CARSON, Calif. -- Anthony Lynn’s main goal as a head coach in his first preseason game with the Los Angeles Chargers is a simple one: finding some diamonds in the rough.
“We’re just looking for guys to help make our decision easier,” Lynn said. “We want guys to go out there and make plays and stand out. You always find a couple in the preseason that change your mind.”
In the Chargers' StubHub Center debut, expect quarterback Philip Rivers to plays one series while the rest of the starters on both sides of the football will play a series or two.
With the starters playing a handful of snaps, the focus for Lynn will be on evaluating those bubble players fighting for spots on the back end of the roster.
“Our goal is to execute and go out and evaluate these men,” Lynn said. “We want to put them in positions where they can be evaluated, and see who can make this football team.”
That said, here are five things to watch for as the Chargers play their first game at the StubHub Center:
What back emerges as complement to Melvin Gordon? Branden Oliver is listed as second on the Chargers’ depth chart at running back behind the starter Gordon. However, Lynn said he likes the depth overall in the group, which includes Andre Williams, Kenjon Barner, Kenneth Farrow and undrafted rookie Austin Ekeler. So we’ll see how the reps are doled out, who makes plays and overall how the Chargers run the football against one of the best run defenses in the NFL in the Seahawks.
How does that offensive line look? With three new starters up front, offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt said he’s interested in watching how the first group plays overall during exhibition play, starting on Sunday. While left tackle Russell Okung, left guard Matt Slauson and right tackle Joe Barksdale are pretty much locked in as starters, there’s still competition at center and right guard. For now, Spencer Pulley will start out at center and Kenny Wiggins at right guard. “I think our first guys have already started to bond with the reps they’ve gotten,” Whisenhunt said. “But this is a different environment. It was good that we had a chance to practice in StubHub, so at least that element is out of the way. Now at least we know what to expect, and we’re excited to go in there. But the big thing is how are they going to work together when they’re on their double-teams or single blocks? Are they going to hold up on their one-on-ones and how well are they going to communicate?”
Which player steps up in kicking battle? Both incumbent Josh Lambo and undrafted rookie Younghoe Koo have had their moments in camp so far in the competition at kicker. And the same can be said about second-year pro Drew Kaser and undrafted rookie Toby Baker at punter. Lynn said both the kicker and punter positions have been two of the most contested battles in camp, and I expect that to continue on Sunday.
The need for speed on defense: Trademarks of a Bradley-led defense are speed to the football, length and athleticism. So I’ll be looking to see if those things are on display with all the different base and sub packages that the Chargers use. Individually, I’m interested to see how young players like defensive end Chris McCain and outside linebacker James Onwualu perform for the first time in a game situation in Bradley’s defense.
Will the StubHub be rocking? The Chargers hope to create an environment in the 30,000-seat StubHub Center that gives them a home-field advantage. But can they do that in L.A., which seems pretty ho-hum about the team’s arrival? It will be interesting to see how many folks show up to see what the product looks like and how loud the stadium is on game day.