Five Chargers to watch during Saturday’s preseason opener at Arizona

CARSON, CA, SUNDAY, AUGUST 20, 2017 - Chargers quarterback Cardale Jones is sacked by Saints defensi
Chargers quarterback Cardale Jones, shown in action against the New Orleans Saints last preseason, is battling for the No. 2 spot behind Philip Rivers.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

We know Philip Rivers will be side-arm slinging once the season begins. We know Melvin Gordon’s hair will hang out the back of his helmet as the Chargers pound the ball on first and 10. We know Keenan Allen will get open and do so again and again.

We’re sure we’ll see Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa torture quarterbacks and Casey Hayward harass receivers.

And above all else, we know there’s no reason to see any of these things when the Chargers start their four-game preseason schedule against the Cardinals at 7 p.m. Saturday in Arizona.

Anthony Lynn and the rest of the Chargers coaches know what their stars can do, too, and they’re just as uninterested in seeing them on the field Saturday.


It’s not that simple, though.

“People don’t want to get them hurt in preseason,” Lynn said. “A lot of starters don’t want to be held out, as preseason gets them ready for the regular season. It’s a fine line there.”

But for fans, it doesn’t have to be.

The reason to watch preseason games — outside of nervously pacing until your favorite players have safely exited the field — is to look at the edges of the roster for players who could make an impact in the future.


Last year, running back Austin Ekeler broke out in games three and four of the preseason, playing his way onto the roster and eventually becoming a key part of the offense.

This year, the Chargers have other candidates who could end up being impact players. Here are some to watch against the Cardinals:

QB Cardale Jones

If Philip Rivers plays at all — and if he does, it’ll likely only be one series — Geno Smith and Jones still will do the bulk of the quarterback work as the battle for No. 2 continues.

It feels as if Smith, the more experienced of the two, has the edge because the Chargers know what it looks like when he leads a team. Jones, however, has the physical gifts to win the job if he looks comfortable in game situations.

He’s got a massive arm that can rocket the ball over the field. Problem is, the ball can fly all over the field. If he can get into a rhythm and be accurate, Jones can start to build his resumé.

DE Isaac Rochell

Offseason workouts are a tough time to stand out, especially if you play along the offensive or defensive line. However, a trimmed-down Rochell, a seventh-round pick a season ago, was impossible to miss.


Switching to a plant-based diet, Rochell comes into his second season leaner and faster, capable of playing defensive end and defensive tackle.

With Joey Bosa likely watching because of a foot injury, Rochell will get a lot of reps with the first- and second-string defenses — a chance to put all his offseason work and salad eating to work.

LB Kyzir White

One of the “buzziest” names in the first two weeks of training camp, it’ll be interesting to see how White handles linebacking in a game setting after playing safety in college.

The Chargers’ fourth-round pick has the size and speed necessary to help add depth, and maybe even start, at linebacker. It’s just that no one is sure if the projections will come to fruition.

He has impressed coaches through the first part of training camp, but Saturday we’ll see if it translates into game situations.

WR Artavis Scott

Some of the flashiest catches in offseason workouts and at the start of camp have been made by Scott, a college teammate of last year’s first-round pick, Mike Williams.


Scott, who spent all of last season on the practice squad, is a strong receiver with a knack for making spectacular catches in tight coverage, though he’s had some issues with drops on easier opportunities.

There’s a definite competition for the final spots at receiver with guys such as Geremy Davis, but Scott might be the early favorite to make the 53-man roster. He also should get an opportunity in the return game.

CB Michael Davis

An undrafted free agent last season, Davis made the team thanks to a combination of size and speed despite being beaten badly in some preseason games.

Now with Trevor Williams nursing a sore ankle, Davis is getting a chance to play with the top unit on defense and, so far in practice, he’s been much more consistent.

He’s a prototypical cornerback for Gus Bradley’s Cover 3 defense, but his football instincts have a long way to go. Williams’ injury serves as a reminder that a guy such as Davis could be called upon to play a significant role.

Saturday, we’ll find out if he’s more equipped to handle it.

Twitter: @DanWoikeSports

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