The Chargers kicked off their preseason slate by dropping their first game to the Rams by the final score of 29-22.
Here are five takeaways from the preseason opener:
Joshua Kelley sits firmly in the mix for the RB2 role
The Chargers battle for the second running back spot is up for grabs between Joshua Kelley, Isaiah Spiller and Larry Rountree. Each player has shown promising things in training camp, but come game action, it provides a new layer of clarity for how things stack up.
Kelley, the team's third-year back, looks like a new rusher thanks in part to his offseason training regimen. He took months this offseason to get on a new workout and nutrition plan, assisting him with muscle growth, and that became quite evident during Saturday night's contest.
Kelley received the start at running back, logging 28 yards from scrimmage on the first offensive series. He also broke a tackle on third and long to fight for the first down and keep the chains moving.
"I thought all the backs tonight competed hard. I thought they were on their tracks," head coach Brandon Staley said after the game. "They were trying to run with physicality. They were a factor in the passing game. But Josh has done what he's done, you know throughout camp which is just be really steady and strong."
Kelley finished the game with three carriers for 16 yards and three receptions for 28 yards (44 all-purpose yards). He still has his work cut out in order to enter Week 1 as the No. 2 running back, but Kelley appears to be firmly in the mix to hold those duties – at least early on.
Chris Rumph's added strength this offseason was noticeable
Rumph too came into camp with a bigger frame, physically. The second-year edge defender looks much more suited to get off his block with the additional strength he now has at his disposal.
Rumph recorded four tackles, two tackles for loss and one sack in the first half.
"I thought he flashed tonight," Staley said of Rumph. "He's one of the guys I highlighted. I thought he played very well tonight. I felt him, we all did. He was active in the run game and in the pass game, which is what we really have been on him about and be a complete player. You could definitely feel his confidence and his game right now."
Rumph also had another play in the first half where he came storming into the backfield in what looked to be a sack developing before ultimately coming up short. Nonetheless, he showed flashes of taking a step forward in each facet of his game – rushing the passer and defending the run.
Rumph figures to slot in as the team's third or fourth edge rusher, backing up Joey Bosa, Khalil Mack and in some instances Kyle Van Noy.
Quarterback play looked sharp
Chase Daniel got the start under center and played the entire first half before Easton Stick came in for the final two quarters.
For two passers who don't see a whole lot of looks in game action, the two signal-callers were very efficient. Collectively, they completed 27 of 40 passes for 236 passing yards and two passing touchdowns. Stick also ran in a touchdown.
On the first series of the game, Daniel orchestrated a nine-play, 77-yard drive, as he hit a wide open Joe Reed for a 41-yard touchdown.
"That is exactly how we drew it up. I've been playing 14 years and I can count 20 times in 14 years of games that a play has been drawn up exactly for coverage and it works exactly how it should work," Daniel said. "Very rarely does it, but for me, my read, I was just staring at the corner. The corner took Bandy and Joe Reed just ran by the safety."
Michael Bandy and Joe Reed raise their play under the spotlight
Some players shrink under the bright lights and others elevate. Michael Bandy and Joe Reed were the latter.
Reed hauled in four grabs for 61 yards and one touchdown. He also served as the team's kick returner, averaging 20 yards per attempt across three returns.
“Joe had some really big catches tonight. He had some possession catches, he had the deep catch, and then he was on the kickoff returner. We’re really going to try and take a long look at him on special teams and see if he can carve a role for himself on offense," Staley said. "He’s improved a lot as a player. He works extremely hard. Coming off the injury last year, I think he’s had just a great mindset in terms of coming back and really being the best version of himself."
Reed led the charge in the first half and it was Bandy's turn in the second half. Bandy logged seven catches for 73 yards and a touchdown. He consistently showed the knack of shaking defenders to create adequate separation for Stick to hit him in stride.
“Michael Bandy is one of us. He’s having an outstanding camp. You can see the way his teammates feel about him when good things happen," Staley said. "Our team expects him to play that way because he’s earned that on the practice field."
Penalties and missed tackles were problematic
As the game went on, so did the volume of penalties and missed tackles.
The Chargers committed nine penalties for 120 yards. And it was missed tackles galore. The most costly one of the night came when rookies Deane Leonard and JT Woods had Rams pass-catcher Lance McCutcheon down the sideline in coverage when Bryce Perkins fired a deep shot as Leonard turned the wrong way and Woods came up empty on a tackle, prompting the Rams to score a 60-yard touchdown.
It's worth noting that players aren’t tackling each other to the ground during training camp practices, meaning that this was the first time they've encountered full speed tackling in many months. However, it must get cleaned up to run a more complete operation.
“It’s that modern day question that every coach has to go through, every organization has to go through, because it’s a big part of the game, getting guys on the ground," Staley said. "But, the way it is now, it’s just a topic that is always going to be up for up for debate. But the games give you that chance to get out there live and experience it. Certainly, our guys felt that tonight, what it is like the truly finish live. There is a difference. That’s why training camp, there’s a month of it, month-plus of it, three games. You take a lot of pride in teaching the best you can, but until they do it live to the ground, you have to learn your lessons. We learned some tonight.”
More from Charger Report
- Joshua Kelley, Chris Rumph Shine in Chargers' 29-22 Preseason Loss to Rams
- Live In-Game Blog: Chargers vs. Rams Preseason Opener
- 5 Things to Watch in the Chargers' Preseason Opener vs. Rams
- Chargers Training Camp: Injury Updates Ahead of First Preseason Game, Joshua Kelley's Offseason Regimen and Other Notes From Day 13
- Chargers Training Camp Observations: Highlights From 11-on-11s, Michael Davis Overcoming Off-The-Field Distractions and Other Notes From Day 12
Nick Cothrel is the publisher of Charger Report. Follow Nick on Twitter @NickCothrel for more Chargers coverage.