The LA Chargers might not play any preseason games in 2020.
The NFL first cut the number of preseason games from four to two, but it’s looking more and more likely that preseason will be eliminated altogether. How does this impact the LA Chargers?
Ian Rapoport reported on Monday afternoon that the league had finally succumbed to the NFLPA’s demands and proposed zero preseason games for the 2020 season. That was after the players took to social media to express concern in the safety measures taken so far, or the lack thereof, using the hashtag #WeWantToPlay
This will impact all teams in similar ways, but it will also impact the LA Chargers in some specific different ways from other teams. First and foremost, as Alex Insdorf wrote a few days ago, no preseason means the quarterback competition between Tyrod Taylor and first-round rookie Justin Herbert is all but over.
It’s really tough to make the transition from college to the pros as it is, but now with virtual training camp and no preseason action at all, it would be really foolish from the team to let Herbert start immediately without a few preseason reps against a different team, even if he does look better than Taylor in practices.
Taylor doesn’t really need preseason, as he’s worked with Anthony Lynn previously, and seen enough action in last year’s preseason, as well as after the Chargers’ blowout win against the Jaguars.
That doesn’t mean that Taylor playing a few preseason snaps wouldn’t be good for the team. The offensive starters could certainly use some reps to get a feel of the new-look offense the Chargers will run. The receivers, especially, could start developing some chemistry with the veteran quarterback.
Undrafted free agents will probably be the hardest hit group of players by this news. It has already been talked about how UDFA’s will struggle to make an impact without the chance to showcase their talents in exhibition games.
Other ways this impacts the LA Chargers
There will be many other position battles besides the quarterback one. The battle for the third wide receiver spot on the depth chart will be a much more open one than it was supposed to be. Before the pandemic affected the season, it was basically assumed that one of K.J. Hill and Joe Reed, or a combination of the two rookie receivers, would earn the position.
No preseason might mean that other players who are more seasoned with the team like Andre Patton or Jason Moore could have the upper hand if the rookies struggle to adapt.
The most affected position group, however, is definitely the offensive line. The Chargers revamped the right side of the offensive line by adding Bryan Bulaga and Trai Turner, while they lost a pair of valuable starters in Russell Okung and the underappreciated Michael Schofield III.
Pouncey, Turner and Bulaga are all very likely to start, and could use some reps to start gelling together and developing chemistry. The left side of the line is a mess, though. The left tackle competition is by far the most open in the roster, as Trey Pipkins, Sam Tevi and Trent Scott are all candidates to run away with the job and even Storm Norton could get in on the action.
The left guard spot is Dan Feeney’s to lose, but he hasn’t exactly impressed since his rookie season and could face competition from Forrest Lamp, if he manages to stay healthy or Scott Quessenberry if he shows improvement from 2019.
Many other teams have been affected in similar ways, so it’s not exactly like the Chargers are at a disadvantage compared to other teams in the league. The Dolphins, who also drafted a quarterback in the first round, are lucky to have a capable starter in place to not throw their rookie into the fire.
The Chargers’ Week 1 opponents, the Cincinnati Bengals, will have to give Joe Burrow his first NFL snaps in a regular-season game against a dangerous defense with a fearsome pass rush, all while starting one of the league’s worst offensive lines. If there’s a rookie quarterback equipped to handle that, however, it’s the national champion and Heisman Trophy winner, who is already 23 and older than Lamar Jackson and Sam Darnold.
Adversity creates toughness and resilience, and many young Chargers players will have their talent and character tested by this difficult situation created by the coronavirus epidemic. The LA Chargers’ locker room has developed a mental toughness over the last few years, and their resolve, grit and perseverance will be key in the team’s hopes for success in 2020.