Thu, 06 Oct 2022

Eric Smith

Joint practice No. 1 between the Chargers and Cowboys is in the books.

The teams held the first of two joint sessions Wednesday at Jack Hammett Sports Complex, practicing in full pads for over two hours.

Here are five observations from the 15th day of camp:

1. James limited in return to practice

Derwin James, Jr., hit the practice field Wednesday with a new contract in hand.

The All-Pro had only observed through camp so far, going through walk-throughs and hyping up teammates in drills.

James went through stretches and individual drills Wednesday, but was held out of 1-on-1s, 7-on-7s and full-team drills.

And while it was a beautiful sight to see No. 3 in powder blue getting some work in, the plan is to ease James back into things over the next few weeks.

"We couldn't keep him out of this practice today, this was no easy task ," Chargers Head Coach Brandon Staley said with a laugh. "We're just going to get him through individual [period] this week, making sure that we put them through all of the unchoreographed movement - shoulder pads, helmet, getting that off the ground this week.

"Then, on the game day, working him out in pads," Staley added. "Then, next week, he's going to get back into 7-on-7 and some of the team stuff, but we're going to make sure that we ramp him up the right way. We're going to have to hold him back because it won't be easy."

James, for his part, said he'll be fully ready to go next week. But the All-Pro chess piece said he was just happy to be back out on the field with his teammates.

"Everybody knows how much I love football and how much I want to be out here. It was just hard. I was just taking it day-by-day," James said. "Like I say, controlling what I can control. I knew it would happen, but having the confidence to come out here every day and trying to get myself better in ways that I could."

2. Bolts offense tested by Cowboys

The whole point of joint practices is to get solid work in, especially for players who won't end up seeing action in preseason games.

And when another team arrives in town, that might mean some struggles against players and schemes you haven't prepared for.

That was the case for the Chargers offense Wednesday, as the unit endured some ups and downs against a stout Chargers front seven.

"When you get these joint practices, especially early in training camp, early in the year, there's a lot of learning," said Chargers running back Austin Ekeler. "We didn't know what they were going to come out in and they showed us some looks today, defensively, that we weren't really prepared for. We were kind of figuring it out on the fly.

"They're going to get you sometimes. You're going to get them sometimes. It's a push back and forth," Ekeler added. "Come out, play, you compete, and you try to adjust on the fly. I like that because it puts us in situations where it's a little bit more stress on our team and we're going to see how we are going to react."

The Bolts did find some success in the red zone, as Justin Herbert threw touchdowns to Gerald Everett and Keenan Allen.

The final team period was a 2-minute drill, but the offense quickly faced a third-and-12 after a short completion and a sack. After picking up some yardage to make it fourth-and-1, the offense was then called for a false start.

Herbert hit Allen for a 10-yard gain to move the sticks, but the Bolts stalled after that. They eventually faced and third-and-21 scenario after another sack and couldn't complete the drive.

Earlier in practice, the offense was in a move-the-ball period where they could pick up first downs and progress down the field.

The unit went three-and-out on the first try, and did pick up a first down on the next sequence, but the drive went nowhere after that with a drop on third down.

Staley said he hopes his team improves and gets better by the end of the week.

"This is the perfect place to figure it out. You want to be able to do that," Staley said. "Some of the un-scouted looks, you know what Dallas did last year, but maybe they have added some new things based on new people that they have. That's part of why these practices are valuable, it's so that you can go against somebody else's personnel and scheme, and then test your rules.

"These aren't game-planned practices. We kind of have rules of engagement about making sure that the other side knows what groupings we're playing and stuff like that, but you want to go play ball and figure it out," Staley added. "That's why these practices are awesome. That's a really good defensive group over there. I can't wait to look at the tape."

3. Davis, Van Noy record INTs

(A quick note: I watched the Bolts offense Wednesday, but plan on switching it up and watching the defense Thursday.)

However, there were a few defensive plays that were noteworthy.

First, Michael Davis recorded another interception as he continues to push for a starting spot at the outside cornerback spot.

On Wednesday, Davis was matched up against Cowboys rookie wide receiver Jalen Tolbert on a pass down the left sideline. Davis tracked Tolbert down the field before turning his head and snatching the takeaway.

Staley has praised Davis for his approach and performance in camp, and Wednesday was another strong example of that.

Veteran linebacker Kyle Van Noy also took the ball away in the 2-minute situation. The Cowboys started at their own 27-yard line with 1 minute and 42 second left on the clock.

But the Dallas drive lasted just two plays as Van Noy was in the perfect position after a tipped pass to catch an interception.

4. Slater, Feiler strong in 1-on-1 drills

There some juicy matchups - and plenty of star power - in the trenches on Tuesday.

And a pair of Bolts offensive linemen passed their tests with flying colors.

Left tackle Rashawn Slater and left guard Matt Feiler but won their pair of 1-on-1 reps to highlight the Bolts offensive line.

Slater began his day by stymying Dorace Armstrong, but the real fun began when he was matched up against DeMarcus Lawrence on the next rep.

The Pro Bowlers squared off only once, but it was Slater who stood tall by standing Lawrence up off his rush.

Feiler was also solid, getting wins against Osa Odighizuwa and Dante Fowler, Jr., on interior rushes.

Storm Norton split his reps and Trey Pipkins responded well to win a rep after a few tough battles.

Center Corey Linsley did not participate in 1-on-1 drills.

5. Palmer, Guyton shine against Dallas secondary

The best matchup through the air in 1-on-1 drills through the air was Mike Williams against Trevon Diggs.

But that was even as expected, with both players getting the better of each other at times.

Joshua Palmer and Jalen Guyton, however, were clear in their wins against the Cowboys secondary.

Palmer used a double move to get cornerback Anthony Brown twisted around, and later was smooth over the middle to beat cornerback Isaac Taylor-Stuart.

Guyton, meanwhile, showed off his wheels by beating Israel Mukuamu for a deep touchdown that drew big cheers from a packed crowd. He also bested Brown earlier in the drill on a nifty route over the middle.

Rookie Trevon Bradford made a strong catch down the left sideline and later drew a flag.

DeAndre Carter continued to impress by winning multiple reps, including the final 1-on-1 of the day. He used a double move that confused Diggs, who could only yank on Carter's jersey as he breezed past and multiple flags hit the turf.

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