Emeke Egbule is among Chargers fighting for roster spot in preseason finale at 49ers
He played for four years and appeared in 43 games and, by the time he left the University of Houston, everyone there was quite familiar with the name Emeke Egbule.
In his first NFL training camp, when he stepped behind a lectern to take questions from the media, one of those questions couldn’t have been more telling:
How, exactly, do you pronounce the name Emeke Egbule?
The distance from college star to professional hopeful can be daunting, particularly for a sixth-round pick like EH-meh-keh EGG-boo-leh.
“Once you get to this position, you’re like a freshman again and you’re just working your way up and you’re just building a resume,” he said. “I kind of expected it. But I didn’t expect to feel like a freshman again.”
The rookie linebacker faces his final preseason exam Thursday night when the Chargers meet the San Francisco 49ers at Levi’s Stadium.
Austin Ekeler made quite an impression on the Chargers during the 2017 preseason, and he’s ready to impress again with Melvin Gordon in a contract holdout.
Egbule is vying for a spot among the Chargers’ deep linebacker group, leaning on his versatility, pass-rush potential and performance on special teams.
With the exception of a few young offensive linemen, the Chargers’ starters won’t play against the 49ers, the game serving mostly as a last-chance audition for those on the fringes of the roster.
“Nothing’s guaranteed,” Egbule said. “So the next opportunity I get, I have to make something out of it.”
The Chargers’ decision-makers already have a good idea of what they plan to do Friday and Saturday when cuts must be made to reach the NFL-mandated 53-man roster. After that, 10 more players will be placed on the practice squad.
Coach Anthony Lynn acknowledged that usually only “one or two” spots remain undecided this late in the preseason. But he also said there’s still time for someone to change the minds of the coaches.
Cardale Jones will start at quarterback for the Chargers, followed by Easton Stick. They’re competing for the No. 3 job behind Philip Rivers and Tyrod Taylor.
The Chargers are also likely to play offensive linemen Trent Scott and Forrest Lamp as the two attempt to gain as much experience as possible.
Scott, who has one career start, is in line to open the season at left tackle in place of medically sidelined Russell Okung. Lamp, who has appeared in two NFL games, is an option at guard.
Dontrelle Inman says Philip Rivers played a role in helping him decide to return to the Chargers after he was granted his release by the Patriots.
Lynn said he would like to settle on five starters across the offensive line and be able to stick with that group as much as possible.
“You can always have a sixth man,” he said. “There’s a time and place for that. But you like five guys because that offensive line, they need that chemistry. That’s really important — the communication.”
Rookie safety Nasir Adderley is expected to see his first game action since the Chargers selected him in the second round in April. He suffered a hamstring injury before the draft and has been battling it since. Adderley missed nearly all of training camp and has done very little hitting so far.
“We’ve repped him all we could in the last week or so,” Lynn said. “He knows enough to go in and play. So he’s going to play a couple quarters.”
The issue for Adderley’s development will come once the regular season begins and practice snaps increase in value. At that point, preparation turns more opponent specific and there is little time to focus on a single player.
“Things are going 100 miles an hour and it’s just hard to sit down and catch a young man up,” Lynn said. “He’s going to have to do a lot of work on his own, a lot of film study. His teammates will work with him, I’m sure. Coaches will work with him as much as we can, but he’s behind. No doubt about it.”
A year ago in the preseason finale, also played at Levi’s Stadium, wide receiver Artavis Scott went from appearing to have secured a roster spot to missing the season. He suffered a significant ankle injury that required surgery and sidelined him for months. A year later, Scott is in a similar situation, though he has been even more impressive this time around.
“I like the way he bounced back,” Lynn said. “He didn’t play at all last year, but he has bounced back. He kind of picked up where he left off.”
For these young players, players like Egbule, this game couldn’t be any more important.
“Learning from the mistakes I make, I feel like that helps a lot,” Egbule said of playing in the preseason. “Being able to see it and not let it happen again … just getting a feel for what it’s like to be in an NFL game.”
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