Here are five top lessons learned from the Chargers' 13-7 loss to the Saints:
1. Everything Matters – As noted immediately after the game, the Chargers vowed they learned a valuable lesson that will resonate the rest of the season. On the Saints' first snap from scrimmage, rookie running back Alvin Kamara sped 50-yards to the house. The Bolts' defense buckled in from that point forward, yet most of what they accomplished was undone by one single play. Poor tackling and missed assignments combined with a lack of energy put the Chargers immediately behind the eight ball. The silver lining is that it came in the preseason. Had it been a regular season game, that single gaffe could have been fatal error. Hours later in the locker room, the team stressed how the play hammered home the need to bring it all on every play, every week. Safety Jahleel Addae summed up the team's reaction best:
"There's that saying that every play counts," Jahleel Addae said. "You never know what play might cost you the game. I'm not saying that one cost you the game, but we feel if we didn't come out flat, maybe things would have been different. So we need to change that. We will. After that we rallied. We regrouped. We communicated, played fast and played physical. We swarmed to the ball. That's what it's all about. Coach (Gus) Bradley always talks about that, and that's what we are trying to do. We are still encouraged. We just need to learn from this."
2. Lackluster Blocking – Even though Philip Rivers, Russell Okung and Joe Barksdale did not dress, the offense made no excuse for their lackluster blocking. The team managed a paltry 2.3 yards per carry while surrendering eight sacks. It doesn't matter how explosive their playmakers are at the skill position when the QB is under duress and there are no lanes to run through. Head Coach Anthony Lynn emphasized the team's blocking must improve in a hurry:
"I know some of our guys didn't play, but we have to run the football a lot better than that. We're going to run the football a lot better than that. We gave up (eight) sacks. That killed us. Even though we won time of possession, the sacks are what killed us. It's not just the offensive line. It's running backs. It's tight ends. It's the whole group. We have to do a better job of coaching these guys and getting them ready to play. That's all there is to it."
3. All Hail the King – Another game, another monster performance by Desmond King. The fifth-round pick was known for being a magnet around the ball during his time at Iowa, which is why he won the Jim Thorpe Award as college football's top defensive back in 2015. King made a number of plays on third down, including a key sack, pass breakup and tackle short of the sticks. After impressing last week with a pick and forced fumble, the rookie said comfort in the system is what's allowed him to showcase all his skills:
"I would say I improved once I started getting used to the system. I just started getting comfortable, not overthinking things or getting overwhelmed with the situations. Being comfortable and believing in the system is what really helped me. I feel like right after rookie minicamp I started focusing on what I really had to do at each position, kind of sorting them out. It put me in the position to really learn."
4. Stock on the Rise – Lynn told reporters after the game that several players' stock was on the rise following the second preseason game. In addition to King, the head coach noted Dexter McCoil and Korey Toomer as defensive players who stood out. McCoil turned heads with a 99-yard pick six, while Toomer showcased his athletic abilities:
"Some of those guys' stock went up tonight. I did not mind sitting a lot of those starters tonight because I needed to look at some of these backups. Some of those guys' stock went up. They played really well…. Dexter McCoil, that did not surprise me. He's been playing really well. Desmond King has been playing really well. Korey Toomer got better tonight. He's trying to fill in for Denzel Perryman. He's competing with Nick Dzubnar for that job. Both of those guys are competing hard."
5. Confidence Abounds – The Bolts might be 0-2 in the preseason, but records don't mean much in exhibition play. Insisting there are areas that must improve, Lynn expressed the utmost confidence with his team, saying they'd be ready to roll should the season start right now:
"I believe in this team. This team is going to play very well. This team is going to be pretty good. After that performance tonight you might not think so, but I'm just telling you, I see this team every day. When we put that starting 22 out there, this team is going to be pretty good."