Remember that game against the Seahawks in 2014? I do, Seattle was coming off of a dominant Super Bowl rout of the Broncos, and following a dismantling of the Green Bay Packers in Week 1, they were seen as absolute world-beaters. Nevertheless, the Chargers would prevail, as Rivers tossed three touchdown strikes to Antonio Gates and the football-loving community was left shocked.
Sorry to say it, but tonight’s contest against the Seahawks will most likely not compare to that stunner, as the starters traditionally don’t play much more than a series in their first exhibition game. That’s what preseason is all about, however: getting a better impression of the guys at the depths of your roster in cutting down to your best fifty-three.
With that being said, here’s my five guys to watch when the ball kicks off at 8 PM, or 5 PM for you West-Coasters.
#43 Michael Davis, CB
All signs point towards go for Michael Davis, as reports out of camp suggest that not only is the UDFA right in the thick of the roster-battle, he might even be pushing for a spot as the #3 CB behind starters Jason Verrett and Casey Hayward. The 6-2, 196-pounder out of BYU has the necessary measurables to thrive in new defensive coordinator Gus Bradley’s system, and with an impressive performance over the course of the next month, Davis could be sticking around the team for years to come.
As someone who stopped watching college football as much as in years past, I’m excited to see Davis for the first time. I remember reading that he said he picked the Chargers because he thought there was an opportunity to land a job. Let’s hope he’s the real deal, as seeing Craig Mager line up on the field this upcoming season is a scary thought for Bolts fans.
#66 Dan Feeney, OL
I would put Dan Feeney’s position down as guard, but after seeing time at center in training camp, we’ll have to wait and see where exactly on the interior he slots in come September. I’m interested in seeing how Feeney stacks up against Spencer Pulley and Max Tuerk, two offensive linemen with one more year of experience than the rookie. While it’s great to see Pulley exceed expectations, I’m disappointed with Tuerk’s apparent inability to block NFL competition. I loved the 2016 third-round pick at the time, but it stinks to see that after a year to become acclimated to the big leagues, the supposed “center of the future” appears to be anything but.
I couldn’t have been happier when Telesco doubled down on offensive lineman this year. While Forrest Lamp’s ACL tear is just f#$%ing terrible, taking Feeney in the third round was a great depth/developmental move. All it means is that the former Hoosier will need to step up a lot earlier than we all thought, and I want to see if he’s ready.
#98 Isaac Rochell, DE
Everyone knew Isaac Rochell to be a natural-born leader due to his reputation as a stand-up guy, something Notre Dame strives for in their football team. An NFL.com draft profile described him as a “lunch-pail player from a blue-collar background” with “effort and motor [that] will make him a favorite of coaches he plays for.”
Of course, these kinds of qualities don’t necessarily translate on over to the NFL, where high character usually comes after game-breaking ability in terms of overall importance. That’s why Rochell was pegged to be a late-round draft pick, which proved to be true when TT took a late-round flier on him in the seventh.
Nonetheless, he’s been one of the pleasant surprises in camp thus far, regularly making plays as a strong run-defender and even flashing as a pass-rusher, a role most analysts didn’t think he could fill. I’ll be keeping an eye on #98 to see if he’s worthy of cracking what’s suddenly looking like a very strong group of defensive linemen.
#32 Branden Oliver, RB
It’s going to be weird seeing BO suit up rocking the jersey of a former bearded Chargers star. If I were him, though, I would probably make the switch too, as it must get pretty annoying being referred to as “the next Darren Sproles” every single time he laces up his cleats.
Oliver became a fan favorite when he burst onto the scene against the Jets as an undrafted free agent to the tune of 114 yards and two touchdowns against the NFL’s top ranked rushing defense. And yet, that was two years ago, with the 26-year-old ending a pair of seasons way too early due to injury.
Melvin Gordon proved he could fill in for Danny Woodhead as a receiving back, but with Woody officially moving on, Gordon won’t be able to stay on the field every single down. If Oliver can replace Woodhead and help spell MGIII in the passing game, the team will be that much more dangerous. Will it be the same Branden Oliver stepping onto the field that we saw in 2014? We’ll have to see. The competition between him, Kenjon Barner, Andre Williams, and Kenneth Farrow is wide open, so every preseason snap will be huge between the four veterans in figuring out the roster.
#5 Cardale Jones, QB
I liked Mr. Jones coming out of Ohio State, as I thought that, at best, he brings a skillset reminiscent of a Big Ben to the table. The Chargers acquired him in a great move, too, swapping a conditional seventh-rounder for the 2016 fourth-rounder. Let’s pump the breaks a little, however; even if Cardale is a favorite of Head Coach Anthony Lynn, he still has to crack the roster before we proclaim him Future Successor to the Bolo Tie’s Throne.
Now, he’ll have every chance to do so, as Kellen Clemens and Mike Bercovici aren’t exactly much in the way of competition. Sloppy footwork and nightmare reports from camp be damned, I still would like to see #5 come in and handle the preseason opposition as if he were playing for the starting job. It’s not everyday a guy with as much talent as Cardale Jones falls into your lap, so it’ll speak wonder to the new coaching staff if Jones can show some form of improvement from this preseason to the next.
If there’s something there, then, well, great! If not, well, I guess Telesco will have to make due with just six picks or so next season.