Charg­ers giv­ing StubHub test run

Team will prac­tice against the Rams at its tem­po­rary home.

Los Angeles Times - - SPORTS - By Mike DiGio­vanna

The Charg­ers will get their first look at their new tem­po­rary home Satur­day when they host the Rams in a com­bined prac­tice in the 27,000-seat StubHub Cen­ter, which is less than half the size of all but one cur­rent NFL sta­dium.

“To be hon­est, it kind of re­minds me of high school,” Charg­ers coach An­thony Lynn said. “I re­mem­ber that feel­ing I had, and I think the guys are gonna feed off that real small, in­ti­mate crowd that is right on top of us. I think it’s gonna be fun. I’m re­ally look­ing for­ward to it.”

The padded prac­tice, sched­uled from 4:30 to 7 p.m. in the Car­son fa­cil­ity, is open to Charg­ers sea­son-ticket hold­ers and those on the wait list. Seat­ing will be lim­ited to the lower bowl.

Af­ter in­di­vid­ual drills, the two of­fenses will run plays against the op­pos­ing de­fenses. With 90 play­ers on each team, Lynn said there will be plenty of red-zone plays so teams can uti­lize both ends of the field. There

will be full contact but no tack­ling to the ground.

“We’ll go ‘thud’ but we won’t take any­body down,” Lynn said af­ter a light prac­tice at the Jack Ham­mett Sports Com­plex on Fri­day. “It’s not a scrim­mage, but it’s go­ing to be nice to prac­tice against some­one else, be­cause right about now guys are get­ting tired of see­ing each other.”

The Charg­ers, who moved from San Diego in Jan­uary, will open the pre­sea­son against the Seat­tle Sea­hawks in StubHub Cen­ter on Aug. 13, and they’ll play the Rams in an Aug. 26 ex­hi­bi­tion game in the Coli­seum.

The Rams, who re­turned from St. Louis last sea­son, and Charg­ers won’t play in the reg­u­lar sea­son this year, but they will com­pete for the hearts and minds of South­ern Cal­i­for­nia foot­ball fans, as the Charg­ers’ mar­ket­ing slo­gan — “Fight for L.A.” — sug­gests.

Charg­ers run­ning back Melvin Gor­don said he doesn’t feel any ri­valry with the Rams right now, “but there’s no doubt in my mind it’s gonna build up dur­ing the sea­son,” he said Fri­day. “It’s the com­pet­i­tive na­ture of things. You want to be the best team.”

Gor­don is look­ing for­ward to shar­ing a field with Rams run­ning back Todd Gur­ley. The two were the first run­ning backs se­lected in the 2015 draft, Gur­ley go­ing 10th over­all to the Rams and Gor­don 15th to the Charg­ers.

Gur­ley had the bet­ter rookie year, rush­ing 229 times for 1,106 yards and 10 touch­downs in 2015, but he re­gressed in 2016, rush­ing 278 times for 885 yards and six touch­downs.

Af­ter rush­ing 184 times for 641 yards and no touch­downs in 2015, Gor­don had a break­out year in 2016, rush­ing 254 times for 997 yards and 10 touch­downs.

“That’s my boy,” Gor­don said of Gur­ley. “My first year, I didn’t do so well and kind of watched him. Then my sec­ond year, I did a lit­tle bet­ter than he did. We’re both fight­ing to be the best.”

On guard

The Charg­ers moved quickly to add depth to the of­fen­sive line in the wake of For­rest Lamp’s knee in­jury, sign­ing un­drafted free agent Bar­rett Gouger, a two-year starter at Van­der­bilt, af­ter a work­out Thurs­day. To make room for Gouger on the 90man ros­ter, the team waived cen­ter Dillon DeBoer.

Lamp, a sec­ond-round pick out of Western Ken­tucky who was pro­jected to start at right guard, tore the an­te­rior cru­ci­ate lig­a­ment in his right knee in a non-contact in­ci­dent Wed­nes­day. He will un­dergo surgery and miss the sea­son.

“It’s dis­ap­point­ing,” Lynn said. “This was a guy who didn’t miss any time in col­lege. He was get­ting bet­ter every sin­gle day. But like I told For­rest, things hap­pen for a rea­son. He’s got a chance to grow as a man, to get bet­ter do­ing some­thing else, and he’s still a part of this team. He’ll be like an as­sis­tant coach for the of­fen­sive line.”

The 6-foot-4, 310-pound Gouger, 23, moved from guard to cen­ter in 2016 and started all 13 Van­der­bilt games af­ter cur­rent Charg­ers cen­ter Spencer Pul­ley grad­u­ated. Gouger was in­vited to a New York Jets mini­camp af­ter the draft but was not re­tained.

Dos boot

The end of Fri­day’s prac­tice was high­lighted by a com­pet­i­tive, full-team kick­ing ses­son in which Younghoe Koo, an un­drafted free agent, and in­cum­bent Josh Lambo each took five kicks. Koo made all five, in­clud­ing a fi­nal boot of 50 yards into the wind, and Lambo made three of five, fall­ing short at 50 yards.

“The kick­ing and punt­ing bat­tles are two of the bet­ter com­pe­ti­tions on our team,” Lynn said. “I like how they’re step­ping up. I told some­one the other day, if the rest of the groups could com­pete the way those groups are com­pet­ing, we’re gonna be OK.”

Nuts and bolts

Safety Dar­rell Stuckey, who suf­fered a knee in­jury in the Charg­ers’ sea­son fi­nale in Jan­uary, was re­leased af­ter fail­ing his phys­i­cal. Stuckey was a three-time spe­cial teams player of the year, a 2015 Pro Bowl se­lec­tion and five­time team cap­tain. He also was voted the Charg­ers’ 2015 Wal­ter Pay­ton Man of the Year. … Cor­ner­back Ja­son Ver­rett, who had sea­son-end­ing knee surgery af­ter tear­ing his left ACL in the fourth game, came off the phys­i­cally un­able to per­form list and par­tic­i­pated in in­di­vid­ual drills Fri­day. … Re­ceiver Keenan Allen, also re­turn­ing from knee surgery, sat out Fri­day’s prac­tice be­cause of a sore calf, but Lynn said the in­jury is not se­ri­ous. … Re­ceiver Don­trelle In­man, re­cov­er­ing from ab­dom­i­nal surgery, in­creased his par­tic­i­pa­tion in team drills Fri­day. … Among the high­lights Fri­day were two long pass plays from Philip Rivers to Travis Benjamin, one for a touch­down.

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