As much as the general public will be keeping their eyes on the explosive offense, there are plenty of young playmakers on the defensive side that could see significant playing time from the jump.
In what could be a year full of improved depth at several positions, here’s who the staff will be paying especially close attention to on Saturday night.
Kyle Posey: Rayshawn Jenkins for me. Wanna see if that’s the extra DB they bring in. How he’s adapting to playing free safety as opposed to in the box and slot last year. I’ll be interested to see how aggressive he is compared to Tre Boston.
Matthew Stanley: On defense I’ll be watching Rayshawn Jenkins. The team really needs him to be able to play FS so that they can get the most out of Derwin James, and I’m not sure if Jahleel Addae should go back to FS, even though last year he showed improvement vs the pass.
Jamie Hoyle: I’ll go with Kyzir White (leaving the obvious Derwin James pick to someone else). I just loved watching his college tape and am excited to see how his game translates to the NFL. I have a hunch he’s going to be a guy the defense feeds off of when he’s on the field because of the reckless abandon with which he plays.
Isaac Gutierrez: To me, it’s Uchenna Nwosu. He has the potential to be a huge improvement over Kyle Emanuel but there’s also a possibility he isn’t ready to contribute from day one. He could go either way and I wouldn’t be surprised regardless of the outcome.
Ruben Gonzalez: I am intrested in watching DE Whitney Richardson. He’ll probably be in on the 3rd team but I remember at the scrimmage seeing him flash when he was in there. There’s a log jam at DE right now, so I don’t expect him to jump over anybody, but I am hoping he can make this team and be a real solidifying figure on the end rather than just make it on the practice squad.
Louis Gorini: I will be watching Darius Philon. The middle of the defense needs to improve from last year. Darius flashed in many instances last year, especially in his pass rush. I want to see if he can continue his upward projection and move the middle of the pile to get in the face of the QB. What will also be interesting to watch how he fares against the run.
Jamie Sewell: On defense, my choice is B.J Clay, but that’s just because he went to Georgia State, so I’ll give you a second name - Jatavis Brown. He had a real down year last season, and I want to see if he can bounce back in a big way, starting tomorrow.
Cody Young: I’ll go with the obvious answer of Derwin James that Jamie so graciously left on the table. I’m still in bewilderment as to how the Chargers were able to land him where they did in the draft. He is the player I’m most looking forward to watching this season, and I can’t wait to see him in action for the first time.
Michael Peterson: While there are a large number of interesting UDFAs in this year’s haul, none have peaked my interest more than LB D’Juan Hines out of Houston. With inside linebacker depth being one of the weakest on the team, Hines has the opportunity to win a job over the likes of Hayes Pullard and Nick Dzubnar to create some solid depth behind Denzel Perryman. After a year that saw Pullard grade out as one of the worst players in the NFL by Pro Football Focus, regardless of position, the Chargers will need to someone in order to make the talent drop-off much less dramatic.