The San Diego Chargers kick off their 2016 preseason schedule on Saturday night with a road test against the Tennessee Titans. In 2015, the two teams combined for a 7-25 record.
That said, both teams are looking to turn things around in a big way this season, and the road to doing so starts on Saturday night. Though it’s just a preseason game and the starters for each side will likely only be used sparingly, it’s a great opportunity to look at other players on the roster, specifically those looking to make the final 53-man roster.
Keeping all of that in mind, I have identified three key matchups to keep an eye on in this game.
Darius Philon vs. Jack Conklin
Everyone wishes it was Joey Bosa taking the field tonight, but Darius Philon has stepped up in his absence. Can Philon play well enough to make fans forget about the disaster that the team’s first-round pick has turned into?
He will be matched up against another top pick from this year’s draft, Jack Conklin, who the Titans selected at No. 8 overall. Conklin was considered perhaps the best offensive lineman in all of the 2016 draft, so it was considered a great move for the Titans to be able to grab him.
San Diego needs an improved pass rush about as much as it needs anything this year, and Philon will be one of the players counted on to provide that until Bosa takes the field, should that ever happen.
Zach Mettenberger vs. Titans’ 2nd/3rd String Defense
Assuming the Chargers insert Kellen Clemens into the game ahead of Zach Mettenberger, the former Titans quarterback will be going against second and third string defenders when he takes the field on Saturday night.
Clemens, Mettenberger and even undrafted rookie Mike Bercovici are all competing to be the team’s No. 2 quarterback this year, but this has to be the night for Mettenberger to shine. Once projected as the quarterback of the future in Tennessee, Mettenberger must be focused and determined to show his former team that it made a mistake in letting him go.
Tyrell Williams vs. Brice McCain/Antwon Blake
With the recent news that veteran wideout Stevie Johnson will miss the entire season with a knee injury, the Chargers will be looking for someone to step up as the team’s No. 3 wide receiver behind Keenan Allen and Travis Benjamin.
Second-year player Tyrell Williams should get the first chance to do that.
Rivers says there is no doubt Tyrell Williams will be a factor this year.
— Ricky Henne (@ChargersRHenne) August 11, 2016
Undrafted out of Western Oregon last year, Williams caught just two passes as a rookie. But it was his 80-yard touchdown reception in the season finale against the Denver Broncos that has fans excited to see what kind of encore he can come up with.
Brice McCain and Antwon Blake are listed as the backup cornerbacks for the Titans, so one of them should draw Williams in this game, at least for a handful of snaps. Williams needs to come out of the gate and show fans that he is the guy that the team will be able to rely in with Johnson on the shelf.