In all, Emanuel played 25 defensive snap and eight on special teams. He finished with four quarterback hits and two tackles, including a tackle for a loss. He also was credited with a forced fumble on a punt return recovered by Tourek Williams.
But the most impressive play was a second-quarter sack of Dallas Cowboys reserve quarterback Dustin Vaughan for a 7-yard loss.
“We had an outside linebacker blitz on with both guys coming,” Emanuel said about the play. “I noticed my tackle was setting me a little wider the play before and he did it again, so I made an inside move and was fortunate to get to the quarterback.”
Emanuel received some ribbing from teammates afterward for not having a sack dance prepared.
“Some guys were giving me some grief because my celebration wasn’t really good enough, I guess,” he said, smiling. “But I didn’t really know what to do. My first NFL sack, I was just looking for someone to celebrate with.
“I don’t just want to be out there. I want to make some plays and do something. And I was pretty excited I was able to do that.”
A fifth-round selection out of North Dakota State, so far the NFL stage has not been too big for Emanuel. He has made the transition from playing mostly defensive end in college to standing up in a two-point stance as an outside linebacker in San Diego’s 3-4 defensive system.
Chargers coach Mike McCoy said Emanuel has stood out because of his effort since showing up for offseason work in May. With his ability to quickly pick up San Diego’s defense, along with consistent effort and production, Emanuel earned some snaps in practice with the starters this week.
He could see time with the first unit in San Diego’s next preseason game, against the Arizona Cardinals on Saturday.
“I think he’ll tell you there’s plenty of mistakes in there, and it’s a matter of recognition,” McCoy said. “And as you play against our offense every day, you’re going to start seeing some tendencies and some certain things that players do, and he’s got to start building that library of how certain players play against him. But he’s done an outstanding job.”
The Chargers need Emanuel to help fill the void left by Williams, who will be out for an extended period with a broken foot suffered in the game against the Cowboys.
“It was tough out here for Tourek,” Emanuel said. “He’s a guy that’s worked really hard this offseason since I’ve been here. It’s unfortunate, but it’s just an opportunity for me and everyone else. Injuries happen, and you hate to see it. But when it happens, people need to step up.”
Emanuel turns 24 today. He has lost just three games in the last four years. Emanuel finished with 19.5 sacks his final season at North Dakota State, so the maturity, attention to detail and high expectations remain, which is a good thing for the Chargers.
“I think after a few plays I just kind of looked around, and it was a cool moment just being out there facing the Dallas Cowboys playing against the San Diego Chargers in front of all of those fans,” Emanuel said. “It was fun. But after a while you settle in. You realize it’s just 11-on-11. It’s still football.
“I felt good. I’m getting more comfortable every day I’m in there. People made a big deal about me switching positions, but a lot of it is just like playing defensive end. There’s playing the run, setting the edges and rushing the passer, and that’s what I did a lot of today [Thursday].”