Preseason Finale: What To Look For

Tonight the San Diego Chargers will host the San Francisco 49ers for a final tune-up before the long trek known as the regular season. With the recent cuts this week, final roster spots and position battles will take center stage...

With opening day upon us don't look for a long appearance from the starting units. It would be a waste to lose a player to injury in the preseason finale. Give Marty credit for already announcing that Ladanian Tomlinson will sit. Resting his upper tier players with minor injuries is a smart move. Among those are OL's Vaughn Parker, Solomon Page, Toniu Fonoti, as well as possibly WR David Boston.

Among the most interesting things to look for is at wide receiver. With no Boston, will it be Reche Caldwell and Tim Dwight as the two starters? Or will it be Reche Caldwell and Eric Parker? If it is the latter, what does that mean for Tim Dwight?

Will Kassim Osgood play and play well? We know that he probably has a spot locked up based on his size and potential alone. If he and Terry Charles put in good performances, what does THAT mean for Tim Dwight?

That seems to be the big question heading in to this preseason finale. What about Tim Dwight? We know that Leon Johnson will return kicks. We know that Eric Parker will return punts. We know that Marty prefers bigger receivers. We don't know who is locked in at the #2, 3, and 4 wideout spots. For the #2 spot, the smart money is on Reche Caldwell, it has all but been announced. If that is the case, then you may have Tim Dwight and Eric Parker in a battle for the #3 spot. The Chargers are very capable of releasing a popular, big name guy without the blink of an eye. Even if it means eating some salary(see Ryan Mc Neil). That being said, would it make sense to release Tim and all he brings to the table? Even with the big salary? First of all Tim is a deep threat and is almost money on third downs, his speed can't be ignored and there aren't a lot of DB's that can run with him. A #3 receiver that can give the return game a spark when needed would suit him best. If Eric Parker somehow beats him out as the #3 receiver, can anyone justify that salary for a fourth wideout? Could we be possibly be looking at Tim Dwight's last performance in lightning bolts? More the reason to check out the game.

All you Dwight fans out there, don't panic just yet. The Chargers have said they may keep six receivers. It is hard to imagine #87 not being one of them. The fact is that Tim is one of the top four if not three receivers on the team and at this point, this is just speculation but definitely something to think about.

If the Chargers keep six it looks to be: Boston, Caldwell, Parker, Dwight, Osgood, and Charles. Grant Mattos could have something to say about that, but at this point he is still fighting an uphill battle. However it ends up, this receiver core will be the most talented this team has seen in years(maybe decades).

With Jude Waddy observing from injured reserve and the somewhat surprising release of Lemarcus Mcdonald, what was once a murky scene at linebacker has cleared up a bit. With six expected to stick, the bolts now have only seven active players at linebacker. Donnie Edwards, Zeke Moreno, and Ben Leber are the starters. Carlos Polk and Matt Wilhelm look to be relatively safe. That leaves Stephen Cooper and Jordan Kramer battling for the sixth spot, in which Cooper has the edge. Kramer may not make final cuts but would be a logical practice squad guy. Don't be surprised if this is a position that the Chargers will be scoping on the waiver wire.

The signing of Leon Johnson and release of Nick Maddox added yet more intrigue to the backfield situation. Expect the Chargers to keep five running backs(possibly six). The starters are Ladanian Tomlinson and Lorenzo Neal. Leon Johnson is the veteran backup the team has been seeking, he'll stay. That's three. The last two or three spots come down to Jesse Chatman, Andrew Pinnock, Dahrran Diedrick, and Joey Goodspeed. Pinnock has been money on those short yardage situations and has the ability to play two positions. He'll most likely stay and show hardworking Joey Goodspeed the door. That's four. Now it get's interesting. Do they keep five and choose between Chatman and Diedrick? Or do they go with six and keep them both?

Another scenario: They keep six. Andrew Pinnock get lots of carries as a running back, looks very impressive allowing Goodspeed to stay as the backup FB. This in turn would knock out Chatman or Diedrick. Pinnock holds the key to how this one will shake out. In the event Diedrick is cut, he could be another possible practice squad guy.

Bob Hallen or Cory Raymer. Highly doubtful both of these guys will stick. Raymer is a better center and is expensive. Hallen is a better guard and is somewhat cheaper. All in all Raymer is the better player. If one of the starting guards were to go down, the Chargers could go with surprise rookie Phil Bogle or Toniu Fonoti(when healthy). If starting center Jason Ball were to go down, Raymer would hands down be the best man to fill in. My money is on Raymer.

As it stands now there are six defensive tackles: Jamal Williams, Jason Fisk, Leonardo Carson, Dequincy Scott, Jacques Cesaire, and Scott Pospisil. Ideally this would be trimmed to four. Pospisil is the low man on the totem pole and will get the axe. Upset special is Jacques Cesaire beating out Dequincy Scott for the #4 spot. Luckily for Scott, Leo Carson has some pending legal problems which may get him cut or require the bolts to keep an extra defensive tackle. Cesaire offers decent size, good run stopping ability and may become a real player one day. Needs to work on better hand usage and gain some upper body strength but has been holding his own in the meantime.

The defensive end spot was once thought to be one in dire need of depth. With solid performances from Otis Leverette and undrafted rookie Omari Hand, depth is no longer a problem. Now the problem may be figuring out a way to keep them all. If it doesn't work out for him, Hand could be a practice squad guy.

Cleo Lemon or Seth Burford at QB. Lemon is in the lead and Burford will need a something spectacular to happen for that to change.

Steve Chtistie or Mackenzie Hoambrecker at placekicker. Could a good showing from the rookie send the veteran packing?

Darreen Bennett or Mike Scrifes at punter. Mike's kickoffs as of late have left something to be desired. Keep a close eye on those. As far as punting goes Mike has provided a challenge for the veteran. A good punting performance may send another veteran packing.

These are just a few of the many interesting things to watch in this preseason finale. The Niners are rolling at 3-0 in preseason and figure to offer a good test for the bolts. We'll see if the Chargers can build on their come from behind victory last week against the Texans. Nothing like heading into the regular season with an injury free victory.

Will can be reached at will.powered@verizon.net

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