It’s game day, folks!
The day is here. No more waiting. Your Chargers will take the field inside their home stadium (who cares if they’re technically the away team) for the first time with fans in the stands. It’s going to be even better during the regular season, but this is still a really cool moment for this franchise.
There’s plenty to watch for in this game but I wrote about five specific things I’ll be keeping an eye on following kickoff this evening.
In the comments below, let me know what you’re all watching for before things officially get underway!
Let’s get to it.
How many actual starters will see playing time?
It was no surprise to finally hear Brandon Staley make the announcement that the majority of the team’s stars were not going to see the field at all during the three-game preseason slate. This team has dealt with preseason injuries for far too long and Staley is not going to let them derail his first year at the helm of an NFL team.
We already know some specifics on who won’t be suiting up: Justin Herbert, Keenan Allen, Austin Ekeler, Derwin James, Corey Linsley, and Bryan Bulaga. Those are the names we have gotten thus far, but I would be surprised to see veterans like Chris Harris Jr., and Linval Joseph play tonight, as well.
Justin Herbert and Derwin James will not play at all in the preseason, per Brandon Staley. #Chargers— Daniel Popper (@danielrpopper) August 12, 2021
If I had to guess, young players like Jerry Tillery, Justin Jones, and Nasir Adderley will see some time to start the exhibition but likely no more than a series or two before they are pulled.
Which young wideouts will stand out?
Allen and Williams are out which opens the door for the wealth of youth the Chargers have at wideout to see the field tonight. I’m stoked to watch Josh Palmer in his first game action. He’s been crushing camp and I expect him to surprise this season. 2020 draft picks Joe Reed and K.J. Hill will also get one of their first big opportunities to show that they still belong in a receiver group that seems to be getting stronger and stronger around them.
Austin Proehl is another wideout who has been playing some good ball in camp and is likely to see as many snaps as he can get in tonight’s contest.
Will the kickers hear more boos by the end of the night?
The last time Michael Badgley, Tristan Vizcaino, and Alex Kessman out up some kicks in SoFi Stadium they were all escorted off the field by a chorus of boos from the some 30,000 fans in the stands. Unfortunately, they were rather deserved after the trio combined to go 10-for-19 on their attempts.
I expect Badgley and Vizcaino to see roughly equal opportunities tonight while Kessman gets what he can in the fourth quarter. There’s a chance the offense flounders which leads to few chances to kick overall but one thing is for certain: all three need to step up and step up quick.
Rashawn Slater’s first opportunity against another defense
Slater is expected to play today and that may be one of the biggest reasons for anyone to tune in to the Bolts’ first preseason matchup. The 13th-overall pick will likely miss the opportunity to go up against 2020 breakout star Leonard Floyd or one of the Rams’ actual starters but a test against pass-rushers Ogbonnia Okoronkwo and Justin Hollins will do just fine for the rookie.
Can the tight end group shine brightest under the lights?
A tight end can be a young quarterbacks best friend. On the other hand, when learning a new offense, the chemistry with the outside receivers is one of the last to form. Tight ends running routes are normally closer to the quarterback and easier to complete which means there’s a higher tendency for passers to look their way to find an early rhythm. This is why I think tonight could be a big day for the likes of Donald Parham, Stephen Anderson, and maybe even rookie Tre’ McKitty.