He had one interception and could have had two more, Nasir Adderley displaying the speed and range that convinced the Chargers he was worthy of a second-round pick.
Before any of that Thursday night, the rookie had something even more memorable.
“Just looking around I was like, ‘I’m really in the NFL,’ ” Adderley said. “It was an indescribable feeling, something I’ve dreamed about. With everything I’ve been through lately, it just makes it that much more rewarding.”
He officially finished with two tackles and three pass breakups as the spectators inside Levi’s Stadium witnessed an athletic free safety capable of covering vast stretches of green.
“He looked good out there,” said Rayshawn Jenkins, the Chargers’ starter at the position. “He showed off his range. I think this will just be a confidence-builder for him. He can use this as momentum.”
Adderley missed most of training camp and the first three preseason games because of a hamstring issue that lingered since before the draft. He practiced early in camp but was unable to stay on the field consistently. Finally, coach Anthony Lynn and the Chargers decided to sit Adderley until he was ready to go.
“We were just playing it smart,” Adderley said. “Coach Lynn wanted me to be completely healthy. I’m very happy with how we approached it because I feel great now.”
In four years at Delaware, Adderley never was sidelined by an injury. He started all 45 games he played for the Blue Hens.
The start to his NFL career then sputtered badly, forcing him to turn to teammates and coaches for support.
“It was frustrating not being able to go out and compete,” he said. “The type of player I am, I don’t ever want to come off the field. I just had to be smart and try to attack the rehab.”
His interception came off a pass by Wilton Speight — an undrafted rookie who played last season at UCLA — on the third play of the fourth quarter. Speight fired wide of tight end Tyree Mayfield as Adderley approached from behind. He snagged the ball after initially blobbing it and showed more athletic ability in returning it 16 yards.
“I saw him open,” Adderley said. “So I was running next to him and then I happened to get in front of him and the ball was right there.”
As excited as he was with that play, he was more disappointed in the two potential interceptions he was unable to grab. Lynn said Adderley, while displaying an impressive ability to close once a pass is in the air, might have just been rusty from inactivity when it came to securing the football.
“I’m going to lose sleep over those, those interceptions,” Adderley said. “I mean, I never want to miss any of them. It’s just more motivation to get better next week.”
Cardale Jones flips out
Cardale Jones had his greatest day as a Charger, according to Lynn, in the team’s second preseason game, almost two weeks ago against New Orleans.
His greatest — or at least most spectacular — moment as a Charger came Thursday when he flipped through the air on a two-yard touchdown run in the second quarter. Unable to find any open receivers, Jones rolled right and dashed for the end zone. He leaped just inside the three-yard line and was hit by San Francisco defender, sending him skyward.
“I tried to make a play, and [they] did a good job of cutting me off in the end zone, so I figured I’d try to take it in myself,” Jones said. “I was joking with the team that I saw the moon twice. I’m glad I landed safely and scored a touchdown.”
Competing with Easton Stick for the No. 3 quarterback spot, Jones put together a promising preseason. He guided the Chargers to 20 first-half points against the 49ers, completing 10 of 16 passes for 149 yards. Stick, a fifth-round pick out of North Dakota State, had another difficult night. He was intercepted twice and threw four interceptions in four games.
“I think Stick started a little slow with the turnovers,” Lynn said. “But what I like about him is that he came right back and threw a very important ball for a first down. He just doesn’t flinch … It’s good to see that in a young player in that position.”
Adarius Pickett makes roster case
Over the final two preseason games, rookie safety Adarius Pickett made a significant push to secure a spot on the Week 1 roster. Lynn praised his physical play against Seattle last weekend. On Thursday, he had six tackles, including one for a loss, and also intercepted a pass by Speight.
“You know what, he really showed up last week,” Lynn said. “I like the way he finished up. He’s going to make it interesting.”
An undrafted rookie out of UCLA, Pickett spent a short time with Chicago in May before joining the Chargers. He and fellow safety Roderic Teamer are battling for a reserve role. Teamer missed the third preseason game because of a hamstring problem and had to leave against San Francisco in the second quarter after sustaining an undisclosed injury.
“I just tried to show them that I’m a football player, as far as physicality and being able to play in the box,” Pickett said. “I wanted to show them I can play at a high level, at this level.”
The Chargers lost linebacker Jatavis Brown and defensive end Isaac Rochell to undisclosed injuries Thursday. Lynn said Brown is “going to be fine” after he was hurt just before halftime. He said Rochell “could have gone back in” had the Chargers needed him.