COSTA MESA, Calif. — The Los Angeles Chargers welcomed the New Orleans Saints to Jack Hammett Sports Complex for two joint practices before they face off on Sunday in preseason week two.
There were some positives for the Chargers, so here they are:
Allen was a man on a mission
During one-on-one, Keenan Allen made a diving one-handed catch and threw the ball into the stands. It was a great throw by quarterback Justin Herbert but an even better catch by Allen.
“Hell of a ball,” Allen said. “Herbert put in on a spot, a one-hand catch. It got the juices flowing a little bit. Seemed only right that you give it to a fan.”
Later during the same drill, Allen caught a pass while a defender was trailing, then put a move on the safety as he walked into the end zone. He then yelled out, “It is not fair.”
Allen was in his element on Thursday.
“I’m feeling really good,” Allen said. “The offseason went well, training camp has been going well. We’re able to go against somebody different today who obviously didn’t game plan, might see a double-team tomorrow.”
Kicking battle heats up
As Staley and the players have said, the joint practices are more work than preseason games, so it is a good test.
The Chargers have a kicking battle, which it seems like Cameron Dicker is ahead, especially after Dustin Hopkins missed time due to injury.
Dicker went 6-for-6 on Thursday with a kick from 50 and 53 yards.
“Still improving as a player because he’s a young player,” Staley said. “He’s been very consistent for us.”
Rough day for Hopkins. He missed several kicks and missed two during a crucial time.
The Chargers offense faced a 48-yard attempt down by two with 4.8 seconds left. Hopkins hit the crossbar on the first attempt, but the Saints iced him. On the second try, he was shot from distance. So the offense lost.
“There is still going to be time to let those two duke it out,” Staley said. “Now that he’s back into practice, that’s going to be good for the evaluation, for sure.”
Offense struggles in the red zone
The offense had several chances in the red zone but failed to reach the end zone except when Easton Stick found Stone Smartt wide-open to end the period.
Herbert tried to hit Allen, they tried running the ball, and it just didn’t click the way they expected, but it is a work in progress.
“Still an area that we need to work on,” Allen said. “Obviously, we need to score in those situations and be able to get our guys the ball.”
Pass rush makes the difference
The defense features Khalil Mack and Joey Bosa, so there is optimism about the defense improving this season.
When they faced Saints quarterback Derek Carr, Khalil Mack pushed Trevor Penning into Carr, who threw a pass intercepted by safety Derwin James.
“That’s what we expect,” Mack said about getting pressure. “We expect that day in and day out, whether it’s our offense or any other offense. We want to affect the quarterback.”
D-Line gets some help
The Chargers announced on Thursday that defensive lineman Austin Johnson had passed his physical and is no longer on the PUP list.
The defense will need all the help they can get, so getting Johnson back is significant for them.
“It’s a big addition to the group. He has worked really hard to come back,” Staley said. “It’s been a fight.”
Staley didn’t have any update on receiver Jalen Guyton or defensive lineman Otito Ogbonnia. They continue on the PUP.