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10 Players to Watch in Preseason Opener

The San Diego Chargers kick off the 2016 preseason Saturday night against the Tennessee Titans.  How many snaps each player will receive is unknown, but here are 10 players to keep your eye on throughout the game:

1. DE Darius Philon – With Joey Bosa yet to sign his contract, the second-year player out of Arkansas has gotten reps as the starting defensive end.  Philon appeared in only eight games last season after missing two months with a hip injury, finishing with seven tackles, two tackles for loss and one pass batted down. Head Coach Mike McCoy has extolled the 6-1, 300-pounder's toughness throughout training camp.

2. TE Hunter Henry – The Chargers selected the 2015 John Mackey Award Winner as college football's top tight end with the 35th overall selection.  Although he is known for his soft hands, Henry is a willing blocker unafraid to do the dirty work.  Saturday provides his first chance to put his entire arsenal on display.

3. QB Zach Mettenberger – The competition to back up Philip Rivers figures to come down to the wire as the team will in all likelihood keep no more than two or three quarterbacks.  While you should also keep an eye on Kellen Clemens and Mike Bercovici, Saturday night marks Mettenberger's return against the team he started 10 games for over the past two seasons.  The QB boasts a cannon arm, and will look to show the Titans they made a mistake waiving him in May.

4. P Drew Kaser – Kaser won the punting competition after the Chargers waived Kasey Redfern earlier this week.  He is the first punter other than Mike Scifres to begin the season handling those duties in 12 years.  Kaser boasts a booming leg, ranking second in NCAA History with 46.2 yards per attempt.  He will gain valuable reps in all sorts of situations, including holding for Josh Lambo. 

5. S Adrian Phillips – The third-year safety has earned praise from coaches and teammates dating back to the offseason program. He now looks to translate those skills from the practice field into live game action.  After bouncing back and forth between the practice squad and active roster, he is aiming to cement a spot not only on the 53-man roster, but in the regular rotation.

6. WR Tyrell Williams – Someone will need to step up with Stevie Johnson sidelined for the entire season with a knee injury.  According to Philip Rivers, Williams has a good chance to do just that as he says he has "no doubt…Tyrell is going to be a factor."  The 6-4, 205-pound second year player has made a number of highlight reel plays, but there is a big difference between showing out in practice and coming through on game day.

7. OLB Tourek Williams – It's been a long road back for the fourth-year outside linebacker, who broke his foot in last year's preseason opener.  The 6-4, 262-pounder was mentored by Jarret Johnson his first two seasons in the league, and wants to prove he can be that same physical, edge setter for the Bolts.

8. C Matt Slauson – While 2016 is Slauson's eighth year in the NFL, it marks the first time as a team's starting center.  In fact, last season was the first time the former guard ever played the position when he lined up there on four occasions.  Slauson has the nasty, no-nonsense demeanor teams covet in an offensive lineman.  Perhaps most crucial, he must use these preseason reps to build chemistry with Rivers and his fellow linemen when making pre-snap reads.

9. FB Derek Watt – Fullback is a position that requires more contact than you get during practice.  As a result, Saturday night marks the first true chance the Wisconsin rookie will have to show off his physical nature as a lead blocker.  Watt received strong praise from Rivers earlier in the week when number 17 admired the way he not only makes initial contact, but sustains it to drive the opposition back.

10. WR Keenan Allen – While KA13 is more established than others on this list, the preseason opener marks his first true game action since Nov. 1 when he suffered a kidney injury against the Baltimore Ravens. Fans have waited a long time to once again see him lining up against opposing cornerbacks.

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