With the final training camp practice for the Chargers in the books for 2021, there are two final big benchmarks left before the prep for Week 1 begins.
The final preseason game and the roster cut to 53.
The importance of the final preseason game cannot be overstated.
If you need proof of the magnitude of this game and the implications it can have, just look at a guy like Austin Ekeler.
His story's been told, but let's play the hits.
Back in 2017, Ekeler was undrafted out of Western State. He entered a crowded running backs room with the Chargers with a chip on his shoulder and something to prove throughout training camp and the preseason.
Prove it he did.
Ekeler's performance in that final exhibition game, helped solidify his role on the 53. A role that he ran with (no pun intended) and turned into a contract extension just last year.
While many of the starters won't suit up for the third-straight game, Saturday's matchup against the Seattle Seahawks will be the final opportunity for a number of players to show and prove why they should earn a roster spot, as the cut to 53 happens Tuesday, Aug. 31.
With his first camp as head coach in the books, Brandon Staley knows how large these next few days will loom.
"I think it's gonna be tough on us because we have enough depth at some positions where you're gonna have to make some difficult decisions, which is a good thing for your organization," Staley said. "I'm proud of the way our guys have competed and that they've made it really tough on us. That competition has been really healthy. I think no matter what happens, we're going to be proud of the way we organized this camp."
So when it comes to the final preseason game, how can a player's performance affect what coaching and personnel staffs think of him?
"[This game can] confirm what's in your mind, one way or another," he mentioned. "I think it's another chance. Any time you get a chance to compete, you get to represent who you are."
Whether it's at backup quarterback, kicker, the return game, or any other positions where Staley noted further evaluation is needed, the head coach said the gameplan that he and his staff are creating will be specifically geared to getting the most out of the guys on the field in their final game.
"What we're trying to do, is give our guys a game plan where if there are some questions that we have, we're able to get them answered. That's why when we put in 'the plan' for this preseason game, a lot of it is getting the guys in the right seats so we can get that final evaluation. Let's run a couple plays for these guys to see how they do. On defense, let's put these guys in tough positions defensively to see them cover or see them rush. If we're having to make a couple tough decisions, [this is] one more shot at it."
One Final Note...
Practice ended with a spirited "challenge" between offensive and defensive players catching punts from a JUGS machine.
"It was time to have some fun, I think our guys earned it," Staley said.
The defense came close, with Derwin James and Joey Bosa successfully catching their punts, but Linval Joseph couldn't corral the ball when he was up. Therefore, the offense won thanks to the sure hands of Justin Herbert, Corey Linsley, and Rashawn Slater, who punted the ball after his catch.
What was on the line, according to Staley? "Today was more about pride."
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