COSTA MESA, Calif. -- When the starters were in, things looked good for the Los Angeles Chargers in preseason play.
However, the problem for general manager Tom Telesco is the significant drop-off between his frontline players and backups, particularly considering how many injuries this team has dealt with in the past two years.
When Philip Rivers was at quarterback, the Chargers scored touchdowns on all three of his preseason drives. On drives without Rivers, the Chargers offense managed just one touchdown, compared to three touchdowns scored by the defense.
"It was just sloppy," said head coach Anthony Lynn after his team committed five turnovers in a 23-13 loss to the San Francisco 49ers on Thursday in the final preseason game. "And that's disappointing because that's one of the things I wanted to do with the second unit: get those guys playing more efficient and Chargers football. But we didn't get that done this preseason with the second unit."
Adding depth along the offensive line, in the secondary, at linebacker and at running back should be points of emphasis for the Chargers as Telesco works to cut down to 53 players by Saturday's deadline.
Telesco said having one cut from 90 players this year instead of reducing the roster twice -- down to 75 after the third preseason game and then to 53, as the NFL has done in years past -- should not affect his process.
"We'll have a bunch of players released by Saturday," Telesco said. "But all that work is done beforehand. So it's not like Saturday night we'e looking at 1,100 players and deciding who may be able to help us. All that scouting has been done beforehand, so that's no different than before."
Telesco told reporters after the game that Thursday's performance could play a role in whether a player stays or goes on Saturday. "It confirms what you've seen," he said. "Certain guys played their way on and certain guys played their way off."
One of those players who seemed to play his way onto the roster was undrafted rookie running back Austin Ekeler, who finished with 108 yards from scrimmage (50 rushing, 58 passing) on Thursday, showing elusiveness for a second straight game.
"I think he's been averaging two tackles a game on special teams," Lynn said. "When he touches the ball, he makes people miss, he breaks tackles. He picks up blitzes. He catches balls. He's a good young back."