INGLEWOOD, Calif. (News4usonline) – The preseason is not about final outcomes. It becomes more about what’s in between. For the Los Angeles Chargers and their head coach Brandon Staley, it was not about the team dropping a non-regular season football game against the Dallas Cowboys at SoFi Stadium. It was a matter of how they lost.
With backup players and reserves working it out on the field to see who will have the opportunity to make the team’s 53-man roster by the Aug. 30 NFL deadline, there was not a whole of positives that Staley was able to take away from the Aug. 20 contest. Minus starter Justin Herbert seeing any playing time, Staley’s two other quarterbacks, Easton Stick and Chase Daniel had mixed results.
Stick, who started the game, found receivers on 11 of his 20 passes for 134 yards with a touchdown.
“Easton was up and down,” Staley remarked. “I think that he would like to check that ball down on the first interception. There was a two-[safety] deep zone. I think that if he had to do it over again, he would have checked it down quicker. I feel like, in the first half, there were a lot of drops, while he was playing that would have really changed the momentum of his drives. Outside of that one throw that I wish he would have checked down, I thought he played just fine.”
While Stick and Daniel did OK with their combined 219 passing yards, the Chargers run game had a rough go at it against an active Cowboys defense. The Chargers gained just 77 yards on the ground against Dallas. Stick, who led the team in rushing, provided 24 of those yards.
“It’s all 11 guys, but all five running backs didn’t do much tonight,” Staley said. “I don’t think any of the five of them played very well. We’ll have to look at it, but just being out there on the field, I didn’t think any of the five played very well tonight.”
The first half of the preseason football game between the Chargers didn’t turn out the way that Staley thought it would be. A hard-fought first quarter between the Chargers and the Cowboys gave way to being a lopsided affair, a game that flipped on three plays.
Those three plays did not weigh in the Chargers’ favor on the scoreboard. The Chargers absorbed a 32-18 defeat at home on the strength of the Cowboys’ special teams accounting for two touchdowns in the first two quarters of action. Dallas was able to get a kickoff return for a score and a punt return for a touchdown in the first half.
“It was a really poor first half for us, about as poorly as you can play, and that really put us behind, overall,” Staley said. “I didn’t like the way that that first half felt or looked. It was really in all three phases. When you have two turnovers and you give up two special teams touchdowns, that’s the way the score is going to look. In the second half, we played better, so I was glad that we responded well. We’ll learn a lot from this tape, for sure.”
The game turned on the swift feet of KaVontae Turpin. Turpin sped to the endzone in the first quarter with a 98-yard touchdown on a kickoff. He then came back for more in the second quarter, running 86 yards to paydirt on a punt return and stretching the Cowboys’ lead. The special teams unit for the Chargers did not have a good night.
“He’s such an exciting young player,” Dallas Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy said of Turpin. “You could see it from Day 1. Obviously, he had a very successful run there with the USFL. Really, from the first day of practice. He came in and I was really impressed with what he picked up at receiver. You could see he’s dynamic in the return game. So, two excellent, big plays. Obviously, set the tempo. And just like anything else, the reaction of his teammates. I think anytime you have a new player come into your program that makes an impact like that, that’s unique. That was a big lift for us.”
Dallas opened up the game after getting a strip fumble just before intermission. Another score, and the Chargers, all of a sudden, were staring down at a 29-10 deficit. For obvious reasons, Staley shared that he was disappointed in the play of the special teams unit.
“I think I was disappointed because that’s not the way we practiced this week,” remarked Staley. “That’s not the way that those guys performed in practice. To come out there and play that way, they’re going to learn a lot from that. They’re going to learn that the entire NFL is watching, and we’re watching the entire NFL, and that’s why these games are important when you’re playing. You need to make sure that you perform or else we’ll find someone else who can. I think that there will be a lot of people that learn a lot from this tonight.”
If there was a positive that Staley took away from the game, it is the continued rise of second-year wide receiver Joshua Palmer. Palmer had three catches for 75 yards and a touchdown. The Chargers’ first touchdown of the game came on a bubble screen that Palmer ran in after catching a ball from Stick. The 18-yard scoring play gave the Chargers a 10-7 lead. That turned out to be their last lead of the evening.
Staley said Palmer’s performance just followed a solid week of practice.
“I thought that Josh played well tonight. I felt him tonight,” Staley said. “I thought that on the long one on the left sideline competing for a contested catch like that, then the run-after-catch on the screen, I felt like he played really well. I felt like he had a really good week of practice against these guys.”
Staley continued, “Separation, moving around, I think that he’s playing with confidence, and that’s why we wanted to get him in these games in the preseason — we know that he’s a starting-caliber player, but I think that he can gain a lot of confidence playing with Easton [Stick] and [QB] Chase [Daniel]. I thought, tonight, that he was a real bright spot for us.”
Featured Image Caption: Los Angeles Chargers running back Joshua Kelley (25) on the move against the Dallas Cowboys during a preseason game played at SoFi Stadium on Aug. 20, 2022. Photo courtesy of Mark Hammond/Compton Bulletin