COSTA MESA — Derwin James said the throng of Chargers fans sitting behind the team’s sideline chanted his name before the season opener against Washington last week.
Austin Ekeler also felt the love from the Chargers fans who made the trip to the nation’s capital. Many sections at FedExField were covered in powder blue and sunshine gold during the Chargers’ Week 1 victory.
“We got some love out here on the East Coast,” Ekeler said. “Shout out to all the fans that came out (Sunday). That was awesome. Looking forward to having them back at SoFi as well.”
Chargers fans were out in full force for the first road game of the season, but now they’ll need to protect their home turf with the Dallas Cowboys facing the Chargers at SoFi Stadium on Sunday. The Cowboys are one of the most popular teams in the NFL and they’re known for their strong road following.
Many Cowboys fans will likely be in attendance for the first Chargers’ regular-season home game with fans at SoFi Stadium, but they might not dominate the Inglewood venue after the showing Chargers fans had in Washington.
“A lot of excitement,” quarterback Justin Herbert said about welcoming fans to SoFi Stadium. “It’s been a lot of fun being able to play at that place. Last year was awesome, but to not have fans and go through that was a little weird. (Fans are) some of the aspects that you miss about football. Having fans there this Sunday will be a cool experience.”
The Chargers’ fan base in Los Angeles has grown in the past year since Herbert made his debut against the Kansas City Chiefs last September at SoFi Stadium. Herbert’s success and the addition of new coach Brandon Staley has led to strong season ticket sales for the Chargers, who relocated from San Diego to Los Angeles in 2017.
Opposing fans often took over Dignity Health Sports Park, the Chargers’ temporary home venue in Carson from 2017 to 2019. Fans weren’t allowed to attend the Chargers’ first season at SoFi Stadium last season because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
But that year without fans might have benefited the Chargers. The newfound excitement surrounding the organization was noticeable in Washington D.C. last week.
Chargers attire was easy to spot at the Lincoln Memorial and in front of the White House. Chargers jerseys also stood out at the bars and restaurants in the Georgetown area.
It was a good first showing for the Chargers, but now they’ll have competition from Cowboys fans at home.
“I definitely felt love out there from my fans,” James said. “We appreciate all that.”
ZEKE HAS STALEY’S FULL ATTENTION
Many are wondering if Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott is still one of the best at his position after a subpar performance in Week 1 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Elliott is coming off a disappointing 2020 season when he recorded career lows in rushing yards (979) and average yards per carry (4.0), albeit behind an injury-plagued offensive line for much of the season. He followed that with 33 yards on 11 carries in their 2021 season opener last week in Tampa Bay.
But Staley isn’t questioning Elliott’s skill level. He views the three-time Pro Bowler as one of the top five running backs in the league.
“Zeke has my full attention,” Staley said Wednesday. “I have full respect for this (running) back. My eyes tell me that this guy is a top two to top five back.”
Staley, who was the Rams’ defensive coordinator last season, remembers how physical Elliott was as a runner last year when the Cowboys faced the Rams in Week 1 at SoFi Stadium.
“He’s a physical guy,” Staley said. “I’ve got full respect for him and what he’s accomplished in this league. I still think he’s a premium back.”
DERWIN MISSES PRACTICE
James was one of six players who didn’t practice Wednesday.
James was on the injury report with a toe injury. It’s unknown if the injury is considered serious or if James was given a rest day to start Week 2.
James played in his first game in more than a year last week against Washington. …
Safety Nasir Adderley (groin), right tackle Bryan Bulaga (groin/back), edge rusher Kyler Fackrell (knee), cornerback Chris Harris Jr. (shoulder) and defensive tackle Justin Jones (calf) didn’t practice. Defensive back Trey Marshall (ankle) returned to practice as a limited participant. …
The Cowboys received devastating injury news after two-time Pro Bowl defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence broke his foot in practice on Wednesday. He’s reportedly expected to miss six to eight weeks. Since their opener, the Cowboys have lost four starters: Wide receiver Michael Gallup was placed on injured reserve with a calf strain, right tackle La’el Collins was suspended five games for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy, pass rusher Randy Gregory was placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list and now Lawrence is out.
— Los Angeles Chargers (@chargers) September 15, 2021
— Gilbert Manzano (@GManzano24) September 15, 2021