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3 Observations: Chargers Defense Triumphs in Night Scrimmage


The Chargers are officially halfway through training camp.

The Bolts held their annual night scrimmage Sunday in front of a packed house at Jack Hammett Sports Complex and will now have an off day Monday.

Here are three observations from tonight's practice:

1. Defense is stout early

If the Bolts defense was looking for a fast start, they got that and then some Sunday night.

The first half-dozen team periods were clearly won by the defense as the unit swarmed the field with sacks, run stops and a takeaway.

"Started fast, I felt a lot of energy. It felt that way it's supposed to feel," said safety Derwin James, Jr.

The first series ended with a punt after Kenneth Murray, Jr., raced into the backfield for a would-be sack. The second drive was much the same, although this time it was a sack from Khalil Mack that whistled the play dead.

The Bolts offense did move the chains on their third drive, but a pair of sacks from Morgan Fox (on second and fourth down) ended the sequence near midfield.

Easton Stick's unit took the field but that drive lasted just three plays before Mark Webb, Jr., hauled in a pick-6 and sped 40 yards the other way.

Justin Herbert's group then got back on the field, but a fourth-down try came up short after a tipped pass was intercepted by Alohi Gilman.

Herbert's group then got another chance to create some momentum, but a third-down sack from Nick Williams ended the series.

Rookie Tuli Tuipulotu was also among the standouts on defense with a pair of sacks, but it should be noted that tackles Rashawn Slater and Zack Bailey did not practice while Trey Pipkins III worked in just one team period.

"You're seeing it on both sides of the ball. We have three key defensive linemen out, three key offensive linemen out," said Chargers Head Coach Brandon Staley. "That's where your depth has to emerge and you get a chance to evaluate other people. That's what scrimmages like this are for. This is a good evaluation for us. Now, we have to get move into the next thing."

Take a look at Chargers coaching legend Don Coryell being honored as part of the 2023 class inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton.

2. Herbert & the offense respond late

While the defense won the night early on, the offense did show fight response later in the scrimmage.

Given the ball at their own 35-yard line, the offense went 65 yards for a score that ended with a 3-yard touchdown pass from Herbert to Keenan Allen.

The series did last 17 plays but it was a gritty effort from the offense that moved the chains four different times on the drive, including three times on third down and once on fourth down.

The Chargers then went to a red-zone period as the offense once again found success.

Austin Ekeler powered is way for three yards on third-and-2 from the 7-yard line, and later muscled his way into the end zone for a 4-yard score.

Stick's offense needed just one play to score in the red zone as Joshua Kelley motored in from 15 yards out for an impressive score.

The offense then ended the scrimmage on a high note in the 2-minute drill.

Down by a point with 93 seconds left and at their own 30-yard line, Herbert connected with Joshua Palmer, Ekeler and Donald Parham, Jr., to get to midfield.

Herbert then took off on a 15-yard scramble up the middle before spiking the ball with 14 seconds left, and hit Tre' McKitty for 20 yards down the seam on the ensuing play to get into comfortable field goal range as the offense used their final timeout.

That set up a 33-yard field goal from Cameron Dicker at the buzzer to give the offense a win in the final team period.

Herbert gave his post-practice evaluation of the offense:

"There were ups and downs. There were a lot of things that we can correct. There are some good things that we did, offensively. At the same time, we're going to watch the film either tonight or tomorrow morning. We're going to have to be honest with ourselves and attack the things that we could do better. I thought we moved the ball pretty well late and at the end. We had some drives going. It's part of camp. It's tough going against that defense. They're a really good defense. We see them all the time, they see us all the time. We're doing everything we can to move the ball, we'll be better at it."

3. Dicker shines again

Dicker's final kick of the night in the 2-minute drills was good, and so were his eight other tries Sunday.

The Chargers kicker made all nine of his kicks, including five in a kicking period. The other four game in game-like situations.

Dicker was true from 33, 35, 37, 40 and 44 yards in the field goal period and later added three extra points in the practice before his game-winning field goal on the final play of practice.

Dicker, who has taken all of the reps in the past week or so, is now 39 of 43 on kicks in camp. Staley said after practice that Dustin Hopkins is dealing is something physically, which explains his on-field absence of late.

The Bolts also worked on punt and punt coverage in front of a packed house.

JK Scott got some solid work in, showing off his usual hang time while displaying strong distance, too.

Derius Davis, Pokey Wilson and John Hightower were the punt returners against a heavy rotation of gunners including Ja'Sir Taylor, Deane Leonard, Palmer, Michael Davis, Webb and JT Woods.

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