Let’s Evaluate If Anything Matters From The Chargers’ 0-3 Preseason

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Preseason football games don’t count, but they do matter.

For the Los Angeles Chargers, it’s a good thing they don’t count, because the Chargers finished 0-3 after a lackluster performance against the New Orleans Saints Friday night in the Caesars Superdome.

The Chargers must make cuts down to 53 active players by Tuesday by 1 p.m. PT, but that figure is so overblown these days. The real number is 69 players, 53 on the active roster, and 16 on the practice squad.

While announcers and coaches all talk about how important the last pre-season game is, it’s not as deep a cut as it used to be. Of the 80 guys on the roster for the Saints game, 11 are going to be gone. NFL coaches and General Managers already know who is going to make like 50 of the 53 spots before camp even starts.

My biggest worry about the Chargers entering the 2022 season still holds. This is still a team that hasn’t shown that it knows to win close games. Going 0-3 in the preseason doesn’t help me feel any better. Losing is a habit, just like winning. Yes, I know Justin Herbert didn’t play all preseason, but a lot of guys did.

Here were the storylines that mattered in the Chargers preseason, as we wait two weeks for their opener against the Las Vegas Raiders on Sept. 11.

Does Stick, uh, Stick?

It’s common now in the NFL to just keep two quarterbacks on your active roster. It’s such a quarterback game now, if you don’t have a good one, your season is pretty much toast. So why burn a roster spot on a third-string quarterback who you hope is never going to play over an offensive lineman or wide receiver who can give you depth?

But the Chargers have a problem in that their third-string quarterback Easton Stick is too good to cut, but for some reason, the Chargers appear set on Chase Daniel as backup quarterback.

Admittedly, Daniel played well against New Orleans, better than Stick, but I ask you Charger fans, if Chase Daniel has to play a lot for the Chargers this year, are they going anywhere?

Stick is raw, but he’s younger, he has an NFL-caliber arm. He moves better than Daniel. Wouldn’t he benefit more from being the No. 2 guy and getting the reps in practice than Daniel who’s played for 13 years?

Back Up Back

Austin Ekeler is one of the NFL’s most dynamic backs and he’s a big part of the Chargers’ offense, but the preseason was a great chance to see what backup running backs Larry Roundtree III and Josh Kelley could do.

If I had to knock on either guy, I think I’d have to say that they both look like the exact same back: Slashing types who can catch the ball out of the backfield. Kelley won the stats battle (yes, I know preseason stats, like, who cares?) with 74 yards over three games and three catches for 29 yards. Kelley also had the highlight of the preseason with his hurdle and run against the Saints. Roundtree had 31 yards rushing in the preseason and three catches for 12.

The Chargers are going to need these guys as fourth-round pick Isaiah Spiller is week-to-week with an ankle injury and is iffy for the Raiders game. Spiller is probably the No. 2 back at the moment, but it looks like the running back position for the Chargers has some depth.

Project Zion

It can be so hard to evaluate offensive linemen when you don’t know what the play call is and what the exact assignment was, but I think the Chargers have a player in first round pick Zion Johnson.

He showed some inexperience against the Saints, starting at right guard, he got fooled on a twist up front letting in a defender to sack Daniel, but he came back on the next series with a great block on a third-and-14 on a draw play that led to a first down.

Johnson was able to get to what they call the “second level” on that play, meaning he blocked more than one defender. He cleaned up Saints Pro Bowl linebacker Demario Davis at the end of the play.

The Chargers have to like what they have here in Johnson. He moves super well for a man his size (listed as 6-3, 316 pounds). Fans always want the splashy draft pick in the first round, but quality offensive linemen are harder to find than running backs or wide receivers. Johnson was a wise choice.

Saints 24-10, Did You Notice?

We didn’t even mention the final score of the game until now because it’s completely irrelevant. The Saints looked like a team trying to win playing at home. They played their starters early in the game and moved the ball well taking a 14-0 lead. Then it was all about not getting guys hurt. But here is what I saw:

Chargers linebacker Nick Niemann had a great open-field tackle of Saints running back Alvin Kamara on the first drive. Kamara is one of the slickest backs in the NFL.

Jalen Guyton made a great double move on the Saints’ defensive back to get open on the Chargers lone touchdown drive.

Kemon Hall had an eventful series just before halftime narrowly missing an interception and then coming off the field injured. It looked like Hall has the numbers “662” stenciled in on his thigh pad. That’s the area code for Northern Mississippi where Hall grew up and attended college before transferring to North Texas.

Chargers coach Brandon Staley went after the officials after they called center Will Clapp for being an illegal man downfield in the third quarter, but on the replay Clapp had a free release and was at least seven yards downfield on the play.

Get ready to ride Dustin Hopkins Chargers fans. Hopkins was 18-20 last season for the Chargers as kicker and has a booming leg, but he’s been less consistent than most NFL kickers. With Washington, for most of six years he was never over 90 percent on his kicks and he was 1-2 against the Saints. Special teams has been an issue for the Chargers in past and I hope this doesn’t come back to bite them.