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Why Justin Herbert and Derwin James Will Not Play in the 2021 Preseason


Don't expect to see the Chargers' stars in a game until September.

Head coach Brandon Staley said Thursday that a majority of his starters will not play in Saturday's preseason opener against the Rams at SoFi Stadium – including quarterback Justin Herbert and safety Derwin James.

Staley went a step further when asked about future preseason games. Herbert, James and several other first-teamers won't see any action until Week 1 at FedExField against the Washington Football Team.

Staley said James, who's entering his fourth NFL season, is getting enough reps against the Chargers' first-team offense – plus joint practices next week against the San Francisco 49ers – to be prepared for his first meaningful action in over 20 months. The last game the All-Pro safety played in was Week 17 of the 2019 season at Kansas City.

"Our practices are going to be a lot more like games than these preseason games," Staley said. "The environments that we create on our practice fields is where the real action is in the preseason for guys like him.

"I've been so excited to see him compete against all of the special players that we have. We feel like that's the right environment for him to get ready for the season."

Herbert did not have a preseason in his rookie year due to the pandemic. He won't have one in 2021 by design. Chase Daniel will get the start at quarterback Saturday before giving way to Easton Stick.

Safety Nasir Adderley is expected to play, as are healthy members of the Chargers 2021 draft class. Rookie offensive tackle Rashawn Slater will make his pro debut, and could be the lone projected starter on the O-line to get snaps.

"You will not see all five of them out there, for sure," Staley said. "As I mentioned, what's really important to me and to us, as an organization, is that on these practice fields, that's where the real comradery is happening."

Staley noted that most of the conversations about preseason playing time have already happened and the few remaining questions will be discussed Thursday night.

Though it's technically a road game, Saturday marks the first-ever preseason contest for the Chargers at SoFi Stadium. The Bolts will host the 49ers as the home team on Sunday, August 22 before wrapping up the preseason in Seattle against the Seahawks on Saturday, August 28.

Odds and Ends

  • Staley said that wide receiver Mike Williams and linebacker Kenneth Murray would both be available to play if this were a regular-season game week. Williams is working through a "little bit of a hip flexor" while Murray is "loosening up" his injured ankle.
  • Rookie defensive back Mark Webb Jr. will not play Saturday, but is expected back next week.
  • Both guard Oday Aboushi and Slater work out with offensive line specialist Duke Manyweather in the offseason. Aboushi said he credits Manyweather for helping him develop into the player he is today. He also saw how Slater benefitted from Manyweather's tutelage: "You just get to focus on football down there and I think it shows," Aboushi said. "He definitely got stronger in a lot of places. His technique is great. He's a great athlete off the jump. He bettered his game."
  • Offensive tackle Bryan Bulaga on Slater: "I think he's doing a good job. He comes out here, he's learning the playbook really well. He's asking the right questions during meetings. Something that I always find a very good sign for rookies is when they come out here, if they make a mistake, they learn from it, they don't come back out the next day and make the same mistake."

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