HomeFootball DirtIn the final stretch of the Chargers' disappointing season, rookies are seeing...

In the final stretch of the Chargers’ disappointing season, rookies are seeing more time on the field.

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Before their 2023 campaign turned into a lost season, the Los Angeles Chargers gave plenty of playing time to rookies Quentin Johnston, Tuli Tuipulotu and Derius Davis.

The rest of the Chargers’ draft class is getting some valuable regular-season snaps as Los Angeles (5-11) concludes one of the most disappointing seasons in franchise history.

Offensive lineman Jordan McFadden, linebacker Daiyan Henley and defensive lineman Scott Matlock saw extended playing time during Sunday’s 16-9 loss to the Denver Broncos.

The loss was the Chargers’ fourth straight and seventh of their last eight. They have lost both games since coach Brandon Staley and general manager Tom Telesco were fired on Dec. 15.

McFadden, a fifth-round pick, had seen only 15 offensive snaps before playing all 62 at left guard against the Broncos with Zion Johnson inactive due to a neck injury.

McFadden graded well in his first NFL start. He didn’t allow a pressure or sack in pass blocking.

“When you do not hear a guy on the offensive line, it is a good thing,” interim coach Giff Smith said. “I think he proved he is an NFL player and obviously a good draft pick for us. Hopefully we can get Zion back, but definitely with McFadden moving forward we are really pleased.”

When Henley was selected in the third round, it was with the expectation he would contribute on special teams. Henley has done that, but against the Broncos he had three tackles in eight snaps at middle linebacker.

Smith said Henley struggled early but improved in the second half.

Sixth-round pick Matlock saw a season-high 32 snaps and is getting more playing time after Sebastian Joseph-Day was waived on Dec. 22. Joseph-Day ended up signing with the San Francisco 49ers.

Most of the attention related to the rookies continues to be on Johnston, who has faced a tough learning curve. With Keenan Allen and Joshua Palmer inactive due to injuries, Johnston was held to three receptions for 29 yards, all during the fourth quarter.

Johnston was covered by Denver cornerback Pat Surtain II on 32 of his 34 routes. Johnston was targeted three times when matched up against Surtain and had two catches for 20 yards.

“I thought Quentin is making strides. It showed out there with some big catches in the fourth quarter. I think that is the stuff as a rookie that you can build on,” Smith said. “That is a tough matchup against Patrick, and I thought he held his own. He competed hard and made some catches for us down the stretch.”

The entire draft class is likely to see more playing time in the finale against Kansas City. With a new general manager and coaching staff coming in over the next couple months, getting snaps and time on tape is valuable.

WHAT’S WORKING

Getting sacks. The Chargers have 47 on the season after sacking Jarrett Stidham twice. That is tied for the fifth-most by the franchise since 1982, when sacks became an official statistic, and the most since 2010, when the Chargers finished with 47. They lead the league with 29 third-down sacks.

WHAT NEEDS HELP

Scoring touchdowns. Los Angeles has not reached the end zone in two of its last five games. It is also tied with Carolina with a league-low eight touchdowns over the last seven games.

STOCK UP

Alex Erickson. The seventh-year receiver, who was on the practice squad at the beginning of the season, had seven receptions for 98 yards. It was Erickson’s best game since 2019, when he had eight receptions for 137 yards for Cincinnati in a loss to Jacksonville.

STOCK DOWN

Essang Bassey. The cornerback was a couple steps behind Lil’Jordan Humphrey on what ended up being a 54-yard touchdown. Bassey had a chance to bring down Humphrey at the Chargers 35-yard line and limit him to a 19-yard gain, but he slipped while trying to make the tackle.

INJURIES

LB Joey Bosa remains on injured reserve but continues to practice under the 21-day window to return.

KEY NUMBER

16 — Sacks for Khalil Mack, a career high for the 11th-year linebacker. Mack recorded his 100th career sack in his 150th game on Sunday.

NEXT STEPS

The Chargers have dropped eight of their last nine games to division opponents and haven’t defeated the Chiefs when hosting them since 2013.

 

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