Here’s what I’m keeping an eye on this Saturday.
This is the most-important game of the year for many of the roster hopefuls and a rough four-year anniversary of Austin Ekeler earning his spot with the final roster as a former undrafted rookie.
Dreams will come true based on tomorrow’s performances and if that doesn’t get you amped up for the game, I don’t know what to tell you.
Ahead of Saturday’s kickoff, here are three things I’ll be watching against the Seahawks.
Can Forrest Merrill and Willie Yarbary play their way onto the roster?
Both Merrill and Yarbary joined the Chargers as relative longshots to make the final roster. Merrill, a 2021 undrafted free agent out of Arkansas State, is an extremely stocky nose tackle who has the sheer strength to withstand double teams at the line of scrimmage. When he’s able to utilize his natural leverage as a pass-rusher, he can forklift opposing linemen into the backfield.
Yarbary is another formerly undrafted player who flashed in the Bolts’ most-recent game when he used a swim move on an over-aggressive lineman to record a tackle behind the line against the 49ers.
Both have flashed enough to warrant our attention in the preseason finale and I wouldn’t be surprised to see one of them land on the final 53 come next week. If I had to guess at who has the better chance of sticking, I’d give the nod to Merrill who could be the team’s third nose tackle behind Linval Joseph and Breiden Fehoko. Yarbary has the more difficult task of beating out the likes of Joe Gaziano and Cortez Broughton for the team’s final spots at the position.
Can either Joshua Kelley or Larry Rountree separate themselves from each other?
In the team’s first preseason game against the Rams, Rountree was far-and-away the best backup running back after recording two runs of over 24 yards and finishing with a game-high 63 on eight carries.
Against the Niners this past Sunday, neither Rountree or Kelley could overcome the poor play of the backup offensive line to even put together an “average” performance. By the end of the day, Kelley and Rountree averaged 1.3 and 1.5 yards per tote, respectively. Quarterback Easton Stick ended up leading the team with just 15 yards on the ground.
In the team’s final preseason matchup, both Kelley and Rountree will see ample opportunities (along with Darius Bradwell). I really can’t imagine the team keeping four running backs on the roster in addition to fullback Gabe Nabers but I also cannot wrap my head around neither Kelley or Rountree failing to make the team. However, if I had to pick a guy, I’d say Rountree gets the nod over Kelley as the former has already shown more potential through two preseason games as the latter has shown in his first full year with the team.
How will Brandon Staley split snaps for the quarterbacks behind the second and third offense?
During the first preseason game against the Rams, Chase Daniel got the start and played his snaps with the backups before Stick took over and finished most of the second half.
In their latest matchup with the Niners, their roles were reversed. Stick got the start and played with the second-team offense while Daniel started the second half and had a horrendous time playing behind the third-stringers.
After giving each quarterback the same sample size with the same supporting staff, how will things shake out against the Seahawks?
Part of me believes Daniel has the backup job locked down and this game doesn’t matter in the slightest. Another part of me wants to believe there’s a legitimate competition going on for the backup spot behind Justin Herbert.
Here’s how I’ll look at Saturday’s game: If both Daniel and Stick split reps behind the second-team offense, I’ll believe it’s a competition. If Daniel gets the start and is the only one to play with the backups, then I think it’s a done deal and he’s the guy behind Justin. If things are reversed and Stick is up first, then maybe it’s a competition and/or Stick already won the backup job.
This could all just be the ramblings of a mad man but this is how I’ll be judging the coaching staff’s decision come kickoff.