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Preseason Schedule: What to Watch For


Let’s face it: the NFL preseason is mostly a snooze fest. There are only two reasons most fans tune into these exhibitions: 1) to make sure no starters get injured; and 2) to watch the 10-12 bubble players competing for the final handful of spots on the 53-man roster.

This year, however, there will be more intrigue than usual. Each of San Diego’s four preseason games, announced earlier this week, comes with an added significance.

Game One: at Tennessee

Philip Rivers leads the Chargers against Marcus Mariota and the Titans in a matchup of QBs who were nearly traded for one another less than a year ago (allegedly). Mariota authored a fine rookie season (more than 3,000 all-purpose yards, 21 total TDs and 10 INTs) and will look to show the Chargers they should have pursued him more seriously.

Also looking to send a message will be offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt, who was fired by the Titans after just 23 games at the helm. Whisenhunt, who combined with Mariota to “help” the Titans to a 1-6 start last season, hopes to have San Diego’s offense humming against his former team, which quietly finished with a top-seven pass defense last season.

Neither team will show too much in this game, though, as both squads will meet up in San Diego later on in the regular season.

Game Two: vs. Arizona

It turns out, that Week 15 games against the Dolphins wasn’t “goodbye” after all. The Chargers return to Qualcomm Stadium, after coming an owners’ vote away from moving to Los Angeles, to play in front of San Diego fans once again.

The fun may not last long, though, as the Cardinals are among the league’s elite teams. Arizona reached last season’s Final Four and made one of the offseason’s shrewdest moves by trading for Patriots pass rusher Chandler Jones.

Bolts backers will see familiar faces on the field and on the sidelines. RB Marion Grice, a sixth-round pick of Tom Telesco’s in 2014, is currently plying his trade for the Cardinals. Also working for The Red is Steve Heiden, a former Chargers tight end (1999-2001) who now coaches the Cardinals tight ends and special teams.

Game Three: at Minnesota

This game brings back bad feelings, as it is the scene of last season’s 31-14 thrashing that made Chargers fans realize their team was not as good as expected.

On the bright side, this is an opportunity for San Diego’s young, improving defense to cut its teeth against the Vikings offense, which is led by former Chargers head coach Norv Turner. And, because the third preseason game is the one where the starters get the most run, we will get an extended look at what Turner’s new team can do against Denzel Perryman, Jason Verrett and (possibly?) Jalen Ramsey.

Speaking of familiar faces, Vikings offensive linemen Mike Harris and Jeremiah Sirles both began their careers in San Diego. Sirles was traded to Minnesota prior to last season for a sixth-round pick in one of Telesco’s most baffling, bad decisions.

Game Four: vs. San Francisco

The Chargers get to conclude the preseason at home, which helps make for a smoother transition as the team begins its preparations for the regular season. It also helps that the preseason finale comes against a 49ers team that can be best described as “hot garbage.”

On the bright side, Chip Kelly’s wide-open passing attack should provide plenty of practice for young defensive backs Craig Mager, Adrian Phillips and (just maybe) Jalen Ramsey.

About Michael Lombardo

Michael Lombardo has covered the San Diego Chargers since 2003. He spent 12 years covering the team for and has been published by the NFL Network, Fox Sports, Football Insiders and MySpace Sports.

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