Chargers Set Tempo, Rookies Emerge in Loss

Time to focus on scoreboard isn't now

Vincent Jackson stalked down the sideline and saluted toward the end zone.

Seven plays later, Mike Tolbert was dancing in it.

Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers and the first-team offense built a fast tempo Thursday evening in the team's preseason opener, but despite the emergence of rookies, the beat didn't last in a 24-17 home loss to the Seattle Seahawks.

Rivers was 5 of 6 for 87 yards and a touchdown in a quick but methodical 10-play, 89-yard drive that lasted less than six minutes.

Coach Norv Turner said starting a game fast is about the “way you approach it.”

“One of the things we're trying to do is create a tempo in terms of (getting) in and out of the huddle,” Turner said. “I thought Philip did a great job of (that) and getting them up to the line. Defensively, with our starters, we got lined up. We were ready to play when they broke the huddle. Those things help in the mindset we're talking about.”

Clear as the sky over Qualcomm Stadium, the scoreboard showed a winner and loser.

But the time to critique it, to harp on being outscored 24-7 in the second half, to disparage losing a fumble inside the 25-yard line that leads to a go-ahead fourth-quarter score, can wait a month when the Chargers begin their season at the same site on Sept. 11.

More prevalent, a few young players improved their stock to face the Minnesota Vikings when it matters.

The kickoff return team could have cleared a forest for undrafted rookie Bryan Walters with its blocking, and he broke through an attempted shoelace tackle to score from 103 yards out.

He followed the jolt with catches on both his targets for 31 yards.

The former Cornell wide receiver is too smart for comfort, saying he still has a “long road ” to travel before making the team at perhaps its most log-jammed position.

“We still have three weeks of preseason,” Walters said. “Got to work hard every day and three more games. Still a lot of work to do.”

Sixth-round draft pick Jordan Todman maintained his strong training camp with the second-team offense after Tolbert and Ryan Mathews split the first unit's 10 snaps.

Todman, a star running back at UConn, showed a little bit of everything, leading the team in rushing with 30 yards on six carries and catching a team-high four passes on four targets for 21 yards.

He remains considerably ahead of his competition to sew up the team's No. 3 running back spot that opened when Darren Sproles departed via free agency.

“He made a good impression,” Turner said. “He's a good inside runner. He's got very good quickness. Obviously, he caught the ball when it was thrown to him. He's really what we hoped he'd be in looking at him in practice and in this game.”

Defensively, middle linebackers Donald Butler and Jonas Mouton showed well in their first career preseason game. Rookie cornerback Marcus Gilchrist was solid with what may have been the most reps on the field.

Defensive end Corey Liuget, the team's first-round pick in April, showed noticeable explosiveness, pushing offensive linemen backward and shedding blocks.

“I like what he does on the inside,” Turner said. "He's going to help us."

Undrafted rookie linebacker Darryl Gamble had a team-high seven tackles, two of which were for loss, and a 13-yard sack. A second sack was nullified by a penalty.

In the big picture, the Chargers want a fast start to their season.

For now, their preseason will have to do.

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