Skip to main content

Chargers Official Site | Los Angeles Chargers -

3 Observations: Chargers Run Game Shines in 2nd Joint Practice


Joint practices between the Bolts and Saints are in the books.

The teams will now get set for a preseason tilt Sunday at SoFi Stadium. Kickoff is at 4 p.m. (PT).

Here are three observations from today's practice:

1. Chargers run game pops off

It can be tough to evaluate the running game in training camp.

Defenders tag up and don't tackle to the ground, and running backs could break off big runs on plays that get whistled dead early on.

With all that in mind, the Chargers run game popped off Friday against the Saints and looked as good as it has all camp.

"I think that we've, certainly, formulated the identity that we want to play with," said Chargers Head Coach Brandon Staley. "There have been a lot of runs in camp, so I think that we've been able to evaluate our guys in pads.

"We still have two games to go, but it's really important to us to establish who we are both on the line of scrimmage and at running back," Staley added.

The tone was set early on the first play of a full-team drill. Austin Ekeler took a handoff and burst through the middle of the line for a big gain, eventually picking up 15 yards or so before the play was whistled to a stop.

Then came a 5-yard run from Joshua Kelley on a second-and-6 scenario that might have been a first down in a live game.

Ekeler was at it again on the first play of the next team drill as he ran to the left and trucked Saints cornerback Paulson Adebo to the ground. See the photo above for evidence.

Isaiah Spiller then got in on the action with an 8-yard run and later powered his way for a first down on a third-and-1 run.

And Elijah Dotson kept the success up with a pair of strong runs, both of which gained at least seven yards.

The run game — and the offensive line — kept churning in the next drill which featured the Chargers offense on the fringe of the red zone.

Ekeler had runs of six and eight yards before Kelley ran for five. Dotson then capped off a successful day for the Bolts on the ground with a 3-yard touchdown run.

"I thought that we ran the ball pretty well today," said Justin Herbert. "It's a big part of our offense, being able to run the ball. I thought the offensive line did a great job today."

Other aspects of the Bolts offense were solid but not spectacular.

The Chargers couldn't find the end zone when deep in the red zone, and also came up short in a 2-minute drill in which they trailed by five points with under a minute to go.

Herbert led the unit near the edge of the red zone but a handful of last-gasp passes fell incomplete.

"We're always getting better, and that's the most important part. We're still installing things. It's camp, it's early," Herbert said. "We're making plays on the outside. As long as we have those guys on the outside, we're going to keep trying to get them the ball."

2. Notes from the defense

It was another strong day from the Bolts defense at Jack Hammett Sports Complex.

The unit didn't record a takeaway but it was a close call when cornerback J.C. Jackson nearly had a pick-6 against Derek Carr in the 2-minute drill.

"The sky is the limit," Derwin James, Jr. said of Jackson. "He can completely take out a No. 1 receiver. Him being able to do that allows us to do so much more."

Joey Bosa also had a strong day beginning with a pair of wins in 1-on-1 drills. Tuli Tuipulotu also fared well in 1-on-1 drills as he won a pair of reps and drew a hold on Storm Norton.

The defense forced a three-and-out on the first team drill as a run stop by Eric Kendricks and sack from Morgan Fox highlighted the sequence.

The Bolts then shined in one of the red zone drills, with Bosa starting the drill off with a strong run stop. Nick Williams then batted a pass down at the line before Michael Davis outmuscled Chris Olave for a pass breakup on a third-and-8 play.

The unit then won the 2-minute drill that was the same sequence as above, with the defense holding a five-point lead in the final minute.

Carr tried a deep pass on the first play of the 2-minute drill but JT Woods raced over to breakup the play. Although Carr scrambled for a first down on the ensuing play, the Saints wouldn't gain another yard on the drive.

Jackson nearly had his pick-6 after the Saints spiked the ball. The drill then came to an end when Sebastian Joseph-Day tallied a sack on Carr on third-and-10 as time expired.

"I thought that it was a good two days," Staley said of the defense. "Our guys took the field the right way.

"As I said yesterday, I thought that we were physical. I thought that we were on people in coverage," Staley added. "I thought that our rush was alive both days. We'll have to watch the film to fully know, but it felt the way that it should on the field."

3. Solid work on special teams

Both teams once again spent a healthy amount of time on special teams in the joint sessions.

That included punt coverage while lining up as both the kicking and receiving teams.

The best rep came from Raheem Layne and Deane Leonard, as the punt cover tandem didn't allow J.T. Gray of the Saints a chance to get close to the punt returner.

"Our gunners, we have young gunners that are working really well," Staley said. "Yesterday and today we've been able to get a really good evaluation of that group. You can't have enough of them.

"It's like a sneaky part on your roster that you need to create depth for," Staley addeThat group of guys that are rotating in at gunner have done a nice job. We get the games to evaluate them, too. I think that group is improving."

In the kicking game, Dustin Hopkins was the lone kicker as Cameron Dicker had the day off.

Hopkins made eight of his nine field goal attempts in kicking sessions.

He made his first five tries from 35, 38, 42, 44 and 46 yards before his 52-yard try was wide left. But he bounced back and made his final three kicks from 33, 37 and 43 yards.

Hopkins, who dealt with an undisclosed injury earlier in camp, has now made 18 of 24 field goals in team sessions.

Bolt Up!

Secure your 2023 Season Ticket Memberships today! Click here to learn more.

From Our Partners