Cardale Jones, Geno Smith battling for Chargers No. 2 QB

Saturday's preseason opener will give the Chargers a longer look at backup quarterbacks Geno Smith and Cardale Jones. Kirby Lee/USA TODAY Sports

COSTA MESA, Calif. -- Los Angeles Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn will get his first opportunity to evaluate this year's team when the Chargers hit the road to face the Arizona Cardinals in the team's preseason opener on Saturday.

Lynn would not say how much the starters will play, but did provide a hint, pointing to how smoothly things went a year ago when the Chargers hosted the Seattle Seahawks in the team's exhibition opener.

In that game, Philip Rivers and the starting offense played a series, while the starting defense played about a quarter.

If they repeat that formula, someone like second-year outside linebacker James Onwualu could get a long look when the backups take the field for the majority of the game.

An undrafted rookie signed out of Notre Dame last season, Onwualu was one of six undrafted rookies who made the final, 53-man roster last September, and is once again fighting to stay around.

"Things are going well," Onuwalu said about training camp. "I feel a lot better coming back in the second year. I'm comfortable with the system and comfortable with the schedule and being around the guys. I feel like I've really made a huge leap in my game.

"Once you get out of thinking so much about what your assignment is and where your alignment is, then you can actually start learning from the coaches the pre-snaps reads we're trying to see on each play, you pick things up faster once you get those things out of the way."

Here's three things to look for on Saturday: How much better the Chargers tackle on defense after allowing a league-worst 4.9 yards per carry last season; who performs well in the kicking competition between Caleb Sturgis and Roberto Aguayo; and what young tight end emerges in the battle for the No. 2 tight end job behind Virgil Green.

Let's take a look at a question from this week's mailbag:

@eric_d_williams: Lynn said one of the things he's watching closely is the competition between Cardale Jones and Geno Smith for the No. 2 quarterback job behind Rivers.

According to the first depth chart, both are listed as the No. 2 quarterback.

Jones arrived just before training camp last year in a trade with the Buffalo Bills, so he had to learn the offense quickly, which affected his performance during preseason play.

Jones completed 36 of 61 passes (59 percent) for 343 yards, with no touchdown and three interceptions during exhibition play last season. He was sacked eight times, finishing with a 54.2 passer rating.

"They are extremely important and I go into these games confident," Jones said about the preseason. "I know when I got here last year and I had practiced just a week and a half, so on 80 percent of the plays if the first read wasn't there I was running or finding my back," he said laughing.

"But now I feel comfortable going through my progressions, but still taking off or finding my back if I have to."

Smith backed up Eli Manning with the New York Giants last year and signed a one-year deal with the Chargers in free agency to compete with Jones.

"You've got to approach it like you're a starter," Smith said about the quarterback competition "That's been my whole mantra my entire time in the league: I approach every single day like I'm a starter. I expect great things from myself and I put the pressure on myself."

A second-round selection by the Jets in the 2013 draft, unlike Jones, Smith has played a lot in the NFL. Smith is 12-19 as a starter, completing 58 percent of his passes during a five-year NFL career for 6,174 passing yards, with 29 touchdowns and 36 interceptions. Smith has a 72.9 career passer rating.

Both Jones and Smith have had their moments during training camp, but ultimately who wins the No. 2 job will be determined in large part by how they perform in preseason games, starting Saturday.

For answers to more mailbag questions, click here.