Sports

Takeaways from Chargers’ preseason loss to Cowboys

The Chargers lost their second preseason game Saturday night, falling 32-18 to Dallas at SoFi Stadium.

Here are some observations from a tough night for the home team:

The biggest takeaway was the post-game mood from coach Brandon Staley, who was as blunt as he was honest.

“A really bad first half for us, as bad as you can play,” Staley said. “I don’t like how the first half felt or looked.”

The Chargers had the game’s only two turnovers and gave up two kick returns for touchdowns — all in the first two quarters.

During an eight-minute stretch just before halftime, the Cowboys scored three touchdowns to open a 29-10 lead.

“If you have two turnovers and give up two special teams touchdowns,” Staley said, “this is what the score is going to look like.”

The Chargers were so disappointed with their special teams last season that they changed their punter, long snapper, and kick returner. They also hired a new coordinator in Ryan Ficken and an assistant in Chris Gould.

The special teams have been a problem for this team for a while, and Staley has committed to fixing the problem this offseason.

Then Saturday night came and Dallas’ KaVontae Turpin returned a first-quarter kickoff from 98 yards and a second-quarter punt from 86 yards for points.

“I think it was disappointing because that’s not how we trained this week,” Staley said. “Getting out there and playing like that, they’re going to learn a lot from it.”

While it’s true that the Chargers didn’t have their full projected kick coverage team on the field Saturday, there were still plenty of players out there with plenty to play for.

The kickoff team that fell victim included Troy Reeder, Joshua Kelley, JT Woods, Deane Leonard, Amen Ogbongbemiga, Cole Christiansen, Kemon Hall and Raheem Layne.

The punt team consisted of Leonard, Woods, Christiansen, Larry Rountree III, Zander Horvath, Hunter Kampmoyer and long snapper Josh Harris, who made it to the Pro Bowl last season.

Several of these players have worked with the #1 kick coverage teams in the field.

“You’re going to learn that the entire NFL is watching and we’re watching the entire NFL,” Staley said. “So these games are important when you play and you have to make sure you perform or we’ll find someone who can.”

Incidentally, Turpin was listed as Dallas’ third-string kick returner.

Easton Stick started as quarterback for the Chargers and threw an interception in the first two minutes of the game. He also fumbled deep in Chargers territory late in the first half and handed the Cowboys a touchdown.

“Easton has been up and down,” Staley said.

The interception was particularly memorable, Stick throwing into Dallas’ two-deep zone when Staley later explained he should have checked in on a safer route.

“It’s just not good enough anywhere tonight, and it starts with me,” Stick said. “Of course, the first trip can’t happen like that.”

Easton Stick rushes the ball for the Chargers.

Chargers backup quarterback Easton Stick rushes the ball in Saturday’s first quarter at SoFi Stadium against the Dallas Cowboys.

(Allen J. Cockroaches / Los Angeles Times)

Stick called his decision “hyper aggressive” and “just really bad”.

As for the “up” portion of his night, Stick completed eight of his next 10 tries after the pickoff, leading the Chargers to a field goal and a touchdown on their next two possessions.

The touchdown capped a 12-play march that saw Stick hit Jalen Guyton to convert a third down and Jason Moore Jr. to convert another. Then, on third and 13th, Stick kept the drive going by climbing 25 yards.

Stick finished 11 of 20 for 134 yards before giving way to Chase Daniel in the second half.

The brightest light for the Chargers was Joshua Palmer, the team’s No. 3 wide receiver. Early in his sophomore season, Palmer caught three passes for 75 yards.

He made a contested catch over cornerback Nahshon Wright for a 41-yard gain and hit on an 18-yard screen.

“I felt like he played really well,” Staley said. “I felt like he had a really good week of training against those guys… I think he plays with confidence and that’s why we wanted to get him into those games preseason. We know he’s a starting-class player.”

None of the Chargers’ running backs did much to influence the fight for Austin Ekeler’s backup.

Kelley ran seven times for 18 yards and Rountree four times for 11 yards. Rookie Isaiah Spiller had three carries before leaving the game with an ankle injury.

Staley said the injury “shouldn’t be anything serious.”

Michael Bandy continued his prolific preseason, catching eight passes for 69 yards.

“He’s a competitor,” Staley said. “He’s doing a great job of being kind to our quarterback, opening up and making big catches. He’s a guy who really takes his chances.”

In the Chargers’ starting right tackle contest, Storm Norton opened the game and played the first two series before entering Trey Pipkins III.

Leonard left the game in the second quarter and didn’t return because of a “soft tissue injury,” Staley said.

Safeties Alohi Gilman (unknown) and Mark Webb Jr. (Wade) did not play. Staley indicated both were held back in hopes they could return to the Chargers’ preseason finale in New Orleans on Friday.

Brenden Jaimes started on the left before rookie Jamaree Salyer replaced him after two series.

Chris Rumph II had another tackle for loss on Dallas’ third play of scrimmage. Joe Gaziano had a sack and a second quarterback hit.

https://www.latimes.com/sports/chargers/story/2022-08-21/chargers-preseason-loss-cowboys-takeaways Takeaways from Chargers’ preseason loss to Cowboys

Emma Bowman

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