The final preseason game is when jobs can be won or lost.
Head Coach Anthony Lynn admitted as much before Monday’s practice, explaining how numerous spots on this team could come down to how certain players perform Thursday night against the San Francisco 49ers. With the removal of the 75-man cut down, he also believes more accurate evaluations can now take place since there is a larger pool to play in different situations.
While several Bolts are in the spotlight, one has gained more attention to others based on the nature of his position as well as his pedigree.
That, of course, is Cardale Jones.
The former Ohio State star, who guided his team to a national championship and never lost a game in which he started, is expected to see his most playing time to date. It’s been a whirlwind month for the quarterback, who was acquired from Buffalo on the eve of training camp. He took to the field only a few days after being thrust into his third new system in less than a year.
“The terminology is completely different,” he said, acknowledging the difficult transition. “Having to make all the Mike points in not just the pass game, but the run game. It wasn’t just the terminology, but having to learn the run game, there’s a lot more expected (of me).”
Matt Slauson doesn’t envy the quarterback. The veteran offensive linemen has learned six different systems over his nine-year career, so he knows firsthand how difficult it is to be thrust into this situation. He explains how having to learn three systems in less than a year – and for a quarterback no less – is hard to fathom.
“A quarterback job is a lot tougher than mine, so I can’t even wrap my head around that,” he said. “It’s not just learning one new position. With me, when I learn a new system, I learn five positions. He has to know all 11 all the time. And the coverages. And the adjustments. What we’re doing as a line. What the backs are doing. What the X (receiver) is doing. What the Y (receiver) is doing. He has to know everything.”
While Jones has made strides, he admits he’s still a work in progress.
“I’m getting more comfortable, especially with the basic terminology. The first install those first couple weeks (are behind me), and as I get more reps, my comfort level will grow. I’m (pleased) with getting more verbiage down. The more I know, the more plays will come. Being a coach on the field will come. Getting the terminology and verbiage down to be able to put guys in the right place is probably the thing I’m most proud of.”
The 6-5, 240-pound 24-year old has flashed at times through the first three preseason games despite the adjustment. He’s completed 18 of 37 passes for 185 yards while tucking the ball three times and running for a total of 25 yards. However, he’s also thrown a pair of picks and been sacked six times.
Now, 34 days after being acquired, Jones will get a long look with Philip Rivers sitting out, and Kellen Clemens possibly joining him on the sidelines at Levi’s Stadium. Still, he refuses to change his approach.
“It’s the same as every day. I have to go out there and put my team in the best chance to win. My mentality no matter what week it is, whether it’s the preseason or practice, is to prepare like a starter. I prepare myself to play every rep.”