CARSON, CA (News4usonline) – The Los Angeles Chargers dropped their preseason home opener against the New Orleans Saints at the Dignity Health Sports Park. Thus far, the Chargers are 0-2 in the preseason. The results of the Chargers’ second preseason game, however, comes with a couple of asterisks next to it.
Both the Chargers and Saints, considering that they held two joint practice sessions together leading up to the Sunday afternoon contest, decided to give some of their stars some time to rest.
Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers, defensive stalwarts Casey Hayward, Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa, as well as others, soaked up the Southern California sun from the bench.
Saints quarterback Drew Brees and wide receiver Michael Thomas took this game off. So, what kind of game could one expect without these stars getting in on their normal football action?
A competitive game filled with bland offensive movement at times, sloppy play mixed in occasionally, and several highlight-reel plays that were enough to keep the enthused fan happy.
The Saints engineered enough of those plays to pull off a 19-17 win. But the preseason is not about who wins or who loses. Training camp and preseason games are nothing more than bookends to an auditioning process for players on the fence battling for the opportunity to be part of the regular season squad.
Chargers quarterback Cardale Jones is fighting for that chance. Sitting third on the Chargers’ depth chart, Jones came in relief of Tyrod Taylor and had himself a pretty good outing against New Orleans, connecting on 10 of his 14 passes for 111 yards and one touchdown.
Jones finished the game with a QBR of 118.5.
“It’s nice to see a player work as hard as he’s worked at it and get better,” Chargers coach Anthony Lynn said. “Last week, he had one play that was taken back, but I thought he played decent last week as well. He’s been doing it at practice. He’s been calling extra meetings with young players. He is working at it; he’s doing things that good quarterbacks do in this league. They work their tail off, they hold everyone else accountable and they help the players around him.”
It’s been an uphill journey for Jones, who came into the NFL in 2016 after being drafted by the Buffalo Bills. After a year with the Bills, Jones was traded to the Chargers in July of 2017. Jones spent 2018 being on the Chargers’ practice squad after being waived by the team.
These few years with the Chargers seem to be paying off for Jones, with at least one respect, said Lynn, who was offensive coordinator for the Bills in 2016.
“I think maturity, to be honest with you,” Lynn said. “It’s, I think, the first time in his life he’s been in the same system for consecutive seasons. It’s made a big difference.
“I think he is understanding that if you want to be good at this league and take your game to the next level, you definitely have to outwork and work as hard as anyone with no sympathy. Not saying that he wasn’t a hard worker, but the things that I see now, all the extra effort that he’s doing, I didn’t see before.”
For his part, Jones gave an assist to his offensive line in playing a big part on how he performed against the Saints.
“I felt good out there,” said Jones. “The guys around me were playing unbelievable…the guys upfront I tell them every play before every snap that it starts up front, and they got the job done.”
As good of a job the offensive line played, it was Jones and his powerful right arm that put the sizzle in the Chargers’ first scoring drive. Sitting in the pocket and waiting until the last possible second before he got knocked to the ground, Jones unleashed a tight spiral down the middle of the field, hitting a streaking Andre Patton for a 24-yard touchdown pass.
The result of the play was not how it looked initially when he let go of that pass, Jones said.
“Actually, I thought I threw it out of bounds because you can’t…the lines (are) not painted back there,” said Jones. “I knew we had max protection, so I said I’m going to buy some time. When I let the ball go, I definitely thought I threw it out of bounds.”
Three years in, Jones said his extended learning curve has been helpful for his growth as a quarterback. Now, it’s time to produce.
“I’m going into my third year within the system,” Jones said. “There’s no more training wheels. There’s no more babying me into things.”