Chargers surprise starter: Trey Pipkins, LT
Depending on the injury to Russell Okung, this may not be as much of a surprise start as it may have seemed a month ago. Pipkins, the team’s third-round selection, is a massive tackle who dominated small-school competition. Considered a project and a designated left tackle, Pipkins was unlikely to see the field with a consistent veteran tackle ahead of him. The team felt strongly enough about him to draft him ahead of his projected round, but their comments suggest he is not slated to start this year.
However, as is the NFL, injuries force surprise starters. Okung has an undisclosed injury that may keep him out of game action. As of right now, only those closely associated with the Chargers know the extent of this injury. Their most recent plan of action was to make Sam Tevi the starter at left tackle with Trent Scott at right tackle, but Tevi should be doing nothing but focusing on his one spot on the right side. Pipkins, ready or not, may have to step up and protect the most important player in franchise history. No pressure.
Chargers surprise starter: Justin Jackson, RB
Technically, Austin Ekeler would be the next in line if Melvin Gordon went down with an injury, not Justin Jackson. However, in an effort to maximize Ekeler’s production as an elite 1B running back, it may be best to put Jackson as the lead.
Last year’s hero in Pittsburgh, Jackson finished his rookie year with 50 rushing attempts for 206 yards and two touchdowns, as well as 15 receptions for 135 yards, good for a total yards average of 5.25 yards per touch. His first and only official career start came against the Kansas City Chiefs, where he averaged 3.6 yards per rush. With Gordon likely to miss a game or two given his previous track record, Jackson may be the most likely player on this list to add a few more official career starts before the season is over.