COSTA MESA, CA-The Los Angeles Chargers have four quarterbacks on their training camp roster. Starter Philip Rivers isn’t going anywhere, anytime soon. So that leaves the other three signal-callers to fight, rather air it out during training camp to earn the second spot. The winner of this three-way battle will have the opportunity to be the official No. 2 guy on the team.
The preseason will open up that possibility for all three quarterbacks. For now, Chargers coach Anthony Lynn’s deck is stacked with veteran Kellen Clemens, Mike Bercovici, and then there is Cardale Jones. All three quarterbacks bring a special skill dimension to the table for the Chargers. Clemens has a dozen training camp experiences under his belt.
The rigors of summer practices and filling in the gap as a backup is old hat for the longtime NFL veteran. Bercovici is somewhat a novice, though not really. After coming out of Arizona State as a hotshot quarterback, Bercovici made it through the final stages of training camp last season.
Being in rebound mode after being cut last year, Bercovici is familiar with how offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt like to run things in his offense. Then there is the intrigue that Jones brings. A couple of years ago, Jones was a hot name for potential NFL success after leading the Ohio State Buckeyes to the national championship as a redshirt sophomore.
Equipped with a rifle-like arm, a torrent, physical running style and imposing size, Jones became an immediate media darling and reportedly the league’s next great quarterback to be, should he turn pro.
In between his meteoric rise from a third-string quarterback to putting on one of the greatest run in college football history by a non-starter to his acquisition by the Chargers in a trade from the Buffalo Bills right on the eve of training camp, the transition to the NFL have been a little bumpy for the 6-foot-5, 240-pound Jones.
Returning back to OSU when many were reportedly calling for him to take his talents directly to the NFL, Jones became a victim of his own success, having to live up to the standard created by his own play during the Buckeyes’ national championship run.
After beating out J.T. Barrett for the starting quarterback spot, Jones couldn’t find that successful formula that launched him into the limelight, and eventually lost his position to Barrett as The Guy at OSU. Turning pro a year after his biggest moment in college football flipped into a fourth round draft selection by the Bills. Jones would sit and learn as he got acclimated to NFL life.
The best thing that may have happened to Jones as he toiled the sidelines watching quarterback Tyrod Taylor work his magic on the field was having a working relationship with Lynn. Lynn served as offensive coordinator for the Bills last season. When asked if it would help him being familiar with Lynn and his coaching style, Jones said it does.
“Yeah, just knowing what type of guy he is. He means business, but he’s got a side that you’re going to relate to,” Jones said on the first day of the team’s training camp at the Jack Hammett Sports Complex. “He’s not like a guy that you’re intimidated about going up to. He’s a great coach.”
That year spent with Jones left a pretty good impression on Lynn, who spoke on how the quarterback would fit into the Chargers offense.
“He’s young, he has a strong arm, he’s more mobile than what people give him credit for,” Lynn said. “He’s been a winner. The guy didn’t lose a game in college. I got a chance to spend a year with him last year. I just think he’s a good fit.”
What impressed Lynn the most about Jones while working with him last season was seeing a couple high-mark intangibles in him that coaches tend to look for in a quarterback.
“His work ethic, his football IQ, and his ability to make every throw,” Lynn said.
Lynn won’t be the only person that Jones will be looking to get guidance from this season should he make the team. Getting a chance to study under Rivers is a big deal for the second-year player.
“Philip is a guy that I raved about through my whole draft process,” Jones said. “He’s the only guy that I’ve ever met-celebrity, athlete-however you want to put it, I got star-struck around him because how much attention to detail he is about his craft. That’s how I want to be one day, something like that. If I even touch half of that, I’d be a pretty good player. It feels good that I can look over to my right in the room and ask any question, and he’ll have an answer for me.”
A new location, a new team generally translate into learning a new playbook. For Jones, who said he had mixed emotions after hearing he was traded, the challenge for him now is getting up to speed and properly grasping the concepts of the Chargers offensive playbook as quickly as possible.
“Back in Buffalo, we had a new offense and a new staff that I didn’t know last year,” Jones said. “So, it was a complete turnover, learning that playbook and stuff. And then going into camp…the first thing in Buffalo, and then found out I was traded here, learning a whole another playbook. So that was a learning curve. We call things different here. There might be some similarities, as far as concepts and formations. like I did in Buffalo.”