INGLEWOOD (News4usonline) – For two seasons, quarterback Easton Stick managed to do what it takes to latch on to the Los Angeles Chargers. This is year three for Stick and the Chargers. It may be time for the grits to hit the fan. But in a good way.
For two seasons, Stick has had the luxury of watching and learning how to be a quarterback at the NFL level from savvy veterans and a future Hall of Famer. This season he’s trying to prove he belongs on the NFL level. The challenge for Stick is having to undergo a crash course in learning a new offensive scheme, a playbook that benefitted the play of the now-retired Drew Brees.
When Brandon Staley was named as head coach of the Chargers, he picked Joe Lombardi to be the team’s offensive coordinator. Lombardi was the one chiefly responsible for calling the offensive plays for Brees and the New Orleans Saints. Lombardi has brought his offensive philosophy to the Chargers.
So far, so good, Stick said.
“It has been fun,” Stick said after the Chargers’ joint practice with the San Francisco 49ers on Friday, Aug. 20. “Learning and growing up watching guys like him, Drew is one of those guys that I think everyone that grew up around my age and played this position watched. Now, you get to dive into what he was doing for so long in that offense. It has been a lot of fun learning a ton of football. [Offensive Coordinator] Joe [Lombardi] has been awesome. He’s a good communicator.”
Whatever Lombardi has passed along to Stick, it’s been working. In the Chargers’ first preseason game against the Los Angeles Rams, Stick completed all seven of his pass attempts for 63 yards. He also finished the game with a 114.2 QBR. Stick started at quarterback for the Chargers against the San Francisco 49ers in the team’s second preseason game.
He went out and played better against the 49ers than he did against the Rams, even though he was not statistically perfect. Stick completed 10 of his 14 passes for 85 yards, a touchdown, and a 115.8 QBR in a 15-10 defeat to the 49ers at SoFi Stadium.
As good as he has looked during training camp and in the Chargers’ preseason games, Stick is locked in a battle with 12-year veteran Chase Daniel for the No. 2 spot at quarterback. The competition for the backup quarterback position between Stick and Daniel has developed into one of the more intriguing battles in camp.
But it’s not something that he’s overly concerned about, Stick said.
“It’s honestly something I am not focused on,” Stick remarked. “For me, it is just trying to improve. I know when I started camp, I just wanted to get to the end and feel like I was a better player. I think I am on the way to doing that. I think every time I have gone out there, I am feeling more comfortable.
“Every day at practice, understanding a little bit better what we are trying to do and why we are calling things,” Stick continued. “So that is really all I am looking for, trying to improve and let all that stuff take care of itself at the end of the day. Everybody in there wants to win football games and that is the bottom line. So we are just trying to improve and get ready to go.”
Drafted in the fifth round in the 2019 NFL Draft by the Chargers, Stick knows a thing or two about improving and being ready. At North Dakota State, Stick went 49-3 as a starter for the Bison. He threw for a gazillion yards (8,693 yards) and established all kinds of school passing records.
Since being drafted by the Chargers, has had to continually prove himself. In his first year with the ballclub, Stick beat out a more heralded Cardale Jones to make the 53-man roster cut. Stick kept the clipboard close as he watched longtime star quarterback Philip Rivers do his thing.
Tyrod Taylor was quarterback No. 2. Stick hung on as the third quarterback on the depth chart. A year later, Covid-19 hit and changed the landscape of how the NFL did things in preparation for the 2020 season. Again, Stick found himself at the end of the quarterback barrel at No. 3 behind Justin Herbert and Taylor.
A couple of scenarios played out that may have helped Stick and his future with the Chargers. First, the team parted ways with former head coach Anthony Lynn. The Chargers went after Staley and named him as the team’s new head coach.
The dominoes seemed to have fallen in place from there. Lombardi joins the team. Stick now has a real opportunity to be the next guy up after Herbert.
“We like Easton Stick a lot,” Staley said at the beginning of training camp. “We love his makeup. I know that he has the aptitude for the game, both mentally and then with leadership on an NFL field. When you go into a huddle, do those other ten guys believe in you?
“That’s a big part about playing quarterback, besides just being able to throw the football,” Staley added. “I think people respect Easton in that way. We’re in a healthy competition right now. We’re trying to make that as even of a competition that we can between him and [QB] Chase [Daniel]. Like the other positions that are battling, we’re at the beginning, but we’re really excited about him.”
The buzz that Staley and his coaching staff feel towards Stick is something that is starting to become the norm with North Dakota State quarterbacks. In his first couple of seasons, Indianapolis Colts quarterback Carson Wentz was all the rave in the NFL.
San Francisco hotshot rookie Trey Lance, the No. 3 overall selection in the 2021 NFL Draft, is the latest Bison signal-caller with high expectations behind him. Stick was THAT GUY at North Dakota State before Lance succeeded him. Competing against one another and getting to see his former teammate was something that Stick enjoyed.
“It was pretty cool going back and forth and seeing Trey out there; spending a little bit of time with him this week,” said Stick. “I know he would say the same thing, but Fargo, N.D., means the world to us. That program is really special and it is a reason why I think I have an opportunity to still play football to this day.
“I really appreciate [North Dakota State associate head coach/passing game coordinator/quarterbacks] coach [Randy] Hedberg,” Stick commented. “I love that guy a ton and he means a lot to me. So, it was a lot of fun to be out there with Trey and get a chance to represent the Bison a little bit.”
Those sentimental moments come far and between in training camp. The competition is fierce, so much so that Staley may have to draw a line in the sand on whether or not he will keep both Stick and Daniel as potential backups to Herbert.
“I think it’s too early to say that,” Staley said after the team’s Aug. 16 training camp practice. “I know that I’m glad that we have all three. Both [QB] Chase [Daniel] and [QB] Easton [Stick] played well the other night. I know that they make us better in practice. From my experience in the league and understanding quarterbacks in general, I know that all three of those guys are assets to our football team, the top three guys.
“With Easton, every time that he goes out there, it’s such an important experience for him, when you take into consideration that last year really didn’t happen for him,” Staley added. “He’s still a really young player, so every time that he goes out there, there’s something that he is learning that’s helping his game out.”
Featured Image Caption: Aug. 14, 2021. Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Easton Stick (2) goes back to pass in a 13-6 preseason win against the Los Angeles Rams at SoFi Stadium. Photo credit: Mark Hammond/News4usonline