For the first time since 2014, the Chargers backup quarterback spot is up for grabs. The departure of Kellen Clemens leaves Cardale Jones or Geno Smith to nab the job for the taking.
According to Chargers Head Coach Anthony Lynn and Offensive Coordinator Ken Whisenhunt, the competition is still wide open. After all, it’s still early in training camp.
The real test begins Week 1 of the preseason.
“It’s been pretty even to be honest with you,” Lynn said. “I’ve been watching that position all summer and all spring. Those guys are so neck-and-neck. The only things that are going to separate them is what they do in games, so once we get into the preseason, we’ll see who moves the ball down the field.”
“No, (we don’t know who the backup quarterback is yet),” Whisenhunt mentioned. “I don’t think so. Everybody wants to do that really quickly, but we’re (about) one week in. We have had a spring with these guys, but the real test will come in the preseason games because that’s when you’re out there and you get a chance to see how they can handle it. Let me tell you, in preseason games, you never know what’s going to happen. You don’t know who you’re playing with after you get past the first group. You never know what the matchups are going to be like, so you find a lot about those guys, how they handle those situations and how they can manage some of the players. I think that’s where you really find out about a lot.”
After joining the Chargers shortly before training camp in 2017, Cardale Jones enters this Chargers Camp with a full year in the Bolts’ system. Geno Smith, however, is a new kid on the block, joining the Bolts this past April. But though they come from different paths, Whiz says he’s seen a major similarity between the two.
“I see two guys that are competing,” he added. “They both want (the backup spot). The way they prepare and the way they’re competing is what you like to see because, really, it makes both of them better. I don’t think either one of them feels comfortable and that’s a good thing. If you’re uncomfortable, you can have real growth because you’re working every day to try to get better because you don’t feel like you can have a down day. It’s good for us because both of these guys are competing and getting better, and that’s going to help us.”
While the remainder of August will determine where these QBs stand, Whiz said he’s seen improvement from Jones based on what he did last year. What’s one thing he’s been working on? Becoming more of a pocket passer and not using his legs as much as he did when he was playing in college.
Chances are that skillset will be on display when the Bolts take on the Cardinals next week.
“I think where he has done really well, is understanding how to move in the pocket and be able to make throws down the field. A lot of times, in college, when you come from where he did, he was so big and so athletic that if the first guy wasn’t there, sometimes you’d see him run. I have vivid memories of him in the championship game running down the field and making plays. He can still do that, but I think now you’re seeing him move to the left, move to the right and make some throws down the field. Those are the things that you like seeing out of a young quarterback.”
The Bolts continue with Training Camp practice as Day 5 helps promote local youth football programs.