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Final preseason game a big day for WR Javontee Herndon

SAN DIEGO -- An undrafted rookie for the San Diego Chargers in 2014, receiver Javontee Herndon did not make it through the final preseason game against the Arizona Cardinals last year due to a concussion.

So Herndon is hoping for a better result heading into this year’s final preseason game on the road against the San Francisco 49ers on Thursday.

“I just want to do whatever I can to make the team, special teams, offense -- I’ll play defense if they need me to,” he said. “I just want to show them I can do anything that they ask me to.”

In a battle for one of the final couple of roster spots at receiver between Dontrelle Inman, Austin Pettis and Tyrell Williams, Herndon has put his best foot forward.

The 23-year-old Arkansas product knows all three receiver positions, but his focus has been working as a slot receiver with Stevie Johnson and Keenan Allen.

During exhibition play, Herndon has played well when given an opportunity. He has a 42-yard reverse to his credit and is averaging 14.7 yards per punt return, including a long of 30 yards.

“Last year (Antonio) Gates and I on the sideline said, ‘No. 8 just kind of comes alive on game day,’” Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers said about Herndon. “And that’s not to mean he doesn’t practice well. He just kind of flashes more on game days. He plays fast. He’s smart. He’s bigger than you think. He’s had a good camp.”

Rivers said he’s noticed more urgency in Herndon’s communication skills on the field this season -- including when to motion, check out of a call and who he has to block.

“He just seems to be a little more assertive,” Rivers said. “He’s in his second year. He was on the practice squad all year, and I think that comes with time. He feels more comfortable in the offense. He’s had some success in these games, and I think that’s part of it.”

Herndon agreed, saying a year spent on the practice squad has made him a better player.

“It was kind of frustrating doing everything with the team last year, but not dressing on Sundays,” Herndon said. “It just got me a little more dedicated and motivated to do whatever I can to make the final 53.”