saints defense. They struggled to move the ball on the ground or through the air and quarterback Easton Stick coughed up the ball three times, including a game-sealer in the final minutes.

However, a group of rookies on defense helped keep the Chargers alive for most of the night, headlined by the trio of defenders drafted by the team earlier this month.

With that said, here are four winners and a pair of losers from Sunday night’s preseason loss to the Saints.


EDGE Tuli Tuipulotu

Tuipulotu has drawn rave reviews since joining the Chargers. He’s carries himself like a veteran while possessing the wide-eyed curiosity that leads to being a sponge for the game. On Sunday night, Tuipulotu looked like a seasoned player when he used a clean swim move to get past 2021 first-round pick Trevor Penning to make a big tackle for loss. On the very next play, he provided a pressure on Jameis Winston that helped force an incompletion.

It’s been a strong start for Tuli and fan cannot wait to see what he can do during the regular season.

LB Daiyan Henley

Due to injuries within the linebacker room, Henley led all Chargers defenders with 48 total snaps against the Saints. He had nine total tackles and recorded his first sack, one that he split with Carlo Kemp after the former shot through the A gap for a clean shot at rookie Jake Haener.

Henley allowed a long pass in coverage early in the game but he bounced back by being everywhere for the remainder of the game. He was a menace as a blitzer and you could tell his athleticism will serve him well as he continues to learn the position after starting his college career as a wide receiver.

S JT Woods

Woods took a bad angle on an early screen play from the Saints that went for a big gain. From then on, Woods was a menace to the Saints’ tight ends. On one drive alone, Woods collided with tight end Lucas Krull three times as he corralled him twice and forced an incompletion on another hit. After being a massive liability as a tackler his rookie season, Woods looks like a different player with a new level of confidence. If he can turn into an impactful third safety, the back end for the Chargers would become much stronger behind Derwin James.

DT Scott Matlock

Matlock has gotten plenty of snaps with the first team defense during training camp due to injuries that have kept Austin Johnson and Otito Ogbonnia off the field. During the team’s first two preseason games, Matlock has made several plays that have exhibited his notable athleticism for a man that size. On a third-down screen play against New Orleans, Matlock tracked down the back close to the sideline to limit the damage to just three yards. If he wasn’t able to get there, it almost surely was a first down.


Chargers offensive line

The Chargers struggled to get much movement up front against the Saints. Aside from Easton Stick’s 67 yards rushing on seven carries, the Bolts averaged 3.73 yards per carry on 15 attempts (56 yards total). That’s a much worse clip than they had the previous game against the Rams where they eclipsed 200 yards despite having a huge 71-yard score negated from a holding call. In the passing game, Stick had little time, as well. Starting left tackle Austen Pleasants allowed a team-high four pressures while third-string center Brenden Jaimes allowed three. Stick was sacked a total of three times, two of which came on back-to-back plays in the fourth quarter while the other ended in a lost fumble off a strip sack.

TE Donald Parham

After struggling with injuries the past two seasons, the excitement surrounding Parham entering the season under new OC Kellen Moore is at an all-time as a legit 6’8 receiving threat. However, Parham left Sunday night with a huge blemish on his performance.

On a first-and-10 at the Saints’ 11-yard line, Stick booted out to his right and threw a perfect pass to Parham in the flat. The ball bounced off both of Parham’s hands and fell incomplete. Would he have caught the ball, he would have waltzed into the end zone untouched for a touchdown. The missed opportunity was only emphasized by the final score being a five-point loss. The Chargers already haven’t gotten much out of 2021 third-rounder Tre’ McKitty and an inconsistent presence behind starter Gerald Everett isn’t ideal in what should be a make-or-break season for the Bolts under Brandon Staley.