Philip Rivers will take the field for just one series on Sunday, even if that means seeing just three or four snaps. The rest of the Chargers’ starters won’t last long either; maybe another series or two, depending on the individual or position group.
Yes, the preseason opener at StubHub Center is an important moment for this franchise, the 5 p.m. kickoff signaling yet another step in the team’s months-long quest to establish itself in a new city. But above all else, the Chargers are hoping to get through the preseason healthy. That means not exposing their biggest stars to unnecessary risk, especially when the final score is largely meaningless.
The spotlight is bigger for, say, Cardale Jones, the second-year quarterback who landed in Los Angeles less than three weeks ago. Or Dan Feeney, the third-round pick who is currently the team’s backup center — but still has a chance to become the starting right guard. Or even Matt Weiser, whom the Chargers signed Friday to supplement a tight-end depth chart that could be without Jeff Cumberland (sore legs) and Sean McGrath (hyperextended knee).
“First time under the lights, this is a chance for them,” said offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt. “Sometimes, it’s a little bit of a struggle. What you’d like to see is those guys not make a lot of mental mistakes.”
Whisenhunt doesn’t need to waste time evaluating Rivers, who hasn’t missed a start in over a decade. But he may want to see whether or not Jones can be the team’s future under center — or at least decide if the 24-year-old can beat out veteran journeyman Kellen Clemens for the No. 2 job.
The Chargers have even more to assess on the other side of the ball. First-year head coach Anthony Lynn retained Whisenhunt and much of the offensive staff, but brought in Gus Bradley to install a 4-3 defense. That has shifted roles for even incumbent starters, but the learning curve is especially steep for someone like Chris McCain.
Undrafted in 2014,…