Fans may not see many Chargers starters against 49ers. Here’s what they might see
Many of the Chargers’ starters concluded their preseason Friday, with two exhibitions still to be played.
A pair of joint practices with San Francisco represented the only game action for the likes of quarterback Justin Herbert in advance of the team’s regular-season opener Sept. 12 in Washington.
Rookie head coach Brandon Staley made the decision to not play most of his starters until things become real, continuing a trend that has been gaining popularity in recent years around the NFL.
Meanwhile, Tom Brady appeared in Tampa Bay’s first preseason game and Patrick Mahomes played long enough for Kansas City on Friday to throw 18 passes.
So there is no undisputed right answer about what’s appropriate when it comes to handling phony football.
But the Chargers players appear to be just fine with the way Staley is handling August.
“A preseason game, obviously, it doesn’t count,” wide receiver Keenan Allen said flatly. “Nobody cares. A practice matters.”
A few minutes later, the veteran turned a bit more diplomatic when he added, “The preseason games are important. Don’t get me wrong.”
Allen then smiled, making his point that exhibitions, in fact, can be both forgettable and significant.
The Chargers and 49ers are set to kick off at 4:30 p.m. Sunday at SoFi Stadium in Week 2 of the preseason.
Fans are amazed at the $5 billion Inglewood venue when it was opened to the L.A. faithful for the first time for Saturday’s Chargers-Rams preseason game.
Here are a few things that are worth watching about a game that otherwise counts for nothing:
Offensive line development
Chargers general manager Tom Telesco brought in four new starters in the offseason to join returning right tackle Bryan Bulaga. That’s how much improvement was needed in front of Herbert.
But Bulaga, coming off a year in which he struggled to stay on the field, continues to battle to remain healthy even as the Chargers monitored his workload throughout training camp.
First-round pick Rashawn Slater impressed in his first exhibition action last weekend, but he won’t play against San Francisco because of a lower-back issue.
The Chargers need to find contingencies upfront in preparing for the 17-game grind that’s coming.
Returnees such as Storm Norton and Trey Pipkins (who missed practice Friday because of the birth of his child) and newcomers like Brenden Jaimes are facing vital snaps in trying to establish themselves as trustworthy.
Easton Stick, a fifth-round selection in 2019, is scheduled to start Sunday after veteran Chase Daniel started the preseason opener.
Telesco has touted Stick since the quarterback joined the Chargers after a wildly successful career at North Dakota State. But his NFL career right now consists of two snaps.
Daniel is entering his 12th season as a pro and has an abundance of history running the Chargers’ new offense, even though he has started only five NFL games.
If the Chargers have to play a second quarterback this season, there can be little doubt today that Daniel, based on nothing more than his experience, would give them the better chance to win.
Still, Stick is being presented with the opportunity to prove he’s an option, too.
Next running back up
The Chargers always have loved what Justin Jackson can bring — a shifty, slashing-type style — since drafting him in the seventh round in 2018.
But Jackson has appeared in only 16 games the past two years combined because of health. Now, he’s hurt again, having suffered a groin injury in the first preseason game.
So the Chargers’ search for running back dependability continues.
After starter Austin Ekeler and still-developing Joshua Kelley, they have Larry Rountree III and Darius Bradwell. Rountree was taken in the sixth round in May and Bradwell is a former undrafted free agent.
Both produced moments last weekend and should receive more chances to do so Sunday.
Another receiver target for Herbert
A year ago, the Chargers turned to previous unknowns Jalen Guyton and Tyron Johnson to give Herbert a couple deep-ball threats.
In Josh Palmer, they appear to have found a more complete receiver to complement Allen and Mike Williams this season.
A third-round pick, Palmer had six catches against the Rams in his preseason debut.
Allen has called Palmer “precise,” “polished” and “friendly with the quarterback,” three things he can now display again.
Check out updates ahead of Chargers vs. 49ers during Week 2 of the NFL preseason.
This week’s surprise guest
Against the Rams, undrafted rookie defensive lineman Forrest Merrill suddenly showed up in the fourth quarter with a staggering tackle for loss near the goal line.
Merrill, who played at Arkansas State, is listed at 322 pounds and probably went undrafted because he’s only 6 feet tall. Given three more inches, he likely would have been picked.
Who will emerge against the 49ers? Many will be given the chance.
The Chargers on Saturday re-signed tight end Matt Seybert.
Go beyond the scoreboard
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