Here are five takeaways from Thursday’s joint practice against the New Orleans Saints:
Saints march into Costa Mesa – After a pair of practices with the Rams, the Chargers welcomed the New Orleans Saints – the other half of last season’s NFC Championship Game – to Jack Hammett Sports Complex Thursday.
After practice, head coach Anthony Lynn explained how much he values getting to work with teams like the Saints, who went 13-3 last season.
“I love the situational football,” Lynn said. “That’s how you play the game – in situations – and I like to see our schemes, our philosophy against other people’s. We’ve gone up against two pretty good organizations, and so we’ve had a good chance to look at some of the things that we’re doing and make some adjustments.”
New Orleans, led by quarterback Drew Brees, had the third-highest scoring offense in the NFL last season (31.5 points per game). A lot of that firepower did not practice on Thursday, though.
Wide receiver Michael Thomas and running back Alvin Kamara were held out of the joint session. Cornerback Casey Hayward Jr. said he’s hopeful he’ll get to work against the Pro Bowl duo on Friday.
“Any time we can have a good day against those guys, we look forward to it and hopefully we can continue to do that throughout the week,” Hayward said.
Rivers and Brees share mutual respect – Philip Rivers, 37, and Brees, 40, have gone from sharing a quarterbacks room in 2004 to combining for 33 NFL seasons, 20 Pro Bowl selections, 129,093 yards and 894 touchdowns.
Both quarterbacks had eerily similar stats last season – each threw 32 touchdowns. Rivers averaged 269.2 passing yards per game. Brees averaged 266.1.
In each of the last three years, for a few days in August, it’s been special for fans to watch two Hall of Fame-bound quarterbacks – who share a history together – also share the field.
“It’s always fun to see Drew,” Rivers said. “All those guys, but to see Drew – we were just telling stories from 15 years ago. It’s crazy how time flies.”
When Brees joined the Saints in 2006, Rivers took over as the starter and hasn’t looked back. He hasn’t missed a game – 208 straight – and Brees has taken notice.
“It’s a great testament to his toughness, his ability to, I’m sure fight through a bunch of injuries at the same time,” he said of Rivers. “You don’t make it through this game or play every season healthy. So, [it’s] a testament to him and his competitiveness as well.”
Chargers best Saints in Day 1 of QB challenge – Rivers, Tyrod Taylor, Cardale Jones and Easton Stick took down Brees, Teddy Bridgewater, Taysom Hill – and guard Larry Warford – in Day 1 of the annual quarterback challenge.
“We got them day one, really thanks to Cardale’s unbelievable showing,” Rivers said. “We got them day one, but they pick the challenge for day two. Then, whatever happens, we’re going to make it all win-or-go home on day three, probably. It was a good start.”
Brees said Rivers named Thursday’s challenge “The County Fair,” an homage to the Orange County Fair, which takes place right next to Jack Hammett Sports Complex.
“We got beat pretty good today,” Brees said. “The challenge itself was pretty good. Ten throws. That allows you to get into a little bit of a rhythm. I liked the targets."
Day 2 is tomorrow. The Saints will decide the format.
Check out the best photos from the annual QB Challenge at Chargers Camp as the Bolts take on Drew Brees and company.
Tight ends talk Rivers – In addition to pass-catching running backs and big-play wide receivers, Rivers has three tight ends who will likely all play a role during the 2019 season.
On Wednesday’s episode of Chargers Weekly, Hunter Henry and Sean Culkin discussed the versatility in the tight ends room, including teammate Virgil Green’s impact as a blocker.
“That dude is a beast in the run game, bro,” said Henry of Green. “That dude is a freaking beast.”
Culkin and Henry also shared what it’s like to play with Rivers.
“Everybody’s just kind of at ease a little bit when 17’s out there,” Henry said. “He just calms everybody – there’s just a calming about him, but at the same time, he has this drive and this competitiveness about him that makes you want to perform at a level that just pushes you even more.”
After Thursday’s practice, Rivers said Culkin has “had his best camp yet.”
“[Culkin] just plays hard in whatever you need him to do,” he said. “’You want me to motion over and block a [defensive] end? You want me to run a route?’ … He’s really had a nice offseason and nice training camp.”
News and notes – The JackBoyz had a couple of reasons to celebrate Thursday. Undrafted free agent cornerback Kemon Hall had an interception during the 11-on-11 period. All-Pro safety Derwin James followed it up with an INT of his own, which caused the secondary to sprint the length of the field to the opposite end zone for their customary picture pose. … Rivers threw a beautiful deep ball to wide receiver Travis Benjamin for a touchdown during the 11-on-11 period. Wide receiver Mike Williams also caught a touchdown pass from Rivers. … After practice, Lynn acknowledged the play of second-year linebacker Uchenna Nwosu. “Uchenna had a pretty good day today. I liked the way he worked last Monday night and today. I think these joint practices, some of these guys they see it as an opportunity and he’s taking advantage of it.”
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