For what it’s worth, I’m in Section 231 trying to get information on plays 80 yards away from me without binoculars…
But, here we are. This is certainly a labor of love and any and all feedback is much appreciated, and as you are about to see there was quite a bit of effort put into this to give you guys the best overview of the scrimmage possible. Considering we are not going to see the starters in the preseason all that much this may be as many “live” plays as we will ever get to see from the starting unit.
Here is how I have the article broken down:
- Best and worst performances of the day. “Worst” is loosely used here, but if I had to pick some…
- Stats. Pressures are a bit tricky to track but I tried my best to tally them up
- Notable rotations (ex: RB rotation)
- Every single play, broken down into parts: A photo of either the routes or a notable moment from the play, down and distance, what I believe the base of the play is (outside zone strong lead, PA slide, etc., although I do not always know and will put a question mark as a placeholder until I research more and find out), the intention of the play (my best guess), the outcome of the play, and analysis of the play (why it worked or did not work, who excelled, who blew an assignment, so on)
HERE WE GO:
Best Three/Worst Three:
Best: Justin Herbert
“Worst”: Oday Aboushi
Best: Justin Jones
“Worst”: Asante Samuel Jr.
Best: Corey Linsley
“Worst”: Michael Davis
Best: Derwin James (hey, I had to include one more…)
Justin Herbert: 16/23, 156 passing yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT
Mike Williams: 3/3, 45 receiving yards, 1 TD
Keenan Allen: 3/5, 17 receiving yards, 1 TD
Josh Palmer: 1/1, 7 receiving yards
Jalen Guyton: 3/4, 55 receiving yards, 1 drop
Austin Ekeler: 4 carries, 9 rushing yards, 1/2 receptions, 2 receiving yards
Justin Jackson: 4 carries, 3 rushing yards, 1 reception, 1 receiving yard
Joshua Kelley: 1 carry, 5 rushing yards, 1 TD
Gabe Nabers: 1/1, 5 receiving yards
Jared Cook: 2/3, 15 receiving yards
Donald Parham: 1/2, 4 receiving yards
Linval Joseph: 0.5 tackles
Justin Jones: 1.5 tackles, 3 pressures
Jerry Tillery: 1 tackle, 1 pressure
Kyler Fackrell: 2 pressures, 1 sack
Uchenna Nwosu: 1 pressure, 1 tackle
Joey Bosa: 3 pressures
Kenneth Murray: 1 tackle
Kyzir White: 1.5 tackles
Derwin James: 2.5 tackles, 0/2 in coverage (rec/tgt), 1 INT, 1 PD
Nasir Adderley: 3 tackles
Chris Harris Jr.: 1 tackle
Asante Samuel Jr.: 5/8, 76 receiving yards and 1 TD allowed, 3 tackles, 1 PD
Michael Davis: 4/4, 36 receiving yards and 1 TD allowed, 3 tackles
Offensive Line Pressures Allowed:
*1 sack = 1 sack + 1 pressure
Rashawn Slater: 6 pressures, 1 sack
Matt Feiler: No pressures
Corey Linsley: No pressures
Oday Aboushi: 4 pressures
Bryan Bulaga: 2 pressures
Storm Norton: 2 pressures, 1 sack
- Ekeler about 70%, Jackson about 25%, Kelley about 5%
- Ogbongbemiga rotated in with the 1s when Murray went down
- All four tight ends rotated with the first team depending on package. Anderson was the only true TE to line up in the backfield. McKitty was primarily a blocker but saw some reps as a receiver
- Norton came in to relieve Bulaga for a handful of snaps
- Williams must have been hurt at one point, as he was not on the field for about the last third of the scrimmage
- Samuel Jr. got plenty of work as a corner with Facyson out
Play 1: 1st and 10
Intention: Pick up an easy few yards on first down. Herbert has a (good) tendency to target easy 1v1s to pick up yards through the air. It seems easy, but it looks like throughout the scrimmage he is taught to take a favorable 1v1 (Williams towers over Davis) on most occasions.
Outcome: Williams six-yard reception. Davis makes the tackle.
Analysis: While the target goes to Williams one of the pieces you should keep an eye on is how often two receivers or the tight end and receiver run parallel routes to force a possible busted coverage or wrong decision for the defenders. Parham and Allen each run out routes (Allen takes the deeper out), and Allen could have been a target with Derwin James still coming down from his safety spot to let Bosa rush the QB (Bosa was lined up opposite Allen temporarily). With Adderley giving help inside to Davis/watching Ekeler out of the backfield, Williams running the comeback was a great 1v1 opportunity for the bigger receiver. Herbert recognizes this and finds him for an easy gain to start the series.
Jones makes his presence felt immediately with a quarterback pressure lined up against Aboushi.
Play 2: 2nd and 4
Call: Inside Zone Weak Lead
Intention: Run Ekeler behind Nabers. Nabers and Aboushi combo block Jones, Linsley and Feiler combo block Joseph. Slater hooks Tillery. Bulaga solos Bosa.
Outcome: Ekeler three-yard run. Joseph and Jones split the tackle.
Analysis: The offensive line does a really good job picking up assignments and pushing the defensive line (aiming towards Bosa, Jones, and Joseph) off the line of scrimmage. Joseph and Jones do recover enough to make the tackle. Slater is so quick and does a fantastic job cutting Tillery off from the back side of the play. The tight end (I believe it is Parham) blocks Nwosu well. It is a small win for the offense vs a good front, though a first down would have been preferred.
Play 3: 3rd and 1
Call: Good ole 12 personnel grind out a yard. Not sure about call. Inside zone out of 12 personnel?
Intention: Get the first down behind 12 personnel.
Outcome: Ekeler for a one-yard gain and first down. Tillery makes the tackle.
Analysis: In general, a run left is at Tillery and a run right is at Jones. I personally would go after Tillery too. The play is designed to run behind Parham and Cook as the two in-line blocking tight ends.
The defense gives up the first down but does a very good job making it a tough first down. Murray attacks Feiler and pops him quite a bit. Tillery engages with Slater and pushes him back to make the inevitable tackle. Joseph beats Linsley with a swim move but is not able to get to the play in time, and it is possible Linsley gave this up anyhow since he is still in the right position to block a run play going to the left.
Play 4: 1st and 10
Play: PA Bootleg off Outside Zone Strong Lead (right)
Intention: Pick between two parallel routes running parallel to Herbert’s bootleg and away from the play side action of the “run play”.
Outcome: Parham catch for four yards
Analysis: The Chargers will be running plenty of play action bootlegs off Outside Zone Strong Lead this season, something detailed in my previous article. If you have been to training camp practices you have seen QB Coach Shane Day working with Herbert on bootlegs and setting to throw quickly in a short time frame as the back side EDGE player chases him down. If there is no EDGE defender on the back side of the play Herbert could take the ball and run himself.
Play 5: 2nd and 6
Intention: Use the tight end to jumble up defensive traffic and free up Allen
Outcome: Allen reception for five yards. White with the tackle.
Analysis: You could argue each of Bulaga, Aboushi, and Slater give up pressures on this play. Considering Herbert did not get to his check down option (Nabers, left side of the picture) he likely felt that pressure and found Allen for a short gain. I do think Slater loses initially vs Fackrell but recovers well enough to not count a pressure against him. Aboushi does lose to Jones. Bulaga lets Nwosu get a pressure, but Nabers’ chip was a bit weak and it looked like one got in the way of the other. I will still give Bulaga a pressure allowed, but I do not think it was all on him.
Parham (very difficult to tell the difference between 88 and 89 when the image is so small) runs a dig with White in coverage. Since Murray has to follow Ekeler out of the backfield there is a wide open spot in the defense for Allen after a shallow crosser.
Play 6: 3rd and 1
Call: Outside zone lead (balanced line)
Intention: Get a freaking first down please
Outcome: Ekeler for one yard. First down.
Analysis: Derwin James is blocked by the tight end, then the fullback, and still finds a way to get in there and split a tackle with White. I am giving him half the tackle even if you think he did not get there and that White is the sole tackler. I do not care. I think he did, and boy does James deserve it.
Play 7: 1st and 10
Call: PA Slide w/pre-snap motion from Guyton
Intention: Option 1: Guyton on the clear out. Option 2: Cook on the flat cleared out by Guyton off pre-snap motion and go.
Outcome: Cook reception for 5 yards. Murray with the tackle. *Murray is also injured on this play tackling Cook out of bounds.*
Analysis: The Chargers have run this concept multiple times throughout training camp and the scrimmage. Pre-snap motion is involved in many of their passing plays, but having Guyton run behind the LOS followed by a slide route from the TE shows up the most. Herbert wants to take the shot deep to Guyton first but checks down to Cook for a short gain. More smart football from Herbert.
*Play 8: 2nd and 5
*When Murray went down I stopped recording to tweet the news. No video for this play…*
Outcome: 41-yard pass to Guyton. I believe Samuel Jr. was in coverage.
Analysis: I missed the play but remember the outcome. Guyton gets his deep route reception after Herbert wanted to target him the previous play.
Play 9: 1st and 10
Intention: Have Keenan Allen run a fade vs press man (Samuel Jr.)
Outcome: Incomplete pass
Analysis: Omaha calls for an out route in soft coverage (you will see this later) that converts to a fade route if the corner is showing press man. I can’t quite tell what Allen wants to do because he has Samuel Jr. in his face, so I would normally guess this converts to a fade, but Allen tries to get physical with him to run an out route and the timing is thrown off for Herbert’s first incompletion.
Then again, Herbert holds the safety in the middle of the field with his eyes/posture and then turns and fires at the out route immediately, so I guess that was the intention all along? Discuss.
Bosa is able to split a double team rushing with his hand in the dirt for a pressure vs Bulaga and Aboushi.
Play 10: 2nd and 10
Call: Pre-snap motion and throw to Ekeler
Intention: Get it to Ekeler, clearing a path with trips left routes
Outcome: Two-yard reception for Ekeler, tackle by Harris Jr.
Analysis: More pre-snap motion. Trips left is the first trips formation of the day. Harris Jr. is fantastic at recognizing underneath plays, and it shows here. Ekeler should have had more yards, but Harris Jr. hits him after just two yards for a run stop. Impressive!
Play 11: 3rd and 8
*Penalty, though no move back* The play runs and it does look like Harris Jr. would have tackled Allen short of the first down.
Play 12: 3rd and 8
Call: Trips right
Intention: Confuse the defense?
Outcome: Williams for a 10-yard reception vs Samuel Jr. (sort of)
Analysis: Herbert communicates something to the trio of receivers pre-snap. This looks a lot like the previous play, where one receiver runs a shallow crosser while another (the inside receiver) finds a void in the middle of the field. With Samuel Jr. playing so far off Williams has an easy catch on the out for a first down.
Play 13: 1st and 10
Call: Strong Toss Right
Intention: Run toss out of outside zone strong lead look (FB not blocking from I)
Outcome: Ekeler run for four yards, James with the tackle.
Analysis: The 49ers run toss out of their outside zone strong lead formation, so it is no surprise here to see the Chargers do the same. Herbert also bootlegs, which he seems to always do outside of an outside zone look (holds defense accountable for PA).
This is pretty well-blocked and Ekeler has a free run at the outside. Unfortunately, Derwin James is good at his job, and this play ends after just four yards. This is their best run of the day so far.
Play 14: 2nd and 6
Intention: Hand it off to Jackson or throw to Palmer
Outcome: Pass to Palmer for 7 yards. Samuel Jr. with the tackle.
Analysis: Here is why route running matters and why Josh Palmer could be a stud: Palmer (left of the photo) HAS to turn around to make the reception as fast as possible with both James and Samuel Jr. in front of him. Not only does he make the reception, he then turns on a dime and cuts upfield leaving James behind him and just Samuel Jr. to make the tackle. Who wins in the inevitable Palmer vs Samuel Jr. open field tackle? Guess we will never know.
I really do not want to have to give Samuel Jr. another reception allowed, but it has to go to someone…
Play 15: 1st and goal
Botched exchange between Linsley and Herbert. It looked like Linsley had the snap off correctly, so perhaps Herbert dropped it. Loss of 1.
Play 16: 2nd and 11
Call: PA slide off outside zone strong look
Intention: Bootleg right and hit one of the high-low options
Outcome: Williams 11-yard touchdown
Analysis: I do not quite know why Samuel Jr. jumps in front of and slightly inside Williams to try and stop him since James is clearly there to help him inside. Williams is going to out-physical Samuel Jr. every time and frees himself for an easy touchdown.
Herbert picks between the slide route from the TE and Williams further down the field. He chose…wisely.
Play 17: 1st and 10
Intention: Considering McKitty has a post dialed up for him I believe the intention was to try and hit him deep. Though, Davis is lined up far off Allen on first down. Sound familiar? Same first down, first play idea from the first series: If he’s playing off, target him for an easy gain on first down.
Outcome: Allen reception for 7 yards. Davis with the tackle.
Analysis: If you have been tracking Herbert’s stats so far you can tell the quick-pass offense featuring a big-brain quarterback is the way to go here. Seven-yard gains are not sexy, but they are efficient gains. Herbert has one incompletion so far folks…ONE.
Jones runs a stunt and is lightly picked up by the offensive line…I am going to give him a pressure here. At the very least it is an iffy protection setup from the line.
Play 18: 2nd and 3
Call: It isn’t inside zone exactly…
Intention: Pick up the first down…obviously?
Outcome: Run stop by Jones, Ekeler run for ONE yard.
Analysis: Jones continues his hot streak by tossing Feiler and making the run stop.
The blocks are solid but Ekeler is also a bit indecisive. Slater continues to great work in the run game.
Play 19: 3rd and 2
Call: Just target the soft coverage
Intention: Target the soft coverage
Outcome: They targeted the soft coverage. Guyton for 7 yards, Samuel Jr. in coverage
Analysis: If you keep playing off Herbert will keep targeting you, ESPECIALLY when you only need two yards for a first down. Guyton is no sensational route-runner but any one of you could have picked up two yards with a corner playing 10 yards off.
Play 20: 1st and 10
Call: Looks like HB dive
Intention: Imitate Anthony Lynn (I’m kidding…?)
Outcome: Jackson for three yards. Adderley with a solid run stop.
Analysis: I have no idea where Jackson thinks the open hole is. He ends up running through the right side B gap…but why?
I LOVE seeing Adderley come downhill and lay a whack on the running back.
Play 21: 2nd and 7
Call: Stick concept
Intention: Outside fade is first read
Outcome: Williams for 18 yards. Davis tackle.
Analysis: My understanding of the stick concept is broken into three parts: A fade route outside, a stick route from the receiver, and either an out from the slot or a flat from the backfield. That is the progression I am aware of.
Williams vs Davis is a solid option for Herbert to go to, although Allen ends up free over the middle (less of a stick and more of a slant, is there an option here?).
Slater ends up long-arming Slater and walks him near Herbert. Not a bad rep, but a pressure nevertheless.
Play 22: 1st and 10
Call: Strong toss (right) out of outside zone lead formation
Intention: Run Forrest
Outcome: Two-yard gain from Jackson. James with the run stop.
Analysis: The smart move is to follow the blocking H-back (Anderson) inside of the in-line blocking tight end (McKitty). Instead, Jackson bounces outside, and Nwosu shifts course on McKitty (who does not know Jackson is doing this) and works outside to keep Jackson from going anywhere. James comes in and cleans up. Multiple instances of well-blocked plays turned to modest gains from both Ekeler and Jackson.
Slater does an outstanding job cutting off the backside guard. He is so agile in space. Aboushi does a great job chipping and then getting to the second level to block Tranquill.
Play 23: 2nd and 8
Call: Forget the call for a moment, because plans have changed. Herbert recognizes the CB blitz from Harris Jr. and has to find his hot route. Does he?
Intention: Get the ball out now.
Outcome: Herbert calmly delivers a strike to Guyton, almost picking up enough for a first down.
Analysis: This is a risky blitz against a quarterback who is way too calm under pressure. Staley tries something a little different later to spice things up…but for now, Herbert is not phased one bit. Adderley stops Guyton just short of a first down.
Play 24: 3rd and 1
Call: Hit the out vs off coverage…again.
Intention: Take advantage of off coverage for the 32nd time
Outcome: 10-yard gain for Cook lined up vs I believe Davis. Sorry if it is the wrong corner, but Davis tends to occupy that side of the field.
Analysis: Another 3rd-and-short, another quick pass for a first down with the DB 10 yards off the receiver. Like clockwork.
Fackrell does get the best of Slater here for his first pressure and Slater’s second allowed. Nothing terrible, but thankfully this was a quick pass from Herbert.
This was also Kelley’s first rep of the game.
Play 25: 1st and goal
Call: 12 personnel, inside zone weak
Intention: Run left
Outcome: Kelley rushes for a five-yard touchdown!
Analysis: Jones bull-jerks Feiler and forces Kelley to head elsewhere. Fortunately for him, Linsley/Aboushi/Bulaga/the two TEs absolutely road pave for him.
This was great vision by Kelley and a fantastic job by the offensive line. They do not give Kelley the touchdown since he is down by touch in a scrimmage, but this is absolutely a touchdown.
Look where Allen is (left). They see something here…
Play 26: 1st and goal (sort of)
Call: Quick slant to Allen
Intention: Show a similar look to the Kelley touchdown, but throw to Allen.
Outcome: Allen five-yard touchdown!
Analysis: The coaching staff clearly liked the look the defense gave them on the first play to Kelley and went back to something similar. The quick strike to Allen looked like the quick strike TD he caught vs Buffalo.
Defending Allen 1v1 on a quick release must suck.
Play 27: 1st and 10
Intention: They dial up a stop-and-go deep shot for Guyton and a post for Cook to generate a big gain on first down.
Outcome: A combination of a coverage sack and a sack allowed by the offensive line. Herbert does not find his wide open outlet in Ekeler.
Analysis: I am tempted to call this a coverage sack but I do believe the stop-and-go was possible down the sideline and Ekeler is also wide open underneath. The front seven gets significant pressure from Fackrell vs Slater and I do believe he is ultimately responsible for the “sack” as Herbert ducks like he is getting hit from his blind side by Fackrell. Aboushi gives up a pressure to Tillery at the very least.
Play 28: 2nd and 18
The scoreboard manager had a brain fart and lists this as 1st and 10, so I am just guessing here…
Intention: Another crack at a deep shot to make up some yards. Also, is Williams hurt during the scrimmage? He has not been in the game for some time…
Outcome: Five-yard reception to Nabers on check down
Analysis: They have no choice but to try and make up some yards. The smart in-game move could be to pick up 10-ish and make it manageable, but this is a scrimmage and this is Justin Herbert. Have at it.
Nabers ends up unintentionally running (not in a bad way, Herbert moves within the pocket so he buys time) an angle route out of the backfield and provides a nice outlet.
Play 29: 3rd and 13
Call: Screen pass to Jackson
Outcome: Gain of…1?
Analysis: Nasir Adderley plays it so well and comes downhill once again to clean up. This is a very refreshing look from No. 24.
Storm Norton gives up a pressure to Bosa, but what did we expect?
Play 30: 1st and 10
Call: TE drag
Intention: Hit Cook in stride
Outcome: Incomplete pass with a Guyton drop
Analysis: White covers Cook stride for stride and forces Herbert to pump the football and look elsewhere. He targets Samuel Jr. in coverage and Guyton drops the pass. It was not the easiest catch, but it hit his hands.
Play 31: 2nd and 10
Call: HB Counter (Weak)
Intention: Catch the defense overpursuing
Outcome: Jackson rush for three yards
Analysis: There is so much speed from the linebacker group. It is so hard to catch them off guard as is, but even if you do they have the athleticism to fire right back and tackle the ball carrier for a minimal gain.
Play 32: 3rd and 7
Call: Ekeler wheel route
Intention: You don’t dial this up and not try it out…
Outcome: Well, you can try it out, but Derwin James is covering him. Interception.
Analysis: Slater is walked back by Nwosu and slammed into Herbert. Herbert looks Ekeler’s way, tries to readjust, then fires at Ekeler while under pressure. Not the best ball, but James is just a machine. Or a unicorn. Whatever. He picks it off.
Play 33: 1st and 10 (RZ drills)
Call: PA pass out of 12 personnel, deep crossers
Intention: Sucker in the defenders and hit the crossing deep crossers
Outcome: Incomplete pass
Analysis: I don’t like the idea of two deep crossers in the red zone when playing against two safeties who will not go chasing the crosser like it’s man coverage for them. Nothing is open and Herbert tosses it away in the direction of Jackson.
Bosa has McKitty and Parham blocking him, but he rolls off the block like a spin move and is able to pressure Herbert. I think he might be good.
Play 34: 2nd and 10
Intention: Allen vs Samuel Jr. on a corner?
Outcome: Samuel Jr. wins the end zone rep vs Allen, which was much-needed for the rookie
Analysis: I do not know why Herbert chose Allen over Parham (yellow circle) here, but I AM happy to see Samuel Jr. hang tough and beat No. 13.
Play 35: 3rd and 10
Call: TE post
Intention: Split the safeties
Outcome: James pass defense. Incomplete
Analysis: The weakness of a two-safety look is between them…unless one of them is Derwin James, apparently. Tranquill actually does a good job knocking Cook off timing and allowing more time for the safeties to diagnose. James handles the rest, per usual.
Fourth down forced!
Play 36: 1st and 10
Call: Counter w/FB lead. 12 personnel (do people count fullbacks?)
Intention: Go forward
Outcome: They went backwards for -5 yards
Analysis: Jackson unfortunately had no shot as it looks like either Parham or McKitty completely missed an assignment and did not pick up the edge player (Nwosu).
Play 37: 2nd and 15
Intention: Isolate Parham
Outcome: Incomplete pass. I do not think this was an outright drop, but it was close.
Analysis: Considering the two receivers to the left just turn around and look at Herbert I am fairly confident they wanted to give Parham a big boy target. Adderley plays it well enough and Parham is unable to shake him to get in a good spot to catch the football. Good throw from Herbert, just a combination of good defense and maaaaaybe a drop.
Play 38: 3rd and 15
Call: Spread offense…?
Intention: Find the target
Outcome: Sack by Fackrell, heavy pressure from Tillery
Analysis: Norton gives up the sack to Fackrell. Slater is unable to pick up the stunt by Tillery and is stuck taking the crashing EDGE player with Feiler rather than working back outside. Tillery may have had the sack as well, but I will credit Fackrell with the sack.
I was unable to get the last drive looked at and sorted out, but I hope you learned a lot from reading this or just had fun diving into some starter v starter action since the Chargers will not see full starting units in live situations until Week 1 @ WFT.
I will update the article as I dive more into the plays and figure out route concepts. Those question marks on calls will be filled out before the season!
Thanks for reading, and as always, BOLT UP!