The Los Angeles Chargers will close out the 2017 preaseason this evening in Santa Clara, CA, when they take on the San Francisco 49ers at Levi’s Stadium. While players that are considered ‘roster locks’ will likely have the night off, tonight’s contest is the last chance for ‘on the bubble’ players to prove themselves worthy of a roster spot.
For the Bolts, general manager Tom Telesco, head coach Anthony Lynn, and the coaching staff will be keeping a sharp eye on the field. For the players, it will be their last and best opportunity to showcase their talent (for the Chargers, as well as other teams) as the final rosters are set for the regular season.
Here are few things to watch for during tonight’s contest:
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Put me in, Coach…
Lynn will have a clear cut agenda for evaluating the performances that he will see tonight. Earlier this week, Lynn provided detailed insight on the traits that will catch his attention.
In the following statement, Lynn noted:
“First of all, does he know what he’s doing after training camp? Is he consistent? Dependable? In shape – good enough shape to finish a ball game? And then we ask, does he have enough talent? I kind of like it in that order because I’ve been around this league long enough to know that it takes more than talent to win a championship. So (we) look at those things hard.”
Lynn’s statement confirms that this years Bolts team will be molded in his image. He has a firm grasp on his vision for the team and knows the value of having players that bring more than just raw talent to the table. From his time with the Buffalo Bills and New York Jets, he has plenty of experience scouting a team that won a championship doing just that; the New England Patriots.
Battle of the Back-Up Bolts
One of the players that will be getting a longer look tonight is quarterback Cardale Jones. While Jones’s struggles have been highlighted, he has become much more comfortable under center as time has progressed. Let’s not forget that Jones was acquired just days before the start of training camp. The learning curve for a quarterback is both short and sharp. However, Jones has the talent and the savvy to overcome that, and this may end up being his best game of the preseason.
Kellen Clemens has also struggled this preseason. He will undoubtedly look to put his best foot forward tonight in Santa Clara. While fans clamor for ‘More Cardale’ (said in my best ‘Christopher Walken, more cowbell’ voice), Clemens is still the most experienced back-up on the roster. Lynn has hinted at carrying three quarterbacks on the roster, so look for Jones, Clemens and popular, but unheralded, Mark Bercovici to share reps against the Niners. Unfortunately, one is sure to go.
Decisions…Decisions…on Key Positions
Starting and reserve roles at many positions are still available. However, Lynn has admitted there are certain positions on which he will be especially focused. The secondary will surely command much attention, as the team still has decisions to make on the second and third units at cornerback and safety. The kicker and punter competitions remain a hot topic as well. However, the biggest concern for the Bolts is depth along the offensive line. The first team O-line played very well against the Rams last week. In order for the Chargers to consistently maintain that level of performance throughout the season, they will need to be spot-on in selecting the linemen that will be protecting Philip Rivers and the offense this year.
Meanwhile, for San Francisco…
Niners head coach Kyle Shanahan said on Monday that the team will play some starters in Thursday’s game. Shanahan said that “most” starters will sit, but that “it’s hard to sit all of them.” As with the Bolts, his ‘roster locks’ will likely be sitting this one out.
On defense, the 49ers have some inexperienced players starting at cornerback, linebacker and along the defensive line. Shanahan may wish to play some starters along side those players, to provide some stability there. For the offense, most starters such as Brian Hoyer, Carlos Hyde and Pierre Garcon will likely have the night off. Running back Tim Hightower should see the bulk of the carries tonight, as he is clearly on the roster bubble.
Game Time: 7pm, Pacific
Although, the Chargers starters will most likely be sitting for this one, there are still a number of compelling story lines to watch for tonight. As the Bolts gear up for Week one, we have the opportunity to see a possible star in the making. For many others, this game will mean a farewell to the blue and gold. All in all, it should be a fun contest to watch.
– Mike D’Abate is the Managing Editor for cover32/Chargers and covers the Los Angeles Chargers.