The Chargers started off the preseason by showcasing some serious potential and improvement in problem areas from last year. Their backup quarterback Easton Stick performed admirably, and they bested their opponent in all three phases of the game and through all layers of their depth. Best of all, multiple depth pieces rose to the occasion and made cases for themselves to hold a spot on either the active or practice squad roster. Let’s explore which players fans should keep an eye on today, and why.
Week 1 standouts we want to see more of
This was an easy first selection to this list. Dotson had an incredibly productive and efficient performance in week one, and his emergence likely influenced the coaching staff to finally move on from Larry Rountree. Ideally, Dotson should be given earlier carries to see if his speed and vision translates against NFL-caliber talent.
Isaiah Spiller/Joshua Kelley
While we’re talking about Dotson, it’s fair to just lump in the run game as a whole. After two years of Joe Lombardi’s milquetoast rushing scheme, seeing a ground attack flourish was a sight for sore eyes. In last season’s week two matchup, Kelley and Spiller averaged 2.6 and 1.0 yards per carry against the Dallas Cowboys. Kellen Moore’s Cowboys running backs averaged 3.48 yards per carry in this same game. Should Kelley and Spiller continue to build on last week’s averages of 6.0 and 5.4 yards, the trend lines heading into the regular season will appear very, very favorable.
Bailey had an impressive performance last week against the Rams, allowing only one pressure on 18 opportunities while lined up at right guard. While Jamaree Salyer had a less-than-stellar performance, Bailey built on last year’s decent preseason where he only allowed four pressures on 92 opportunities, earning him a pass blocking efficiency rating of 97.3%. Prior to this offseason, he’s actually bounced between working on the bookends, taking snaps at both right and left tackle in 2022, and working at both guard spots in 2019.
Bailey isn’t a spring chicken; he’s been in the league since 2019 and is a few months away from turning 28. His play has steadily improved in each preseason. Don’t be surprised if he continues to improve, showing veteran-like awareness and presence that comes with gutting it out on the practice squad for four years before getting his chance to show-out. His versatility will also give him an edge in justifying a position on the active roster.
Cam Brown impressed last week with his ability to consistently make tackles, and by only allowing three catches for 19 yards on six targets. There’s a significant possibility the Chargers elect to start JC Jackson on the PUP, as JC isn’t certain whether or he’ll be physically and mentally ready by week one. If Jackson doesn’t initially take a spot on the final-53, there’s room for a player like Brown to sneak onto the week one active roster, before ultimately sliding back into a practice squad spot.
Week 2 bounce-back candidates
We aren’t blaring any warning alarms here yet; drops can happen early for young receivers before comfort and familiarity sets in and allows them to thrive. In fact, this would like be a much smaller footnote on last week’s game had Johnston’s scouting report not called out the exact issues in his game that held him back last week. Quentin was targeted six time, but only caught three passes, dropping one, and failing to secure either of his two contested catches. Johnston has the athleticism and the body to be a prototypical WR1. Fans are looking to see his assets translate into a receiver that asserts himself when the ball is in the air.
The coaches made a point to get Johnston back in the game after these drops, and fed him an easy touchdown target to rebuild some confidence. Except to see some more force-fed opportunities, and hope that Johnston makes the most of them and builds off of those week one jitters.
There is no reason to believe Salyer won’t improve throughout the preseason as he learns the guard position. That said, he isn’t a player the Chargers invested heavily in, and the vast majority of his college experience was spent on the bookends of the offensive line. Should Salyer continue to struggle at guard, Brandon Staley may be content with Jamaree providing exceptional tackle depth or competition with Trey on the right side. The onus is on Salyer to prove he can be as effective at guard as he was at tackle, otherwise the starting right guard start might become a surprise camp battle.
Woods upset fans with a bonehead unsportsmanlike conduct penalty following a third down stop, extending the Rams drive and ultimately leading to a touchdown. However, Woods looked far more comfortable in the game than last season, and showed a surprising ability to read a run and come downhill with electrifying speed. His physicality still leaves plenty to be desired, but Woods is showing flashes of the potential that led to Tom Telesco’s third round selection in 2022.
These are just a handful of players to be on the lookout for today. Are there any you would add to this list?