After two straight seasons playing the exact same opponents, the 2016 preseason will have a different flavor for the San Diego Chargers.
The Bolts open up on the road for the first time since 2005 with a visit to the Tennessee Titans. They then return home to host the Arizona Cardinals before visiting the Minnesota Vikings for a nationally televised game on FOX on Sunday, Aug. 28 at 10:00am PST. In what is becoming an annual tradition, the Chargers will host the San Francisco 49ers to close out the preseason slate. Exact dates and times for the other three games besides the Vikings will be announced at a later date.
In an unusual twist, San Diego opens the preseason against an AFC opponent they will face in the regular season. Offensive Coordinator Ken Whisenhunt's first game back on the sideline for the Bolts will take place against the team he most recently served as head coach. While the Chargers open play at Nissan Stadium, the Titans will return the favor in the regular season.
Fresh off two straight playoff appearances, Carson Palmer leads the Cardinals into Qualcomm Stadium. The Bolts have beaten the Cardinals in three straight preseason games.
The Chargers will play in a nationally televised preseason game for the third straight season when they return to the land of 10,000 lakes. They will also play at the Vikings' brand new home when they open U.S. Bank Stadium.
In what is always a tense atmosphere with players fighting for their professional lives, the Bolts close out the preseason against the 49ers after heading north to Santa Clara the past two seasons.
The preseason offers an opportunity for young players to make a name for themselves. Last season, Tyrell Williams led all wide receivers with 10 catches for 137 yards and a 63-yard touchdown. Flash forward nearly five months later to Week 17, where he torched the Denver Broncos for an 80-yard touchdown.
Inside linebacker Nick Dzubnar made the leap from Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo to the 53-man roster after pacing the defense throughout the exhibition season with 25 tackles and two sacks. He went on to lead the team with 13 special teams tackles in the regular season, five more than the next closest Charger.
Finally, Josh Lambo claimed the kicking job after connecting on all four field goal attempts, including a 53-yarder and a game-winning 47-yard walk-off winner against the Arizona Cardinals. He was the top rookie kicker in the NFL last season, making 26 of 32 attempts (81.3%) including a long of 54. His only misses were from 42, 47, 48 (three times) and 60 yards, and proved clutch by converting seven of eight attempts in the fourth quarter.
That trio is far from the only Bolts who used strong preseason performances to catapult their NFL career. Two years ago, Branden Oliver and Dontrelle Inman cashed in a strong preseason into a spot on the final roster. Three seasons ago, Jahleel Addae offered a glimpse of his potential that eventually elevated him into his current starting safety position.
While the preseason schedule is now official, the regular season slate of games will be announced within the month. Stay tuned to Chargers.com in the coming weeks for more information.