Five to Watch: Chargers versus 49ers

The end of the preseason is near and those players whose futures are in limbo have some work to do. Samantha Fillerup profiles five players to watch during Friday's game versus the San Francisco 49ers, all of whom are fighting for places on the active roster or in the game-day rotation.

1. Marques Harris has established himself as a top-tier special teams contributor and a strong pass-rusher, but he'll have to compete with Jyles Tucker for playing time. The two will share backup duty behind Shawne Merriman and Shaun Phillips, a role made all the more important by Merriman's fragile knee. Harris signed a one-year deal in the offseason and will look to parlay a productive 2008 season into a multi-year contract, either with the Chargers or someone else.

2. L.J. Shelton is a 10-year veteran who brings experience and versatility to the tackle position. He has been competing with Jeromey Clary for playing time, but training camp has shown that Shelton can excel at left tackle, as well. Head Coach Norv Turner said Shelton played his best game as a Charger earlier this week against the Seattle Seahawks. With Marcus McNeill (stinger) still not ready to play, Shelton will look to build on that performance against the San Francisco 49ers.

3. Scott Chandler was handed a golden opportunity to showcase his talents while Antonio Gates was injured. However, he has failed to take advantage through three preseason games, catching only two passes for 11 yards (although Billy Volek missed him for an easy touchdown in the Seahawks game). Chandler needs to prove he is a threat in the passing game and a capable in-line blocker if he has any hope of getting playing time once Gates is healthy.

4. Steve Gregory, a cornerback-safety hybrid who earns his keep on special teams, has the range and man-coverage skills to make a sizable impact during his third season. His quickness and instincts have impressed coaches throughout training camp, which helped him reel in a multi-year contract extension that was made official on Monday. Gregory will compete with Paul Oliver to be the top backup safety behind Clinton Hart and Eric Weddle.

5. Marcus Thomas, San Diego's fifth-round pick in this year's draft, needs to show he can grind out tough yards in the running game. The coaches are impressed with his raw skills and vision, but he's fighting a numbers game in his quest for a roster spot. The top three halfbacks are LaDainian Tomlinson, Darren Sproles and Jacob Hester, while the top two fullbacks are Andrew Pinnock and Mike Tolbert. Thomas needs to make sure his play justifies the team keeping six running backs.

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