Here are five keys to the game heading into Thursday's preseason finale between the Los Angeles Chargers and San Francisco 49ers:
1. One Last Chance – That's been the motto of the week as 37 players will see their dream of playing for the Bolts this year come to an end in a few short days. Months of hard work come down to Thursday night's last chance to prove themselves worthy of a roster spot. The game is only one piece of the greater puzzle that General Manager Tom Telesco, Head Coach Anthony Lynn and the rest of the team's brass will use to make decisions. At the same time, it's the best opportunity yet for many players as they'll see their most extensive playing time to date.
2. Cardale Gets the Keys – One of those players getting a longer look is Cardale Jones. It's been an intense crash course for the former Ohio State star, who was acquired a couple days before the start of training camp. Learning a new system is one of the hardest changes for any player, let alone a quarterback. Just imagine being dropped into a foreign country without knowing any words, and immediately trying to pick up on terminology. However, Jones has gotten more comfortable as the weeks have gone by, and will look to put his best foot forward as there is a good chance he gets the start in Santa Clara.
3. Who Fits Lynn? – Lynn gave an open assessment on what he looks for when trying to decide if a player should make the team or not. According to the head coach, there are five things he stresses in the following order:
- Does he know what he's doing?
- Is he consistent?
- Is he dependable?
- Is he in good enough shape to finish a ball game?
- Does he have enough talent?
It may seem counter intuitive to list talent last, but Lynn explained how he's been around the NFL long enough (26 years in fact), to know it takes more than pure skill to win a championship. When watching the Bolts take the field Thursday night, make sure to keep these five traits in mind, since that is exactly what Lynn will be doing.
4. Position Battles – Jobs at every position are still up for grabs. However, the head coach admitted there are certain positions to keep a closer eye on. The first two come in the secondary as the team still has decisions to make at cornerback and safety. Meanwhile, depth along the offensive line has also been a focal point. Finally, as has been the case all training camp, the kicker and punter competitions remain neck-and-neck.
5. Stay Healthy – As always, health is of the utmost importance. The last thing the Bolts want is for a player to go down this close to the start of the season. L.A. has lost Denzel Perryman (ankle) and Isaiah Burse (concussion) to injuries thus far during the course of a game, and they hope the list ends there.