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3 Observations: Quentin Johnston Comes Up Clutch in Pressure Situation


The Chargers had a heavy practice day of practice Wednesday, going for nearly two hours in full pads at Jack Hammett Sports Complex.

The Bolts will practice again Thursday before turning their attention to Saturday night's preseason opener against the Rams.

Here are three observations from today's practice:

1. The 'Middle 8'

With the first preseason game on tap, the Bolts have switched into a game-week mode by having their starters go against depth players in practice.

Wednesday's session focused on the 'Middle 8,' which is the final four minutes of the first half and the first four minutes of the second half.

"I think that a really cool part of this training camp process that [Chargers Head Coach] Brandon [Staley] has really emphasized is just all of the situational football," said Chargers Offensive Coordinator Kellen Moore. "Yesterday, we talked about starting the game fast and emphasizing the start of the game.

"We talked about the Middle 8 today, spent a lot of time about how you can play off of each other and how critical those can flip games when you steal points before the half, and then get an opportunity to take the ball in the second half," Moore added. "Those are big, big game-changing moments. We have to emphasize it, be aware of it, that these are critical things that influence games."

The Bolts starters looked solid throughout the whole session as the offense and defense won the drill in every situation.

Leading 14-10, Easton Stick's group took over at their own 25-yard line with 4 minutes and 33 seconds left in the first half. But the Chargers starting defense force a quick three-and-out that was punctuated by a split-sack from Joey Bosa and Khalil Mack on third down.

With the ball at their own 40, Justin Herbert's group then needed just three plays to score. Herbert hit Quentin Johnston for 25 yards on the first play of the drive before a 3-yard run put the ball at the 32.

Herbert and Johnston then connected again down the left sideline for a touchdown that gave the offense the lead with just under two minutes to go.

Stick's group then went back out and moved the ball past midfield, but a sack by Morgan Fox helped create a third-and-long scenario where Stick's pass fell incomplete.

After a brief halftime break, the focus then turned to the first four minutes of the second half as Herbert's unit received the kickoff.

The quarterback orchestrated an eight-play, 75-yard touchdown drive to open the half, as Herbert kicked things off with a. 20-yard scramble down the right sideline.

Herbert then connected with Donald Parham, Jr., for a 27-yard gain on third-and-3 that put the Chargers offense just outside the red zone.

Back-to-back runs from Joshua Kelley, including a 12-yard gain, put the ball at the 9-yard line before Herbert whistled a pass to Gerald Everett for a touchdown to go up 24-14.

The Bolts defensive starters then put an exclamation point on the session for forcing another three-and-out, with Bosa recording a sack on third down to end practice.

2. Davis, Tuipulotu strong in team drill

The Bolts starters did go against each other earlier in practice during a 'gotta have it' situation. In this scenario, the units go up against each other when it's four-down territory for the offense.

It was the Chargers defense that won this drill.

On third-and-9, Herbert hit Keenan Allen for 7 yards before Herbert's fourth-down try to Allen fell incomplete.

With the offense back at third-and-6, Ja'Sir Taylor forced an incompletion before Michael Davis tallied an interception on fourth down. Rookie Tuli Tuipulotu might have recorded a sack on the play but the officials let the play go.

Tuipulotu then showed up on the next play, which was third-and-3, with tackle for loss of 1 yard on a run play. The offense then finally moved the chains as Herbert hit Joshua Palmer for a 5-yard gain on fourth-and-4.

3. Takeaways from 1-on-1 drills

The Bolts went back to 1-on-1 drills Wednesday in full pads.

Asante Samuel, Jr. and Johnston had two spirited battles, with each side winning once. Johnston caught a short pass on the first rep before Samuel recorded a pass breakup down the field on the next try.

Other standouts in the pass catchers vs. secondary battle included Everett, who ran a smooth route across the field for a 15-yard gain. Defensively, Alohi Gilman and Raheem Layne both had PBUs in the drill.

The battle between Rashawn Slater and Joey Bosa was elite as both sides won a rep in the drill. Khalil Mack and Trey Pipkins III also had two strong duels, while Nick Williams won both of his reps on the interior.

Jamaree Salyer and Zion Johnson also showed off the strength on the reps on the inside.

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