The first preseason game is on the horizon and the Los Angeles Chargers are taking on the Los Angeles Rams.
While we know most of the starters won't be suiting up, this game is the first of three opportunities for the team's depth to make their marks.
Here are Hall of Famers LaDainian Tomlinson and Dan Fouts, as well as team reporters Hayley Elwood and Chris Hayre sharing who and what they're keeping their eyes on this Saturday.
Who's the player you're most excited to watch?
LaDainian Tomlinson: Joshua Palmer. I think it's just because of the potential that I see personally in this young man. Being a big college football fan, I watched him at Tennessee. I was excited about him them, then when we drafted him, thinking about what he could do with Keenan and Mike Williams, I'm excited to see his career start to take off with this first experience playing in a game.
Dan Fouts: I'm interested in the receivers. This is a pretty interesting receiving corps. If they're going to be throwing, somebody's got to catch it! Joshua Palmer looks like he could be the real deal.
Hayley Elwood: The Chargers have a history when it comes to finding undrafted free agents, and the preseason is where they get to put it on display. (Hello, Austin Ekeler!) One I'm keeping my eye on in this game is linebacker Amen Ogbongbemiga. The rookie out of Oklahoma State was described by Brandon Staley as being "physical" and a "good communicator." With a lot of the starters likely not seeing playing time, this could be a big opportunity for Ogbongbemiga.
Chris Hayre: This is tough because there are several players that I'm excited to see, but I'll go with Rashawn Slater. Keep in mind he opted out last year at Northwestern, so Saturday will be his first game action since the 2019 season. Coaches and teammates have praised the rookie for his work during training camp. I'm looking forward to seeing him out there on the left side protecting quarterback Chase Daniel to start the game.
What position groups are you looking forward to watching?
Tomlinson: The one unit I'm actually excited about with depth is the EDGE players, the pass rushers, and the defensive line. With a guy like Chris Rumph II, what he has done so far, I'm excited to see him and I think having him along the defensive line adding the depth that you need, it could be fun watching those guys this year.
Fouts: With the running game, protecting the quarterback. Here you've got an offensive line that [is primarily] backups, so the coordination and pass protection is always going to be a question. The running backs are going to have to protect and they're also going to have to catch the ball, so I'm looking at those parts.
Elwood: I think all eyes are going to be on the kickers (and they should be!) but I'm gonna go wide receivers. This is a deep, deep group. We know Keenan Allen and Mike Williams won't play, so along with Palmer, you've got a bevy of guys to watch including 2020 draft picks K.J. Hill and Joe Reed who didn't even have a preseason last year! You also have guys who came on last year including Jalen Guyton and Tyron Johnson and don't forget about Austin Proehl and Jason Moore, who made a couple great snags in last week's Fan Fest.
Hayre: It's the running backs for me. Justin Jackson is such a smooth runner with pass-catching ability. Joshua Kelley also has that same versatility. Offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi referred to both guys as "really solid, all-around players." Then there's rookie Larry Rountree, whom Lombardi recognized for how he's approached the game this offseason. Darius Bradwell is also doing a "great job", according to Lombardi. There's no shortage of candidates to help share the load with Austin Ekeler this upcoming season.
What are you wanting to see out of the first preseason game?
Tomlinson: I'm looking for how this whole team comes together. It's brand new. With a new coach, I'm looking to see how they operate in and out of the huddle, and the communication of it all, and what kinds of things Brandon Staley is bringing to the team. I'm also going to be watching how they operate before the half. Coaches play a major factor in situational football, so that's what I'm looking forward to seeing.
Fouts: We are in the entertainment business, but the do-or-die excitement for these young players [is fun to watch]. This is their dream. This could be their life. It could change their life, and it all comes down to performing on the field. That to me just tugs at my heart for these kids, because I know how great it can be and I know how tough it can be.
Elwood: It might sound obvious, but I'm looking to see how this 2021 Chargers team takes shape. Both schemes on offense and defense are new, and despite not having a majority of your starters out there, I'm looking forward to getting a taste of what to expect when Week 1 rolls around.
Hayre: A smooth operation, no turnovers or penalties, and a healthy team entering next week's joint practice with the San Francisco 49ers.
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