Linebacker Cole Christiansen (#50) former leading tackler at West Point, jars the ball loose from Dallas tight end Sean Mckeon at SoFi Stadium. (Photo courtesy: Robert Attical - BVN).

Jon Gaede | BVN Sports 

The auditions continue as NFL preseason winds down towards that first game against the Las Vegas Raiders, on September 11 at SoFi Stadium. While most of the Charger starters remained on the sidelines in street clothes, the Cowboys exposed some areas that need to be addressed.

Ryan Ficken to reinvent Charger special teams

After fourteen years in Minnesota, former UCLA graduate, assistant Ryan Ficken, has been brought in by Coach Staley to reinvent the LA Chargers’ special teams’ unit. In Minnesota last year, his unit experienced great success, with the most total return yards in the NFC. A member of the Gamma Beta Phi Honor Society, Ficken will likely figure it out with his new challenge in Los Angeles.

The day of reckoning 

For many players, that day of reckoning is quickly approaching, when all 32 NFL teams must cut their current rosters down to 53. That day is today. From the practice facility in Costa Mesa to the pre-season games on Saturday night, every opportunity to show your worth is critical.

Special teams provide opportunities to impress

Throughout the history of the league, many players have earned their way onto an NFL roster with inspired play on special teams. Some are specialists, like punters, place kickers and long snappers, however, there are ten more positions on those teams to fill. Each of those positions provide opportunities for a player to impress, while they wait for a starting job.

Charger wide receiver (#15) Jalen Guyton, fourth year out of Notre Dame and one of many targets available to quarterback Justin Herbert. (Photo courtesy of  Robert Attical – BVN).

Kickoffs and punting can change a game’s momentum 

Coach Staley knows how important special team play can be, it accounts for approximately 20% of all plays in each NFL game. Kickoffs and punts, often overlooked, can also change the momentum of any game. Containing an opponent deep in their own half of the field or putting quick points on the board, often falls to special teams. Dallas Cowboy KaVontae Turpin was that catalyst as he scored on a kickoff and an 86-yard punt return that kept the Chargers behind all night. Turpin was the 2021 USFL MVP and was a thorn for Chargers on Saturday.

“The entire NFL is watching and we are watching the entire NFL”  –  Coach Staley

Chargers Michael Bandy continued to be reliable with eight catches for 68 yards, second year receiver Josh Palmer caught three more for 75 yards and one touchdown. Backup running back Josh Kelley (UCLA) was steady and looked solid in his role. The practice games are completed and as the season nears, Coach Staley commented in the post-game, “The entire NFL is watching and we are watching the entire NFL”. 

Former UCLA runningback Josh Kelley

Josh Kelley (UCLA) was steady and looked solid in his role. “The entire NFL is watching and we are watching the entire NFL”, Coach Staley commented in the post-game, 

All-Pro Safety Derwin James signs extension  

During the pre-week, the Chargers signed two-time Pro Bowl strong safety Derwin James, to a four year, $76 million-dollar extension, making him the highest paid NFL player at his position. James thanked his mother for working two jobs throughout his youth, also high school coaches and college coaches at Florida State for helping him become successful.

Jon Gaede

While on assignment for GamePro Magazine in 1996, Jon Gaede met former Black Voice Sports Editor, Leland Stein at a Los Angeles Lakers’ game. They formed a working relationship which has endured for 24 years. In addition to African safaris, theater productions, Footsteps to Freedom Tours with Black Voice News Publisher Emeritus Cheryl Brown, concerts and portraits, Jon’s true passion comes from shooting action sports images. Jon has covered a variety of prep, collegiate and professional sports from track & field to boxing, including six Olympic Games.